The last remnants of Riddick Stadium, as noted in the winter issue of NC State magazine, came down last April when the stadium’s field house was demolished to improve pedestrian access and safety near the railroad tunnel. That means that the only remaining salute to one of the most important figures in NC State’s history is Riddick Hall, which houses the physics department.
And as much as Wallace Carl Riddick did for the university, both as an athletics coach and as an administrator trying to grow NC State, it’s fitting that the campus can’t wholly shake his name.
Riddick first came to NC State in the college’s infancy, joining the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in 1892. He came as a professor of civil engineering after graduating UNC-Chapel Hill and obtaining a graduate degree from Lehigh University (and, according to his obituary in the American Society of Civil Engineers, even being expelled from Wake Forest College for being a member of a fraternity, or as the college saw it, a secret society).
In his years of building a robust civil engineering department at the college, Riddick became known as being the “father of engineering in North Carolina,” as former chancellor J.W. Harrelson once described him. And David Lockmiller, in his History of the North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Engineering, credits Riddick’s efforts as being the driving force behind bringing sewer connections and city water to campus in the early 1900s. Riddick also coached the 1898 and 1899 football squads.
Riddick was elected vice-president in 1908 and president in 1916. The college’s name was changed to North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Engineering during his time in office, according to Hardy D. Berry’s Place Names on the Campus of North Carolina State University. Riddick gave up the post in 1923 to become the first dean of the School of Engineering.
When Riddick Engineering Laboratories were dedicated in April 1951, the formal program memorialized Riddick, who had died in 1942, as “the man who has served State College in more capacities and for a longer time than any other person.” It also hailed his leadership for guiding “the college through the turbulent period of the first world war and its aftermath. Under his guidance the college made some of its greatest progress.”
In Riddick’s file at the Alumni Association, there is a letter from his wife, Lillian Daniel Riddick, in which she outlines her husband’s belief in NC State and the students it serves. She tells a story about a group of Serbian students who were brought over to study at NC State with their first year paid for. But when it became apparent that personnel changes at the college had led to those same students not having a funding source for their remaining three years, Riddick stepped in. As president, he persuaded the Board of Trustees to let the Serbian young men finish their studies with the college giving them their tuition and board.
It was that belief in education that defined Riddick and his commitment to NC State, where his name will never be forgotten.