NCSU Creative Services
Centennial Campus Interviews — Larry Montieth
Montieth: Larry Monteith
Q: For transcription purposed, can you give us your name, first and last.
Montieth: Larry Monteith
Q: You are Chancellor Emeritus?
Montieth: Chancellor Emeritus
Q: I just wanted to thank you, Chancellor Monteith, for agreeing to do an interview with us today. I want to start out by talking about your career before you came to NC State. Could you just briefly trace that?
Montieth: I attended NC State in the fifties and graduated 1960 and went to work for Bell Telephone Laboratories in North Carolina. I attended Duke while I was working there and then left Bell Telephone Laboratories and went to work with the Research Triangle Institute in the Park. I worked there for six years. In 1968, I came to NC State and joined the faculty in electrical engineering.
Q: And how did you become chancellor? Could you trace that for me?
Montieth: That took a long time and a lot of things happened. I became head of electrical engineering in 1974 and then dean of engineering in 1978 and then interim chancellor in 1989 and then chancellor in 1990. To trace that and to try to characterize that in any way would be very difficult for me except that I enjoyed everything that I ever did at NC State, was asked to do, or did on my own. It was a wonderful thirty years at the university, and I could have been happy, if at any point my responsibilities had remained the same for the rest of my career at NC State.
Q: What can you tell me about the origins of the Centennial Campus idea? Who were the major players, the people involved?
Montieth: I can’t give you some of the important background that I hope you will get from others. You will have to get most of that from Chancellor Poulton. My earliest recollection is mainly through the press and the fact that the land at Dorthea Dix was being considered for a lot of purposes just as it is now again being considered for a lot of purposes. Apparently, in response to Chancellor Poulton’s initiative, Governor Hunt and I think Jane Patterson and probably others in the Council of State were responsible for putting together the transfer of the land to NC State.
As I say, there was a lot of public debate about what that land could and should do for the community. Those in city and county government wanted the land to produce a tax base because they saw, and they probably still do see, an awful lot of land in their county that is used by people who don’t pay ad valorem tax. There were probably developers and others, who had ideas about how the land should be used, but ultimately it came to NC State and it is from there, once that decision was made, that I had some involvement from that day to the day I left in 1998.
Initially, I was on the planning committee. I don’t recall the details of the debate, but I do recall numerous and lengthy meetings. I am guessing that primary discussions had to do with long-term NC State objectives. I do know that as dean of engineering, I had made the public statement that engineering had developed an enormous research program, a large graduate program, and we had never built one square foot that wasn’t built for undergraduates. So, we were taking away from the undergraduate program to build a thriving research and graduate program and we needed to build some new buildings. The only way we could build them would be to tear some down. We had a plan to build an Engineering Graduate Research Center where old Park Shops is located. I don’t know whether Chancellor Poulton used that as an example or not, but the only future we had at that time was either through land acquisition or tearing down and building upward. I am citing this as an example although I was not using that to justify the transfer of land, it was part of the times that NC State found itself in.
So when the Centennial Campus idea came and they put together this group of people, I guess my advocating for research focused activities and graduate activities may have won me a seat on the planning committee. I am not sure. I never asked why I was there. I was just glad to be a part of it. That committee was an interesting experience because you had all kinds of competing interests, people who had been hired as professionals to do an environmental impact type of plan, people who had been involved in building infrastructure as consultants, and internally, people who had competing interests – those who saw it as having a special need as we began to develop it. Anyway, it took a long time and a lot of meetings and interesting processes to come up with some ideas, sort of a skeleton of ideas.
One of the important ideas that sort of came out of the process, and I don’t recall how it bubbled up, I think it might have been because of Claude McKinney’s experiences or it could have been because of what was going on in Charlotte at the time, resulted in the hiring of consultants from the Wisconsin based Carley Group to work with us in the development of the Centennial Campus. (I don’t know how or when the campus was first called the Centennial Campus.) The idea began to take form that while we had some overall objectives, we would get someone else to implement it for us. I felt good about that too. I saw it as an enormous undertaking and to have this multi-use campus that had housing, university and partnerships all mixed together and functioning. I couldn’t at that moment envision the process that you must use to do that. After all, I was an academic dean and I had my own experiences that did not lend themselves to that kind of policy making.
Anyway, I think that we all…or at least there seemed to be a good feeling about the Carley Group involvement in developing the master plan. I think the committee might have been involved to some extent throughout, but there was a time when that master plan had more of a professional control. You had to put in things that became definitive and the committee was the big picture organizations. Then it began to move into something more substantive. My own personal view at the time and what I argued for was that it be primarily a research and graduate campus. My views changed later, but initially that was consistent with my experiences as dean of engineering finding myself without a place to have substantial graduate and research opportunities for faculty and students. The master plan, I don’t know if it had to or not, began to move slowly through zoning considerations, Council of State, Board of Trustees, and Board of Governors and at each level there would be things written about it. I was not that close to it at that point. The committee wasn’t officially involved in any way in that although the reports came out to the Deans’ Council and there would be written information for circulation to faculty and others. It wasn’t that we didn’t know what was going on; it was just that it had a process that didn’t directly involve me. I don’t remember exactly where it hit the brick wall because it was going to be, as I recall, sort of a third party driven development. The university had authority; they were not relinquishing authority, but a lot of the decisions and financial responsibilities and opportunities to develop commercial enterprises seemed to be less under the control of the Board of Trustees and less under the control of the campus. I don’t know where it stopped, but I am sure you can find out.
That phase came to an end. It was clear that we were going in another direction. There was another event though that happened shortly thereafter. You have got to talk to Dame Hamby to get the insight. With that sort of quasi defeat, the big question was what to do next. The College of Textiles had received money to renovate Nelson Hall. The first thing I heard was that they were going to build a new textile school on the Centennial Campus with undergraduates and graduates and everything. I thought that this was worth watching to see how it went. I heard an interesting story about that. If it is true, you need to find out more about it. Dame Hamby and the faculty didn’t want any part of that decision of moving to the Centennial Campus. I think some of the things they were worried about were being isolated and how to get back and forth. Would there ever be any other academic entities over there? Are we going to be the only university building ever built? If I were dean of textiles, I would worry about it too. Apparently, Chancellor Poulton was very committed to the move. He obviously must have received a lot of support from trustees and textile people around the State. So they built that building over there, and what a grand statement for Centennial Campus. As I understand, it wasn’t maybe a year or two or three later, that everybody in the School of Textiles said that it was their idea to go over their. I may be exaggerating a bit, but at least they all began to admit that it was the right decision. They began to give Chancellor Poulton credit for being bold, being willing to take the heat, and to do it. That was an enormous first step putting a landmark on that campus and doing it so well that it set in place a standard for everybody else that was going to be important.
There are two other things that I was involved with early on as this began to change. There was an awareness that we needed to get some private sector organizations. I think it was primarily through the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences and a member of their advisory committee who let them know that ABB, which had bought Westinghouse, was looking for a place in North American to locate a technology center. The campus, primarily with the leadership of the people in the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences and with a lot of help from Frank Hart’s office, and George Worsley, and others, including the Chancellor, they recruited ABB to come here and won over some formidable competitors and then built and leased that building to them. That was an important second step along the way.
I was involved in what I consider to be a third step – a university motivated building that did not involve state funding. I worked with George Worsley and the leadership within the College of Engineering to commit our indirect costs to paying off the indebtedness to build the building for three major research organizations. Remember, I just talked about building a research building and didn’t get it done at that time. This was the first building occupied by the university and built using indirect costs money. The university got a loan or floated a bond, and then used the college’s indirect costs reimbursements to pay it off.
There is another interesting story there; you will have to check with George Worsley because he may remember it differently. He worked directly with the faculty who were scheduled to occupy the building. I guess he assumed that I knew what they were doing, but I didn’t. To decide upon the financial requirements to up fit the building he depended solely on the faculty. I had made the assumption that the faculty would limit the costs to the sum of the indirect costs they would create. George had made the assumption that the dean of engineering would pay for it. Needless to say there was considerable dollar difference between the two assumptions. When it was too late to really change the commitment, Mr. Worsley and I stood in his office, probably both feeling very angry that we had not talked to each other before, and that there was a decision already made about which neither of us was happy. But, the important thing was that we did build the building using no State money. It set in place a process that Mr. Worsley and future deans and future vice chancellors for research used to build maybe four or five of those buildings or maybe more. Almost immediately after the first one was built, two others were constructed without using state money. It set in place a pattern of the university thinking about building its own buildings for multi-purposes. The first ones were called research buildings. Then we went to partners buildings. Then we went to a third called ventures buildings. Each name carried some special emphasis.
The Research I and II and III were buildings that we pretty much used ourselves. The partner’s buildings were usually occupied by the university and our research partners. In general the venture buildings were occupied with activities that did not directly involve university faculty. My guess is that this differentiation was never fully implemented and does not clearly define the activities in these buildings today.
The fourth thing that I got involved with right away while I was still dean was to advocate for a Graduate Research Center for the College of Engineering on the Centennial Campus. We had never built any space dedicated to research and graduate education and I thought that it was time that we do so because the college had become a very prominent national center for graduate education and research and we were really hurting our undergraduate program by always diminishing the space available to their labs and classes and things like that. So I was able, with Frank Hart’s help – Frank was very helpful in introducing me to Bobby Etheridge a legislator from Harnett County at that time, who later became Superintendent of Public Education and is now a Congressman. Frank knew him since they grew up in Harnett County and he arranged for us to meet with him and explain to him our vision. Also, we were able to meet with Senator Marc Basnight and a few other influential people to talk with them about our vision. One of them was Speaker of the House Harold Brubaker from Ashboro. I worked with both sides, Democrats and Republican leadership at the time, and I worked with the people in General Administration. They knew what I was doing. I traveled around the state and made presentations about the need for this. It was difficult to get a building of the magnitude that I felt we needed. We priced it out at about $40 million.
The College of Textiles was a $26 million project. We never built anything that large or that high tech so I felt that I needed to make my case to leaders in the community where they were. I would travel to Asheville or Winston-Salem and people who were friends would invite representatives and senators and others to come and I would make my case. Anyway, fortuitously for me, Dick Spangler and his leadership decided to put together a bond referendum. This was before the most recent one. He thought kindly about putting this in as sort of a cornerstone of that bond referendum because I had made the case that by and large the research at NC State was about creating knowledge that was useful to create jobs and new businesses. I guess he was saying that it was put up or shut up time if you want to do that, this is what you have to do. If you build it, it has got to be one that realizes that.
Anyway, it got funded. I think that I was able to have an influence on the Centennial Campus while I was dean. But then I became chancellor. I don’t know if you want me to stop here and ask me more questions or to direct my role as chancellor.
Q: I was interested in how your role and relationship changed when you moved from being dean to chancellor. You talked about being on the planning committee and doing presentations. What changed when you became chancellor?
Montieth: Our campus is set up so that if you are a department head, you are focused on the department. It is up to the dean to convince you that there is a greater good. If you are a dean, you are focused on a college and it is up to the chancellor and the leadership to convince you that there is a greater good. Chancellor Poulton and his staff had convinced me as dean that there was a greater good although I still had this passion for trying to do something to develop graduate programs and research programs. I used to make the statement as the dean that at that time that we had one of the top 25 recognized undergraduate programs in the country out of 300. But our graduate program was not that recognized. And, as it turns out in education the further you go the more you must demand of that academic program to help you with your career. Because as a baccalaureate, they compete for jobs widely and where you went to school doesn’t make a lot of difference. When you get a master’s degree, they expect that you now have developed some special knowledge. It can begin to make a difference. When you get a Ph.D., the expectation goes way up. I felt like and used to argue that we were cheating the students who come here for graduate education because we couldn’t help them reach their full potential unless we focus on building a state of the art facility.
Well, that illustrates my focus. I was not focused as the dean in really justifying the university’s position on the Centennial Campus. I felt like I might be a part of it. When I became chancellor, this was different. I understand what that dean was saying, but that is not enough to fulfill the university’s obligation for receiving this very, very valuable land. I began to make a transition. I didn’t make it my day and night priority as chancellor, but I did recognize that as chancellor it was different for me now and I had to figure out what that difference was and what my role was going to be. I did change; I changed considerably my thoughts about the Centennial Campus and its value to the university and to the State and how I would articulate that.
Q: Can you elaborate on that? How you ideas changed and your opinions changed?
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Q: We were talking about how your ideas about Centennial changed when you transitioned from being a dean to a chancellor.
Montieth: I began to see things happening, not see, but experience them. One was sort of a public, partially quiet phase of asking, even though we had built the College of Textiles and built ABB there and we had received the money for the Graduate Research Center, it appeared that some of the public were wondering what was next. It went even to those who wondered if we could carry out that master plan. Remember, the master plan originally was developed with a third party to help with financing and other programmatic activities. The university didn’t have any experience with this type of development ; that is not what they do and yet we were doing all of that internally. It was logical to have those sorts of questions. That was something I was feeling.
Another issue was an idea that came from education leadership in Wake County to put a school on the campus. It didn’t have as a part of it any significant university involvement; it was a good place for a school and it would be near the university. So that brought to my attention the fact that some people might see this, in part, as a real estate opportunity, a place to put government or institutional activities that don’t necessarily have anything to do with the university. Then I learned in building the Graduate Research Center, (I had become the chancellor before we actually built it, m aybe we started it, I don’t know.) that we were really strapped for cash to build infrastructure. I saw that this might or could be the biggest limiting feature. Buildings are glamorous; we see them. But the things that go in the ground are very expensive.
We needed an entrance way; we needed that Centennial Parkway. We needed very expensive cabling to offer to people who were going to come there demanding high speed connectivity. This was in the early 1990s so we were looking really far ahead, not just giving telephone service, but recognizing that we to have to put fiber optic cable in the ground. We recognized that we had to provide water, sewer and streets, and that the State was probably not going to give us that money. I recognized that when we built the Graduate Research Center and built a parking deck provided other infrastructure the $ 40 million appropriation would not build the building we had envisioned because there was a lot less money for the actual building... I experienced the dynamics of what was happening and I recognized that the chancellor had to provide leadership in bringing together and getting the experts, George Wors ley, Frank Harts and the deans involved in a way in which they had not been involved. They had been involved, at least the colleges in the same way that I had been involved while I was dean .
I put together a task force for two purposes – for all the things I have said and for another purpose, to buy some time. It did seem to me that the questions about our ability to lead could come up faster than our ability to respond if we didn’t have a process to give us the time to go through and re-think our master plan, to reconsider all of the things we said that we were going to do, to take our experience to that point and say that this has taught us A, B, and C and then to use that to come up with new directions if necessary. We got lots of tangible and intangible results from that. I can’t say that it was a reawakening; that would be unkind and unfair to all those who had put so much into it. It did re-stimulate our thinking and give us some new goals and a vision of things that we might do because we knew that we could build our own buildings. Frank Hart, Bill Klarman and Charlie Moreland really did an outstanding job of pushing forward with this agenda.
Claude still reported to me and I recognized that Claude was probably, in terms of infrastructure and planning, the only experienced person we had that really knew what we were doing. He had been involved in a very, large project in Maryland. I felt that if he worked for George, and that it wasn’t the chancellor’s office speaking to George, that the decision making about infrastructure: about building buildings, about putting things in the ground, about building roads…the person who knew what we had to do and the person who knew how to fund it should be working together. We also recognized that we needed a group focused on the decisions about how we would bring people to the campus. We had established a policy that the occupants needed a university sponsor and the person reviewing those sponsorships and deciding who qualifies would be the vice chancellor for research. So, you had the programmatic side. Who are we going to put over there? Are there real sponsors ? Do they fit our criteria? Ca n we build space at an affordable price to us and to the tenant and remain consistent with the master plan and with the financial resources we have? They worked together, but they had a need to back away without arguing with the other one, to consider what they wanted done and let their own organization debate and discuss and get focus and then come back together.
That looked to me like it worked very well, but I was out of the loop. So I put together a small group that would meet periodically and they informed me and I would become aware of issues that I could play an appropriate role in providing leadership for the Centennial Campus. From doing that, I formed a lot of ideas. I felt that we needed someone from the outside to work with us who was better connected to the business community so I hired Dick Dougherty. Dick made many significant contributions to development of the Centennial Campus, especially he strongly advocated for third party financing or private developers... Up until that point, we had built everything on our own line of credit and ability to take on debt. Obviously, t here is a limit to how much debt you can take. It depends on how much cash you can generate to pay off the debt. Dick thought that it would be a good idea to get some competition for people to build under our control of the tenancy buildings on the Centennial Campus. That is when Craig Davis won that competition and came up with a cluster of buildings which just has been an absolutely superb addition to that campus.
It brings along a lot of questions about its future and what you are going to do, but in the front part of the development, it propelled that development beyond belief. We could never had taken on that much debt and grown that campus that fast. We needed other people who could manage that debt with their own innovations and their own views of how to run those buildings with our tenancy control and still be our partners. I also learned a great deal about governance issues within the State and with the Board of Governors and my role in doing that. Claude McKinney laid the groundwork, but I had to be the one to represent the university in getting the Centennial Parkway. Appropriately, t he Board of Governors and Dick Spangler continued to have questions about the golf course, the conference center, the debt we were servicing and all of that. I had to continue to be the person, with a lot of help from Mr. Worsley and Charlie Moreland, explaining over and over again what it was we were doing and why it was very important to the State and to the university. We had changed in our thinking about that. I had changed from thinking about it as primarily university research and graduate concentration. This came about while I was chancellor. I recognized the power of it in terms of small business technology and business start-ups . When we considered who we wanted over there, we had some people who had big plans and who were already a big business that could take up substantial acreage . Did we really want those? If you get six or seven of them, it is over. You have a real estate venture that looks like the Park; that is not what we wanted to be.
It began to dawn on us and I was a strong advocate for really stimulating the presence of small start-ups . I had this vision that when they got larger, they would move somewhere else, hopefully somewhere else in the State. Maybe industrial recruiters around the State would come and recruit our small start ups and, say, come to Buncombe County. We will help you get started up here. I continued trying to do some of that after I retired, but ran into the brick wall of personal health challenges and had to back away from it. Nevertheless, that was my vision that it would be a hot bed for our own intellectual property as well as those who would come to us.
Subsequently some small businesses located on the Centennial campus because t hey wanted access to the students to work part time. I saw that as another great advantage. A lot of our students work in retail stores and restaurants, which can be good jobs with flexibility, but I thought that for some of them to have a technical job or working in an office or doing things on the Centennial Campus would have an enormous advantage because they wouldn’t have to go too far and it wouldn’t have to be at night. I thought that it would be another great advantage for small business start ups because they want temporary employees. They don’t want a big payroll of permanent employees with benefits. Students, by and large, fit that category when they are undergraduates and graduate students. Anyway, those were the changes over the transitional period. I can’t give you a time line when all of that occurred, but it was, nevertheless, sort of the evolution.
We were able to get the College of Education, after arguing long and hard, the dean and I , over whether they were fully committed as a partner, to finally decided that they would create a research center and raise the money to build it. Now, that is a partner. I was very much in favor of a school being located over there. Before that, I didn’t know how to handle it initially, because I thought that this would have a lot public interest. Do I want to get the public immediately reacting negatively to the university thinking that we are selfish or non-caring, but I just felt like it was also important to not let that land become just institutional land. It needs to have a life that is part of the university life. It needs to be doing things to stimulate us and for which at times we can do things to help them.
Q: A moment ago you alluded to the Research Triangle Park and that you didn’t want Centennial to become confused with that. I have noticed as I started this project that a lot of people are confused about how Centennial is distinctive. I was wondering if you could talk about that? What makes Centennial different because it is not a Research Triangle Park?
Montieth: That is true. I thought a lot about that as chancellor because a lot of people asked me that question. I worked at the Park in the Research Triangle Institute. The Research Triangle Institute is sort of like some of the things on the Centennial Campus. But, the Park sells its land. It is no longer owned by the Park . We lease the land. That is one big difference. We had decided that it would be in the long term interest of the university to keep up an ever changing environment there as the university changes and as the world of research and development changes. When you have a big company, if it is pharmaceutical, that is what you have. For as long as they can use that facility and create the return on their investment that they require, they are going to stay there. We made a conscious decision, to limit the size and number of large companies. Only a few large companies would begin to use up the property very fast and set the character of that campus forever. A campus where there is a turnover, where small businesses get large, where large businesses move off, where some of the small business fail, where some merge or are sold, provides dynamic and ever changing opportunities of developing meaningful partnerships based upon the ever changing research agenda of the university . I think that is different; that is not what the Park is. It is very different. I think the Park does have manufacturing limitations which would be an interesting thing to study to investigate to what extent that has affected the Park. Some of the companies have manufacturing there. I don’t know exactly how the boundary runs or how they build it.
We don’t really want any manufacturing. We looked at that and thought about it. We don’t have the ability to handle the waste and the movement of materials and all that. We are not building the kind of place that could do that; the Park did. You can move lots of materials and things through the Park. We don’t. It is more of a campus community environment. So that is different. If you had to take the distribution of activities over there, they are small. We have a couple of large ones, but by and large, they are small and that is what we want to do. We require a partnership. The Research Triangle Park has no such requirement. They don’t have to pledge to work with anybody. You bring a business and you build it. I don’t think that there is a lot that is alike. They are both driven by ideas, by what is driving a lot of the modern job opportunities and that is individuals with new ideas in their minds that need to be tested, tried, and marketed and put to use.
There is a huge amount of entrepreneurship at the Park and a huge amount of entrepreneurship on the Centennial Campus, but they are different. The fundamental process is the same, but the environment is different. We like the idea that it is merged with the university, that if someone starts something that is their idea and doesn’t have anything to do with the university in terms of the idea, but the university has expertise so the faculty can become consultants, the students can work and that idea can grow and become a business. The process is different, very different.
Q: You have talked a lot about the strengths of Centennial Campus and the role that you played. What weaknesses or changes would you like to see on Centennial Campus? Is there anything that you would like to see done differently?
Montieth: Well, I think in the short term, the people responsible for it…I’ve been gone six years and from what I can tell, they are doing a great job. In the short term, I don’t have enough knowledge to say anything but that. The evidence is there. I do have some, I don’t know whether I would call them concerns but they are long term inevitabilities. We really need to have that conference center if that is to be the hub of an intellectual community. Why are Jim Goodnight and his wife Ann building a first- rate hotel on the SAS campus? Why? Because they have enough money? Well, you need money to build it, but that is not the reason. I would bet it is because the activity that drives his company is a continuing interaction among people who like to work in environments that cater to their needs whether it is high speed internet or restaurants that serve all kinds of things. I have never had a latte so I don’t know what it is, but these words have popped up in our vocabulary and you see all these young people around these places with all their ideas. They are sitting at these tables with notepads or computers, talking to one another and drinking these things and interacting. This is the world of work today. It is not the way I grew up, but that is the way they work. They inspire one another; they get on their cell phones or they use their computer to interact through a wireless connection. SAS is creating a world- class drawing card to bring the best people in the world, whether they are there to buy SAS software or work with SAS in some way. We need something like that. This is going to be a village of 30,000 people. I don’t think that it is going to work to go to SAS’s hotel or go downtown. It must be the focal point of bringing all of them together to work and to spend their week doing the things they need to do. The university has to project that vision; it has to get out there and really project their long term vision that justifies this because without it, this campus cannot realize its potential. It will come up far short of being the melting pot, of the ideas that create businesses, technologies, and jobs . We have to have it. The golf course is an amenity like swimming pools and tennis courts. These very active people are also joggers, and mountain climbers, and they do all sorts of things they like to do as part of their physical being. For world class creativity, y ou have to cater to them. I would not back down one moment in arguing with the public about the need to do that.
Some would argue that it is elitist. That is the notion that is sort of indigenous to our s tate that somehow or other the creation of wealth is wrong, kind of like everyone should just give it away to avoid being wealthy . Private wealth of the first generation or through their trusts or foundations has created a lot fine universities. By and large, these sources s upport the arts and things that the government won’t support. If there is no concentration of wealthy there are not major contributors. Without that creation of wealth, our s tate will never achieve its objective of being able to create the very best jobs for all our people. I’m not just for individual wealth, I am for the environment that nurtures and supports the entrepreneurial spirit required to be successful. We need the seed bed of ideas, venture capital, people willing to take risk, world class education, healthy and prosperous citizens and industries that thrive in our state. You want them to keep their money in local banks, contribute to local causes and hire our citizens and provide outstanding benefits.
Q: I am curious as to why the hotel executive conference center and golf course have not been built yet. I was interested in getting your thoughts.
Montieth: Well, I have two views and I don’t mind saying it. I think that there is a private sector view that they don’t want the competition. It is interesting to me that at the time the private sector was saying that there was no need for it, now we have one of them being built and another one being planned. So, if there was no need a couple of years ago, suddenly what drives the need? I think that it is a concern of the private sector that the university being a partner in this is unfair. They want us to send people who come to see us to Crabtree Valley and downtown and wherever. As I discussed before, w e need the ability to attract them here.
Now, it may mean that we will have to come back with another strategy to make that a completely private investment over there, but I don’t know what happened. You would have to talk to Mr. Worsley about that or someone else. I just know that it is absolutely necessary. It is like the commercial development around that lake; it has got to happen sometime because it has to be a community. People have got to want to be in that community. It has to be one in which they can find their work environment supporting some of the ways they want to live their life in and around that campus and not having to go to North Raleigh or downtown Cary, or Chapel Hill or Durham. There will be 30,000 members of this community where we want to have not only an eight to five, but an afternoon and evening environment.
A second reason may be that the public either hasn’t heard, doesn’t understand or doesn’t agree with our vision for this campus. The university has the responsibility to sell it. It is not something to take for granted. We are a public institution. We have to come up with some new ways to connect with the people who have concerns about it and get their support. You are asking someone who is six years away from having inside information. I have no inside information.
Q: I was interested in your opinion. Thank you.
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Q: It is obvious that you are very enthusiastic about the Centennial project and I was curious, when you were chancellor, did you ever face pressure from groups, people who did not support Centennial or who were very against it? How did you deal with their concerns?
Montieth: Well, I don’t know if I ever…well, I did face, I wouldn’t call it pressure.
Q: Negativity maybe?
Montieth: Points of view – my basic character does not respond well to negativity. I just don’t identify with it. If somebody wants to debate something, I would be glad to talk to them about it and if they are against something, that is just a different point of view. Maybe you asked the question in a way in which I have a hard time responding. There were people who had lots of different perspectives. On campus, there was a legitimate concern about what that campus would look like in terms of its ecological environment because it has a lake on it. It has other indigenous assets. That is a natural conflict. We should have a debate about it and a discussion and try to decide the right thing to do, probably never get the best answer , but that will be something that you will have to figure out how to deal with. We know that a lot of the public saw that campus as a place to hunt, fish, ride motorbikes and those sorts of things. That group who saw the change coming were pretty outspoken about it. Our security would have to go over at times because of various concerns and then limit access. That would create a backlash.
I think that there were politicians with whom we had not really discussed why a university should do this. I would always preface it with, “T he State of North Carolina will be well blessed if every public institution would do what we have done for its community in which they extend themselves in an appropriate way so that their ideas and their technologies and their abilities can help with economic development.”
You will notice if you keep up with the paper that the number of relocations that we bragged about have gone down. You don’t pick up the paper and see a company relocating and generating a thousand or even hundreds of new high paying jobs. Something is happening in North Carolina and throughout the country in how new high paying jobs get created. I remember when the military bases were phased out in California. California said that they were in trouble. How are we going to put these people back to work? Well, California is an entrepreneurial society much different than ours and within a few years individuals had created their own economy. The government did not have to do it for them. Now, they are arguing that they are taxed so much that they are limiting their ability to that.
Except for a few notable exceptions, o ur State has never been a technology driven entrepreneurial state. A fter I left the chancellor’s office and while working for the Kenan Institute on campus, I went around the state sharing this point of view; t hat each community needed to start its own venture capital fund. Each community and each university needed to create with its own assets of faculty, ideas, and students an extension t o that community that would stimulate, start and enhance businesses in that community.
Q: The idea of Centennial’s partnerships between industry and government and the private sector and the university, do you think that is having an impact on other research parks internationally or nationally?
Montieth: L et me back that up and give you a perspective. I don’t know how much background you have on that, but after World War II there was in place a large research establishment at about ten or twelve universities in the country that had done basic research for the war effort. I can’t remember the man’s name, it is a famous man and he stated publicly that America should use this great research enterprise, which was the war effort, for civilian development. That just took off. Well, North Carolina and the S outheast were not really ready to take advantage of this. It did not happen here.
The year of 1958 was the earliest that we began to get into it when Research Triangle Park was created. At that time, Stanford Research Park was thought of as the elite park in the world because a number of famous businesses had started there, like Hewlett Packard, and others that grew with that park. Everybody saw that and all these great jobs and wonderful things happening there as the model. So they all put together these parks, which in a lot of cases there was no universities, but in this case here there were three universities and it was created with the idea that the universities would play some role in the development. Most of these efforts were either marginal or failed. Obviously, the Research Triangle Park is one of the outstanding successes.
But the long and short of it is that the S tate of North Carolina by and large missed most of that university stimulated business activity. It happened in the Silicon Valley and the Midwest and Route 128 , places like that, but it didn’t happen here. We tried; we put a lot of effort into it during the Hunt administration. We really pushed hard for that, but we never seemed to get a full momentum going like other places did. Our state and our region benefited enormously from the success of RTP. Ironically, it ended up with less university involvement than we thought would occur. What happened in the meantime is that the federal government recognized that universities were generating large amounts of intellectual property and that they weren’t getting patents on because they had no reason to. So they enabled the universities to obtain those patents, keep them, own them, sell them, lease them, and use them. That got the universities to thinking more seriously about the value of their research in a way other than publishing papers and giving degrees and discoveries. It looked like this might be nice. And that began to stimulate this notion.
We were ready for that in North Carolina. It was the first time that we institutionally have been ready to take full advantage of using our own intellectual activity to create jobs. Others did it in part, some better than others. Texas built parks and their universities were more involved than ours with the park, but this was the first of that really happening – university, industry, government. I learned it as dean of engineering. The federal government established grants involving large sums of money to stimulate cooperative research efforts to stimulate partnerships between universities, industry and government . We tried three or four times for big projects worth millions of dollars. We lost. We kept evaluating our efforts. I was committed to having one of these major university- government-industry centers, and we were finally successful. It was headed by Dean Masnari who was then head of electrical engineering and I was dean of engineering and we competed and won an NSF sponsored national engineering research center of excellence . I believe that over the years they received something like $60 million; they earned a lot of industry awards and a lot of their students got great jobs. I think there are some vestiges of it still here. In part, we built the graduate research center to house a lot of the work that they do. Those have become, in my humble view, for the physical sciences of the universities, an essential part of their research agenda. Just like with the human sciences where you have to have a hospital where doctors engage in research and apply their knowledge to the benefit of patients, for many of the physical sciences and for engineering their equivalent place for applying their knowledge gained from research to benefit people is an industry. Industry is where engineers and scientists make critical measurements and critical decisions about building all kinds of things.
That success in universities, the ones that have learned how to do that, is an important part of what they do. It took us a while to learn, but if you look at our campus you get a sense of how successful we are. I don’t know the count, but ask how many centers we have and ask how many of those centers interact with industry and business. I lost count while I was chancellor; it is a very long list. It is a very important part of our life. There have been and may remain very large centers in Textiles, PAMS and Ag and Life Sciences, as well as the one mentioned earlier in Engineering.
Having said that, the big issue is that you want your faculty to be independent. If they have to say something, they need to be able to say it. Not the university nor our partners nor the State or anyone else should be in a position to limit what they have to say as long as it is in their area of expertise so that they have the knowledge base to say it and defend it.
So, as you build these partnerships you always have to keep in mind that there are core values of the university you are just never going to give up, but you can still have those relationships.
Q: What do you envision for Centennial in fifty years? How is it going to change NC State’s campus? Or the university as a whole?
Montieth: If I am correct in my vision, the university will be more entrepreneurial meaning that there will be more people in every discipline having something important to do and say, that adds value beyond the classroom. Now, having said that, they could be in the arts as a performer , write novels , design communities , or a host of other entrepreneurial activities , but it would be an environment which nurtures and is as ordinary as going to class and teaching and is just part of the culture of NC State University. In fact the evidence exists to support the conclusion that we are more entrepreneurial than most universities and that the centennial campus has contributed to much of this development.
Now, beyond this entrepreneurial environment, I would like to be able in fifty years to do a survey like they did at MIT. Their big push at MIT to help the economy of Massachusetts started at the end of the twenties or thirties, somewhere along there. First Boston recently did an impact study focusing on MIT contributions to the economy of the greater Boston area. . The impact has been huge in terms of job creation and economic benefits. There are layers on layers of business activity derived from the entrepreneurship at MIT of activity that generates that economy.
You could do the same thing around Stanford and Berkeley and maybe a few other places and it spreads out. The impact at Stanford reaches to San Diego. It started here now it ends up here and then it jumped over to Utah and Idaho and Texas. I would like in fifty years for every place within 500 miles of here to have some direct linkage, first, second or third order, to what went on at the Centennial Campus or at NC State. We have the potential to do that. If we did that then I think that, I don’t know how I would find out about it…in fifty years I will be a hundred and…so I guess I won’t find out about it, but I would like to maintain and I am confident that the leadership will continue to maintain that vision of what the Centennial Campus can be.
I’m not a pessimist by nature. I realize there are a lot of things that could happen that would make that vision change in a significant way. Maybe it is good I won’t be here to have to suffer through the learning that it was a necessity. I think it could be exciting. I think the next fifty years….I have been at NC State starting as a student nearly fifty years. and compared to my experience fifty years ago, it has very little resemblance. The resemblance rests with the first year and a half of students. That hasn’t changed, but everything else has. That probably won’t change much in the next fifty years either, but everything else will. To someone who is just entering here as a freshman, I would like to share something like this with him so that in fifty years because they could sort of pull it up and look at it and say look he was an idiot, he didn’t know what he was talking about. But, I would also like to think that he might look at it and say he didn’t have a big enough vision.
I think all institutions in the country that are reinventing the reason why the public lets them exist are headed in similar directions whether it is health care or learning and development of human potential. Whatever it is, they have something that is moving on just the boundary of their university. I am optimistic that this university will do that and the Centennial Campus would be my vision of how they would do it.
Q: Those are all the specific questions that I had. Is there anything else you wanted to add about your experiences with Centennial Campus? Anything you wanted to say that didn’t get said?
[END OF TAPE THREE; TAPE FOUR BEGINS]
Montieth: THIS WAS BEFORE DR. MONTEITH KNEW THE TAPE WAS RUNNING.)
I think one of the significant influences of Centennial Campus that we have not been talking about is changing the attitude about ourselves. Who are we? How do we fit in? If you think about it, NC State was not the first land grant university in the state; Carolina was. The land grant university and the endowment of the land grant were transferred to NC State when it was created. I am guessing that Carolina didn’t particularly like that happening. The reorganization of education in the late twenties transferred their school of engineering at UNC to NC State, but transferred science, journalism, business and humanities from NC State to Chapel Hill. Then the fact that we went without a chancellor and without trustees for such a long period. W e are the only place in the state where graduates couldn’t remember our name for more than ten years because it changed so often. If we were a person we would have an identity crisis, and possibly have low self esteem b ecause there is no continuity of NC State from its beginning to now that you can look at and see its building blocks.
You don’t have this building history when you go to the archives and you see the events that have carried us. But, lo and behold, we have a positive and profound first which we created . We have this campus that is different than anything else in the State. It redefines who we are and how we relate in the big picture. We still look to the west, but less and less. When I retired I was sitting in my office over on Centennial Campus and saw Michael Hooker, whom I admired greatly, a wonderful man who had a huge vision for that campus. He and I shared a lot, but I was not as bold as he. Nevertheless, when I saw that he had brought his people to walk around the campus, they were wandering around looking at our creation , and I thought that this is part of it too. There probably weren’t many reasons for them to come and study our programs at NC State, but t his is important. He saw it as important. This means to me that out of our own sense of purpose we have created our own future without the influence of governing boards or other institutions. This NC State and we have every right to be proud of it.
Our past doesn’t begin with at the creation of the Centennial Campus and I think that we will ultimately begin to see the wisdom, and there is wisdom in what happened to us during restructuring and consolidation of higher education and we will begin to see and to build on that wisdom going all the way back to our founding. Historians like you will have to write it though; they won’t believe me. Those were huge decisions. What were their implications short- term? Well, for the people who were directly they were devastating. What were they for mid-term? Resentfulness . What were they for the long term? A little different and now that they tie into the Centennial Campus this is giving us the identity that I think we searched for. Land grant, we weren’t the first and we weren’t comfortable with it because we wanted to compete with the land grants that are the Ohio State University Ohio and other huge land grants of the Midwest which have…like the University of Illinois that has every program, Wisconsin, Minnesota. Our land grant didn’t give us that and we used to have arguments internally here about MIT, Cal Tech and Georgia Tech that are all ranked higher as research institutions, but none of them are universities by the definition that classically defines a university.
We would get into an argument here about whether we were a university or a technical institution or a university focused on science and engineering. What are we? And we have been doing that on and on and on and we will probably continue. But, we cannot…dispute the fact that we are a university that is tied to and linked and woven with this new campus that we are building. I t will have a different characteristic and it will define us. Long term it will have an important role in defining what is NC State. I think it will do it in a way that we will glow and others will recognize that we have done something really important and somewhat unique.
Q: You make me proud to be a State student.
Additional Interview, date unknown:
INTERVIEWER: Why don't we do that next, let's talk about Centennial Campus. I know the EGRCs. I guess the nice way to lead into this would be we now have two campuses that are one ....... ...... future.
LARRY: Certainly I feel privileged to have been dean of engineering at the time that our leader Bruce Poulton articulated the need for N.C. State to face its future in terms of facilities and many other factors that he placed on our agenda, and was really proud of his leadership in working with Governor Hunt to receive the Centennial Campus. I was also privileged to be on the planning team that he put together to discuss and to finally offer a plan which he lead through various levels of ratification and finally adoption - never realizing that I would someday receive from him the legacy of carrying that Centennial Campus forward. His dreams and his aspirations were truly outstanding and future generations of chancellors will continue to try to carry out and fulfill many of the things he put forward during his tenure.
The development at one level has been truly remarkable, as I understand we have over 100 million dollars invested and I've forgotten how many people work there but it is approaching a couple thousand. When you drive over there and think back to when it was a kudzu farm - you realize how much has happened, but the expectations were so high early on and remain so high that some people are continually saying, "ho hum, what are you going to do next?" So, we really are working diligently at this time to re-assess and be able to answer that question. Are you dreaming big enough? Are you dreaming too big? Can you realize what you said you were going to realize and if so, how and when? We now have enough experience I think to begin to answer many of those questions. I don't think the dream was too big. I'm not sure of the timing and the cost factors, but I think it is probably time to look at and figure out how do we continue under circumstances that now exist. The test will probably come - the key tests to decide the answers to those questions will probably come in the next year or two because we are completing feasibility studies on housing - we have none there are the moment. We are going to undertake and complete feasibility studies on a conference center, a motel and a golf course. We don't have those there yet. We have not brought any commercial activity to the campus though there are plans near the lake to have commercial activities and certainly after the housing and the conference center, and the hotel and the golf course that surely will have to get on someone's agenda - probably not mine, but someones, to look at that and plan that through. Our activity in bringing industry to the campus is something we talk about all the time and test different hypotheses about how that might occur. Some of them we may help generate from our own ideas. Others may be small businesses or industries who would prosper and benefit being closely allied with and involved with the faculty or our university. Certainly one that we have looked at and have one example is a larger industry, like ABB or any other that find themselves on the Fortune 500 or Fortune 100 or Fortune listing of major industries - finding an appropriate relationship with them that would result in them wanting to have a laboratory or an activity on the Centennial Campus. We have experience with all of them now and we are under way in trying to carry out recruitment - identification and recruitment and establishment of those activities.
Looking back over the last 10 years and it has been about 10 years, the number one limit to the development has been able to generate the real dollars required to make the necessary investments for it to move forward. The Engineering Graduate Research Center and the Centennial Parkway that are being built there out of state funds are real investments that will help us in both of those areas. I believe they both will be finished in a little over a year and the Centennial Parkway will open up access to most of that thousand acres and the Engineering Graduate Research Center will bring another 500 or 600 people to it and we hope corporate partners who want to be located near by that group of faculty and students, who will be very intensely engaged in research in a number of areas lead by the college of engineering but certainly involved in other colleges and other partners. So, I fully expect the pace built up over the next few years because the foundations have been laid by Chancellor Poulton and by the leadership of George Wordsley and we have a sound base to build on. Now we've got to figure what the superstructure is going to look like and how to best put it in place.