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May 29 2014

“In service to the community” MaryCraven and Dennis Poteat Honor Raleigh Police with Group Study Room

(left to right) Dennis and MaryCraven Poteat and City of Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown

Years after completing his Masters in Public Administration at NC State, Dennis Poteat still remarks that one of his benefits as a police officer in Raleigh was the department’s educational credit fund that made it affordable for him to take the night classes that led to his degree.  He says the experience, “taught me the ability to talk about complex situations, to handle theoretical issues,” and to develop and show the practical competence that let him advance in his career. He would retire as a captain from the force and later come out of retirement to run the department’s much-praised Leadership Institute.

MaryCraven Poteat marvels that the university took her work toward a doctorate in adult education so seriously that John Caldwell, the chancellor at the time, helped teach some of the courses that she took.

Dennis also remembers that every Raleigh police officer on duty the night that NC State’s basketball team won the 1983 NCAA championship received a personal letter from Coach Jim Valvano thanking him or her for the department’s professional service during the exuberant celebrations on Hillsborough Street.  And that his professors often called on him in class, asking him to share his hard-won experience as a public servant with his classmates when they were exploring how budgets were crafted or how tricky personnel issues were navigated.

They had both long wanted to thank the university for the seriousness with which it took their ambitions and talent, to “have the fun,” as MaryCraven puts it, “of doing our part to help” keep that legacy of service and respect healthy and growing.

MaryCraven moved first, surprising Dennis for his service and that of his colleagues by naming a significant room in the Hunt Library.  The glass wall of a large collaborative space overlooking the Rain Garden now reads The MaryCraven F. and Dennis C. Poteat Group Study Room, in honor of the Raleigh Police Department, an honor that Dennis points out is meant to celebrate the traditional “very positive tie between the university and the Raleigh Police Department.”

The choice to support the NCSU Libraries was an obvious one for MaryCraven Poteat. She holds the Master of Librarianship from Emory University; she initially moved to Raleigh to be the assistant director of the community college system in charge of libraries; and she has worked on the development of four other libraries in North Carolina.  Her master’s thesis was, in fact, on the future of libraries, and she fully understands what the futuristic, iconic new building means for NC State.  She especially thought it important to help provide an inspiring collaborative space for students, a space that she and others in her doctoral program could only find by gathering off campus and creating their own sense of community in someone’s living room.

Sitting in the state-of-the art group study room that honors his colleagues and so many of their mutual long-time friends, Dennis brings the point home. “Today’s students can find lots of information on the internet,” he explains. But the library is about more than facts.  It’s about inspiration: “this building itself makes you want to come here—it’s draws you in, and you’re exposed to so much more first hand.”  That’s the service to the community that the Poteats have chosen to support.