Holding court at a pep rally in Reynolds Coliseum last night, Chancellor-elect Randy Woodson told a welcoming crush of faculty, staff, students and alumni that he’s no stranger to the historic arena. As a high school student in southern Arkansas, he spent hours in front of the television, watching basketball great David Thompson swoop in for alley oops back in 1974, the year NC State won its first national championship.
On Wednesday, standing on the court where Thompson played, Woodson and his wife Susan enjoyed the cheers, signs, marquee and 40-foot inflatable wolf celebrating their visit to campus. The new chancellor officially takes over the first week of April.
Woodson told his new team that NC State combines a “glorious past with a bright future.”
He pledged to take the lead in recruiting and retaining star faculty who are key to the university’s ability to achieve its goals.
He urged faculty and staff to work together as one university, taking an interdisciplinary approach to solving problems, rather than operating as “silos” of separate colleges.
“University people need to work together to solve the great challenges,” he said.
He praised students’ work ethic. “They overachieve because faculty push them to do that,” he said.
As “the people’s university” and the institution with the most graduates in North Carolina, NC State has a responsibility to more than 170,000 alumni, Woodson said.
“Our job is to make sure the diploma they have on the wall continues to grow in value.”
He noted that Erskine Bowles, UNC system president, has called NC State, the most important university in the state.
Woodson said that Centennial Campus, which existed only in the minds of visionaries 25 years ago, serves as an “outstanding example of what a dream can do at a university.”
As a land-grant university serving all 100 North Carolina counties, “our relationship with the people of North Carolina is paramount,” Woodson said. He promised to undertake a learning and listening tour to get better acquainted with the people and culture of the state.
As one of the premier land-grant universities, NC State has the power to shape the future of North Carolina, the region, the nation and world, Woodson said.
Back in high school, he also studied Latin, which enabled him to translate the state’s motto, esse quam videri: “to be rather than to seem to be.”
The motto also applies to the university, which will be considered great, “not because people say so but because we are,” he said.
Following the chancellor-elect’s remarks, the Woodsons greeted hundreds of well-wishers who stood in line to shake their hands and welcome them to NC State.
“I thought it was great,” said Steve Carlton, Staff Senate chair, as he waited in the line that snaked through the coliseum. “Having been on the chancellor search committee, I’ve listened to the chancellor before and some of his comments and they seemed right on point. He’s everything we expected.”
Jim Flowers, head of the Department of Agricultural and Extension Education, agreed.
“He’s right on, he was wonderful,” he said. “He recognized NC State’s heritage and looked toward the future as a land-grant institution. I think he has a great vision for NC State and the experience to make it happen.”
Q&A with Chancellor-Elect Woodson
Prior to the event, Woodson met with local reporters to discuss his plans as he wraps up his job as provost at Purdue University and makes the move to NC State. He took a few minutes to talk with NC State Web writer Dave Pond.
Dave Pond: You’ve been a member of the university community for several weeks now – what has impressed you the most about NC State, its students, faculty, staff and fans?
Randy Woodson: Loyalty. There are a lot of people who care deeply about NC State, and I’ve heard from a lot of them in very positive ways. They’re very excited for the future of the university and that they’ve got a new chancellor, and they’ve given me the appropriate encouragement to help the university succeed.
When you have 170,000 alumni from a university, their future is based on the success that the university continues to have. Think of it like an investment – you invested in your diploma and your education. You want this university to remain a sound investment so that the value of that education only grows over time.
DP: Have there been any surprises?
RW: Beating Duke, that was an exciting surprise. Certainly there will be surprises – anytime you come into a new organization and meet all of the people that work here, you are going to have some surprises. Nothing has been surprising at this point other than the incredible number of great opportunities that exist.
DP: How is the acclimation process going here in Raleigh, in the midst of wrapping up essential matters at Purdue?
RW: My job there doesn’t end officially until March 31, so several times, I’ve just taken vacation at Purdue in order to come out and get off to a strong start. This is all to help me, as well as the people I will be working with, to be more prepared when I arrive the first week of April.
DP: When we talked in January, you mentioned a desire to get all university leadership heading in the same direction as your highest priority. As you have become more familiar with your surroundings here on campus, is that still the case?
RW: One of the challenges of universities is that you have a number of academic colleges that – if you are not careful – become silos. This is a university for a reason, it’s not nine or 10 colleges. I really want to stress the idea that we are one university. There needs to be strong collaboration across colleges, and our students need to benefit from the breadth of educational opportunities at this university – regardless of their major. So, it’s really stressing the idea that this is one university. We have a lot of individual colleges and departments, but we share one common goal.
DP: How do you go about getting to know students on campus?
RW: What’s this I hear about students coming to the chancellor’s house and singing to him at 1:30 in the morning after beating Duke? It’s hard, because you have so much pressure to get out and visit members of the university family who are off campus, particularly when the legislative session is in order. One of the things my wife, Susan, and I want to do is to launch a leadership development opportunity for students, selecting students early in their tenure at NC State and have them participate in a leadership development class where once a week, they will spend time with Susan and me exploring leadership opportunities.
Beyond that, you’re going to see me at a lot of sporting events, and I’m going to live right here on campus. I am going to constantly explore opportunities to get engaged with students.
DP: Erskine Bowles recently submitted his retirement as president of the UNC system. Does a change in leadership at that level affect your plans and vision for NC State?
RW: Erksine was very candid with me throughout the interview process. I knew this was his plan, and I accepted this job knowing that it was his plan. This is a great university system. I have confidence in my ability to lead this university, and I have confidence in the Board of Governors to select an outstanding system president for the future.
DP: Finally, I’d guess that wearing an Indiana Hoosier-red tie at Purdue is akin to wearing baby-blue on NC State’s campus – are you and Susan adjusting to your new color palette?
RW: Well, the good news is that all you have to do is go to Indianapolis and there’s a lot of red. Actually, each university I’ve graduated from is red – Arkansas and Cornell – so I’ve been around a lot of red. She (Susan) looks pretty good in red, too.