Friday, October 23, 2009

'Rule One of Politics'

They broke ground Thursday morning on the rolling land that once was a dairy farm that supplied food to Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh -- but which will soon be the home of a new research library named for former Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. It's to be quite a place -- perhaps the best feature yet of the highly successful Centennial Campus on the N.C. State University campus, launched 25 years ago as Hunt's second term was coming to a close.

As Hunt told the story Friday morning, Raleigh Mayor Avery Upchurch came to his office to ask that the state give the land for a new housing development. But Hunt had had another idea, one sometimes ridiculed back in 1984: Give it to N.C. State University for a new kind of business-research-residential-student-government office complex that would be envy of the world.

Pretty audacious stuff -- but it has reshaped N.C. State University's reputation, giving it a cutting-edge sharpness about producing the processes that entrepreneurs will use to produce jobs of the future and creating a sort of global envy about what they've got going on the Centennial Campus. Read about it in Jay Price's story here.

At this morning's festivities, former UNC Charlotte Chancellor James Woodward, now the chancellor for the interim at NCSU while a search proceeds for a new chancellor, gave credit to Hunt for the transformative idea: "No Jim Hunt, no Centennial Campus," he said.

Woodward also gave a warm introduction to a series of speakers, including a glowing tribute to UNC System President Erskine Bowles. Bowles got up, strode to the podium and told the assembly something like, "You've just witnessed Erskine Bowles' Rule One of Politics: Always be introduced by someone you appointed to high office."