By: David Hiscoe
As North Carolina State University officially dedicated the new James B. Hunt Jr. Library on April 3, 2013, the NCSU Libraries also formally launched another iconic project, the Student Leadership Initiative. The website uses video oral histories, photographs, and other documents to chronicle the experiences and impact of individuals whose formative time at NC State shaped their subsequent careers and whose memories provide a valuable and interesting window into the period in which they helped shape the university.
William Aycock (Student Body President [SBP], 1935-36) explains what it was like at NC State at the height of the Great Depression and how his generation prepared itself for combat in Europe. William Friday (Senior Class President, 1941, and later the president of the University of North Carolina system for thirty years) recalls the atmosphere on campus on the day Pearl Harbor was attacked.
Four-time North Carolina governor James B. Hunt, Jr. (SBP, 1957-59) pays homage to the respected faculty who shaped his political thinking and remembers realizing at this critical point in his life how the political system could play a role in improving citizens’ lives. Eric Moore (Student Senate President, 1970) describes what campus life was like for African American students in the late 1960s, while Cathy Sterling reflects on being the first woman to serve as NC State’s Student Body President (1970-71).
Returning to campus after two years of service in the Vietnam War to see the student newspaper earnestly in debate over what types of sandwiches should be served in the cafeteria, Terry Carroll (SBP, 1973-74) found an atmosphere of complacency that “put a fire in [his] gut” and inspired his own attempts to awaken fellow students to what he saw as “a world on fire.” “I met a whole fleet of people . . . and between us all someone is going to change the world . . . and owe it to NC State,” concludes Greg Doucette (Student Senate President, 2009, and UNC Association of Student Government President, 2008-10).
After leaving NC State, the students profiled in the project went on to a wide variety of distinguished careers as governors, legislators, educators, business entrepreneurs, as well as leadership roles in the medical, banking, computing, and legal professions.
The Student Leadership Initiative currently highlights more than 130 former student leaders and provides engaging video interviews with over 30 who share memories of their experiences on campus. Their stories encourage present-day students to connect to the past, alumni to put their own time at NC State into perspective, and scholars to access a collection of oral histories that help tell the story of North Carolina and NC State University for almost ninety years.
The project will add new profiles as research continues and is also available as a multimedia presentation on the large-scale visualization display in the iPearl Immersion Theater in the Hunt Library.