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An Evening of Alumni Stars and memories of NC State University

On Friday night, in the midst of a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow, the NC State Alumni Association Evening of Stars recognized 18 individuals for their outstanding contributions to the university, the state and the nation.  The recipients may well be the rocks that form the foundation of this university, but in no way are they islands unto themselves.  In every case, the relationships they built through the university helped make them the men and women they are today.

Their pride for NC State is evidenced in their comments.  While I don’t have comments from every one of them, I’d encourage you to take some time and read what this august group had to say about NC State.  They will make you smile, they will make you cry.  They will make you proud to be associated with NC State University.

Passion Rules!

77 of 100

I’m proud to present the comments made by the winners of the College Distinguished Alumni Awards, the Wolfpack Club’s Ronnie Shavlik Award and the Alumni Association Awards:

Dr. Calvin McNeill:

I am honored, humbled and still amazed standing before you this evening,  and truly thankful to CALS and NC State for this award. I profusely thank all of you who made this possible. I especially thank  Dean Wynne, Chancellor Woodward, Mr. Peter Daniel and Mr. Scott Troutman for seeing fit to recognize me as a recipient of the 2009 Distinguished Alumni Award.

Coming from rural NC- Raeford, which is located about 100 miles south of here- expectations were low. We were dirt poor, probably some of the last of the so-called share croppers.

I applied to only one college, and luckily got accepted. That was one of my best decisions, for NC State proved to be the nurturing environment I needed. I realized this further by actually spending a semester away from State at Howard University- only realizing NC State was the place for me.

I thank my family for its nurturing and encouragement; and also my NC State mentors, professors and role models. These individuals, the likes of Dr. Gerald Hawkins, the late Dr. Augustus Witherspoon, Dr. Tom Stafford, Dr. Banks Talley, my advisor Dr. Carl Lytle, and Dr. George Barthalmus. These individuals, some of whom have buildings named after them, dedicated their careers to developing students by astutely recognizing individual student needs, their strengths and encouraging them to succeed.

In addition, my NC State family included fellow students, who to this day, continue to be dear friends and associates. I am especially pleased to be in the company of Dr. Cathy Teague tonight, who graduated with me in ’76, and who is also recognized here tonight; and her sister, Patricia, who was in my medical school class at Chapel Hill.

My love for NC State is effusive. My non- State friends and family think I don’t know they snicker and mock me when I talk about State… I don’t mind because  I know they don’t understand, and I can only feel sorry for them. And with all due respect to my fellow UNC classmates, they simply don’t know any better.

NC State was then and still is a movement that cannot be explained and continues to be a very special place to be. My college days were momentous because of having mentors and friends, dedicated staff and excellent teachers all around me. These caring individuals are here today- for NC State recognizes the special role it has in identifying and molding poor and struggling young men and women, and then taking that diamond in the rough, polishing it and making it shine. This is why being recognized this evening by this great institution is so important to me, and I cannot thank you enough.

Norris Tolson:

I want to thank NC State and The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences for this award.

For a boy from Wiggins Cross Roads, NC State opened doors, windows and the world to me as a young kid…and I will be eternally grateful.

Off the farm, I was introduced to the world by an education at this great institution and thereby met and worked with people who have influenced me beyond words.

While I am up here speaking to you, there is a cast of hundreds who deserve this recognition because they shaped me and thousands like me with their tireless devotion to help me and the others see a better way

I’m thankful to my wife Betsy who helped me through this wonderful place, and who helped me raise three wonderful children.

And I’m thankful to NC State – this is a great place!  We build leaders here!  Leaders across a vast field of endeavors.  I am humbled immensely to be a graduate of this great institution; to be a part of its traditions and equally proud to be a small part of its future.  This state is a better place because of NC State.  I am a better person because of NC State.

So, thank all of you; Chancellor Woodward, The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, you for coming, and finally the great State of North Carolina for supporting this fantastic institution!

Danny Stillion:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, fellow alumni. I am humbled to accept this year’s award from the College of Design. One of IDEO’s founders, David Kelley has been know to say “These are the good old days.” In reflecting on my time here, that thought came to mind. Receiving this award was not only a pleasant surprise, but it also served as a reminder of the anchoring experiences I am so grateful to have encountered while here. Those include developing a deep respect for the power of diversity, experiencing the value of empathy, and developing the ability to embrace change. All of these have particular relevance as we design in the world today.

Regarding the power of diversity, the composition of my graduate class was indeed diverse. Fellow students with backgrounds in psychology, fine arts, journalism and business contributed a rich range of views to projects, and the work became much stronger as a result.

In terms of empathy, professors like Meredith Davis taught us its value and how to look at the world through the lens of how others learn. Empathy events spent navigating the campus in wheelchairs or blind folded were also real eye openers.

Finally, I also learned the value of being flexible. Faculty here helped me apply all that I had learned in other design contexts to the design domain of interactive media, which was just emerging when I was here at the College. Through his programming course, John Tector empowered us to start shaping both the behavioral as well as the visual aspects of our designs to create meaningful interactions.

Looking back, I am grateful for such a range of experiences. Lessons learned  here, I draw upon in working with interdisciplinary teams still to this day.

I wish the school all the best in its continuing endeavors to educate new designers regarding the power of diversity, empathy and being ever flexible by embracing new ways to communicate, connect  and shape the world in which we live.

Thank you once again.

Dr. Lee Stiff:

I am very pleased to accept this recognition by the College of Education and would like to share it with the talented and hardworking faculty and staff of the College, without whom, my successes in academia would not have been possible.

I must acknowledge my mother and father, Agnes and Garfield Stiff, for their vision of what a child could be; a vision shared by dedicated teachers and loving adults in the world from which I come; a world we must never abandon or ignore. My parents helped me understand that I could be one of the luckiest people in the world…because they helped me realize that “Luck is the residue of hard work!”

I want to thank my family, my friends, and supporters (a few of whom are with me tonight) for their ongoing and staunch advocacy over many, many years. I understand, as well as anyone, that our triumphs are so often a reflection of the love and support we have enjoyed. That certainly has been the case for me.

Hence, I would be sorely remiss if I did not thank the one person who has been my truest love, my strongest supporter, and my fairest critic, my wife of 38 years and my friend for 45, Renée Flood Stiff. She has always been there for me and has always anchored me in times of decision and times of rejoicing. Because our roots are intertwined, our destiny has always been one. Thanks, Renée; I love you.

Dr. John Palmour

I would like to first like express my sincere thanks to the College of Engineering for putting me into such an esteemed group.  This is a great honor for me.  I grew up around the NC State campus, since my father was a professor here.  I lived and breathed the Red and White as a kid, and then came here as both an undergraduate and as a graduate student.  I remained in the area since graduating, and have always stayed connected to the University in one way or another.  So receiving this honor is a great, great thrill for me.

The reason I have been put up for this honor is related to achievements we have had at Cree, Inc., a company that a group of us started in 1987 as a spin-out from Materials Science and Engineering at NC State.  Today, Cree has grown to a company of 4000 people worldwide, and is working on a variety of technologies that help save energy.  I feel that its very important to stress that from the beginning of Cree, this has been a team effort.  The power of Cree has always been the team, never the individual.  Having a team that pushes each other to do things that seem impossible at the time, and to buck each other up if we only get half way there so that we can make another run at the goal, has been tantamount to any success that I can claim personally.  As we grew, perhaps our best skill was to hire the very best people, and to always strive to hire people smarter than yourself.  The core team we had built stayed in place, and spread the team philosophy to the wider organization. It is on behalf of the core founders, Neal Hunter, Calvin Carter, and John Edmond, as well as the truly excellent Cree employees of that expanded team, that I accept this individual honor.

I also must thank my parents, Hayne and Barbara Palmour, for the examples they set when I was young and their continuous support.  I must especially thank my wife Nancy, and our three children.  Part of the success of Cree involved working many, many, many nights and weekends, lots of travel etc.  It can be very trying for the family at home for me to be away so much, and I really want to express my love and thanks for their patience with me throughout this experience.

Again, thank you very much for granting me this award.

B.D. Rodgers:

First, let me say “thank you” to the College of Engineering at North Carolina State University and the NC State Alumni Association for this honor. I am proud to be recognized along with the other honorees. I also want to recognize my wife, Pat, and the members of my family here tonight. They are all very important to me.

When I graduated from NC State in 1949, I was not what they refer to today as a “traditional student.” Like many young men at that time, my college career took a few detours along the way. One of those detours was World War II.

When I graduated from high  school in Charlotte, North Carolina, it was wartime, so I took a job at a plant making ammunition to aid in the war effort. After I earned some money for tuition, I entered Brevard College. After my first year at Brevard, Uncle Sam took me and I was drafted into the U.S. Army. I volunteered for the 1264th Battalion of Combat Engineers and went to Texas for training. We were sent to the European Theater. We deployed to France and then on to England and eventually to Luxembourg and the Battle of the Bulge, where we built the Corduroy Roads to bring Patton’s army through the Black Forest. I left military service in April 1946 and entered  North Carolina State that June, as a sophomore.

After graduation from NC State, I found a job with an engineering firm in Winston-Salem on a water works improvement project, designed by Thomas Edison and still in operation today.

After working a number of years for other people, I decided to start a new business venture. In 1963, I borrowed $5000 on my life insurance policy and founded Rodgers Builders with one superintendent and a pickup truck. We now have over 350 employees and revenues exceeding $450 million per year.

Here is my best advice to young engineers: Expect change. During the course of a career, there will be advances in materials, methods, and design. Technology will continue to change the engineering field, making it, in my experience, one of the most exciting and rewarding careers. I am grateful to NC State for the highly regarded engineering program they offered when I attended, and still do today.

And yet in spite of all the changes, some things will stay the same. Recently, a superintendent with Rodgers Builders asked me a question about structural steel. I pulled  one of my old textbooks from NC State off the shelf and told him, all the information you need is in this book. Let’s look…

Jack Cozort

I am deeply grateful to the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, to the selection committee, and to Dean Braden for this award.  I am so proud to be a graduate of such a great University and of CHASS, where the future is truly unlimited.

Enrolling at NC State in 1968 was the second greatest day of my life.  Like many students at NC State, I am first generation college.  I came here from Drexel with very little knowledge of what was going on beyond my small home town. More than anything else in my time at State, I discovered not only that there was a great big world out there, but that it was also a world full of opportunity and, if you were willing to work hard, you could take part in that world and maybe even have an impact on a few small things.

I had great teachers, who were role models for me.  I studied under Abe Holtzman, who recently passed away, and who is to this day the greatest teacher I ever had.  And I studied my advisor Jack McClain, Bill Block, who did such a great job with the young political science department, John Gilbert, Joe Mastro, Oliver Williams, Phil Pavlik, and many other great professors from the Political Science Department and in other fields.  I still vividly remember the excitement Bill Toole brought to English Literature, my second love behind political science. And I had the wonderful opportunity to learn from great administrators like Banks Talley, Gerald Hawkins, George Worsley, and the legendary Chancellor John Caldwell.  He was simply the best and led this University with such a calm hand through the turbulent 1960s.

Three of my classmates are here tonight.  They have been great friends through thick and thin since we started school here together 42 years ago.  Many of you know Mike Carpenter, Perry Safran, and Betsy West. Thanks, guys.

So going to NC State was the second best day of my life, and the best day was the day in early 1977 I met Kathy Kornegay, who before the year was over would be my wife.  I owe my biggest thanks to her.  She has been more than just a supporter.  She has the ideas, she is our family moral compass, she knows what we should do and how we should do it.  She has been a great mother to two wonderful children.  And she has more than accepted my affection for NC State; she has adopted this University and now loves it along with her alma mater, Wake Forest. She is here tonight along with our son Jackson. Our daughter, Katie, is in graduate school in the Czech Republic and could not be here tonight.

Wendy Douglas on behalf of her sister, Christine Holmes:

Dear College of Management Professors, Staff, Alumnae and Distinguished Guests:

First I must thank my sister, Wendy Douglas – a College of Management Executive Masters Program Alumna from 2001, and my brother-in-law, Fred Douglas – an enthusiastic Wolfpack supporter all his life, for graciously agreeing to represent me tonight.  Although I am thoroughly disappointed that I could not be here to accept this award in person, Wendy is a most fitting alternative since she was an influence in my choice to study accounting.  While she only briefly considered accounting for her own studies, her interest sparked my curiosity and led to a very fulfilling and challenging career with Ernst & Young LLP.

However, I have jumped ahead.  To prepare for my professional career, I received more than just an outstanding educational foundation from the College of Management.  The professors and staff provided counseling, encouragement, and most importantly, job placement support that allowed me to graduate and secure my position with Ernst & Young.  Since graduation, the College has allowed me to continue to be involved with the program and its students through occasional guest lecturing.  For these reasons, I am eternally grateful to the College and humbly honored to be a “star.”  Thank you for this award and congratulations to all the “shining stars” this evening.


1 Images from the 2010 Evening of Stars :: Red & White for Life :: NC State University Alumni Association { 02.02.10 at 7:11 am }

[…] You can see a list of winners and read about them here, and you can read comments from the winners here. […]

2 Joe Hice { 02.02.10 at 1:33 pm }

It was an awesome event and the speeches were outstanding. Passion definitely ruled this group.

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