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May 30 2012

Spotlight on Student Leaders: Ada Spencer

Contributed by Samantha Rich

When it comes to NC State history trivia, many students may be quick to identify Jane McKimmon and Mary Yarbrough as the first women to receive degrees from NC State. However, students may not be familiar with the name Ada Curtis Spencer, the first female to graduate from NC State after entering as a freshman.

Ada Spencer

Ada Spencer

Spencer, a Raleigh native, entered State College in 1926 as journalism student. As a freshman, Spencer donned the mandatory freshman cap and carried matches for upperclassmen alongside hundreds of male freshmen. Students soon realized that women like Spencer would one day become a major part of the student body. A 1929 Technician article declared, “Our campus is quickly becoming filled with co-eds. It will be only a matter of time until they will be as numerous as the boys.”

In 1929, only four campus buildings were equipped with “toilet facilities” for women, including D.H. Hill Library (now known as Brooks Hall) and Holladay Hall. In an effort to make female students feel more comfortable on campus, the college introduced a “rest room for women” in the Southeast Seminar room of the library in 1929. The rest room contained tables, “comfortable chairs,” and a mirror. Perhaps Spencer spent time in this room in between her classes or while preparing for an exam.

In 1929, the Technician noted that Ada Spencer was the “most popular co-ed” on campus. It is possible that Spencer’s popularity was linked to her stunning academic record and her involvement in student organizations. In the summer before her senior year, Spencer took summer courses at Columbia University where, according to Technician, she received an ‘A’ on all her coursework. Technician declared, “Such an achievement is regarded quite excellent, considering the standard of that university and that many teachers and professors of journalism strive for lesser grades.”

Spencer also was a pioneer of the State College Women’s Student Government, serving as the temporary chairman of the women’s government committee. According to Technician, “Miss Spencer was appointed as the head of the committee on choosing the flower, the motto, and also the name for the baby organization.” Ada Spencer was also a member of Phi Kappa Phi honor society, the Leazar Literary Society, and Pine Burr honor society. At the time of Spencer’s graduation in 1930, approximately sixty female students were enrolled at NC State, most of who were enrolled in the School of Education or in the journalism program. Ada Spencer successfully paved the way for the thousands of women who have followed in her footsteps.

Technician (21 September 1929, 28 September 1929, 26 October 1929)

May 22 2012

Spotlight on Student Leaders: Rajesh Mirchandani and Adam Compton

Contributed by Samantha Rich

Staff members from the NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center recently sat down with former NC State Student Body President Raj Mirchandani (1999-2000) and Senior Class President Adam Compton (2009) to discuss their time as student leaders at NC State.

Raj Mirchandani

Raj Mirchandani

Raj Mirchandani recalled there was “one driving force” that influenced his decision to attend NC State: the university’s location in the state capital, Raleigh. Mirchandani, who was interested in politics, stated, “I felt like if I was there I might have more opportunities to do some of the things that were important to me and looking back on it, it paid off.” The political science major became interested in Student Government in high school and he took his interest with him to NC State when he entered as a freshman in the spring. Because he missed freshmen Student Senate elections in the fall, Mirchandani approached then-Student Body President Chad Myers (1997-1998) about accepting an appointed position to the Senate.

Mirchandani reflected on many aspects of his experiences with Student Government, including his administration’s emphasis on Hillsborough Street revitalization, the introduction of a late night bussing system (known as the Werewolf), and lobbying against tuition increases at the state legislature. He also discussed some of his greatest challenges, his proudest accomplishments, and his relationship with Dr. Thomas Stafford, vice chancellor of Student Affairs, whom he cited as a mentor.

Adam Compton

Adam Compton

In addition to serving as president of the 2009 senior class, Adam Compton served as a Student Senator and as treasurer of Student Government (2006-2007). For Compton, membership in the Senate was “a really cool opportunity, it was a great chance to meet other people that were passionate about NC State, it was a chance to meet administrators and talk to administrators as well as a chance to talk to my peers about what’s affecting them and what changes they would like to see, and it was a really good learning experience.” As a sophomore Senator, Compton dealt with the theft of student basketball tickets, an incident that he referred to as “Voucher Gate,” and the problems associated with tuition increases. Compton also discussed what he considers to be his greatest accomplishment as a student leader, Student Government election reform, which included reduced campaigning time and fewer voting days.

Compton, who began the interview reflecting upon the challenges of his freshman year and his brief consideration of transferring to Virginia Tech, closed the interview saying, “My student experience has really changed my life…I love this university so much because of all the great things it’s given me.”

To learn more about Rajesh Mirchandani, Adam Compton, or other NC State student leaders, please visit Historical State or stop by the NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center.

May 21 2012

Spotlight on Student Leaders: Smedes York

Forward Smedes York (#42)

Smedes York poses in his NC State basketball uniform

Contributed by Samantha Rich

In February, staff members from the NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center met with NC State alumnus and former Raleigh Mayor Smedes York to discuss his experiences as an NC State student and local politician as a part of the Libraries’ growing Student Leadership Initiative.

Smedes York gives a presentation in class.

Smedes York presents his research project on geodesic domes to classmates, May 1963.

York began the interview discussing his family’s historical connection to the Raleigh area, including his father’s development of Cameron Village in the late 1940s, and growing up across the street from the NC State Memorial Tower. While attending State, York held membership in Phi Kappa Phi and the Interfraternity Council. York, a civil engineering major, also served as the commanding officer of the First Battalion in Army ROTC and played on the Wolfpack basketball team under the direction of Coach Everett Case. During the interview York discussed the challenges of balancing a full academic course load along with extracurricular commitments, which he said was important in preparing him for the demands of a busy political career.

Everett Case letter

A letter from Coach Everett Case encouraging his players to get ready for the start of basketball practice.

Smedes York

Smedes York reminisces about his time as an NC State student

Other highlights from the interview include York’s discussion of his service in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, his mayoral campaign, and his continued work with the Urban Land Institute. Staff members also captured images of the treasurers York displays on his office walls, including images of York with the Reverend Billy Graham, the U.S. Olympic torch that York carried through Raleigh in 1996, and a letter (shown at right) that Coach Case sent York on October 6, 1962 announcing the first basketball practice of the season.

To learn more about Smedes York and other former NC State student leaders, please visit Historical State. For more information about the Libraries’ Student Leadership Initiative, please contact Genya O’Gara at 919-513-2605.