NC State University History & Fun Facts

When was the University established?

NC State was established under the auspices of the federal Morrill Act of 1862, which allowed the U.S. government to donate federally owned land to the states for the purpose of establishing colleges that would teach “agriculture and the mechanic arts.”

NC State University was founded on March 7, 1887. Under considerable pressure and not without controversy, the General Assembly passed the act which authorized the establishment of the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts.

The brand-new school held its first classes in the fall of 1889 with 72 students, six faculty members and one building.

The first faculty of six professors offered courses in agriculture, horticulture, pure and agricultural chemistry, English and bookkeeping, and mathematics and practical mechanics. President Alexander Quarles Holladay served as professor of history. Courses in military science and physics were added later.

How many official names has the University had over the years?

The University has had five official names since being founded in 1887:

1887: North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (known as A&M College)

1917: North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Engineering (Engineering was substituted for “Mechanic Arts” to reflect the increasing emphasis on the professional and theoretical aspects of technical education).

1930: North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Engineering of the University of North Carolina

1963: North Carolina State of the University of North Carolina at Raleigh

1965: North Carolina State University at Raleigh (the current official name for the University, although the “at Raleigh” is dropped for convention).

What building was originally known as Main Building?

The building behind the Bell Tower, now Holladay Hall, was originally known as Main Building.  It was the first and only building on campus when the doors opened on October 3, 1889.  The cornerstone was laid in August 1888, but most of the building was damaged by fire before it could open (Note: the building is constructed on a family grave site, and one theory was that a ghost burned it down).

The original Main Building housed all of the college’s activities during its first year: kitchen, dining-hall, shop, and gym in the basement; offices, classrooms, and library on the first floor; and dormitory facilities for the first 72 students on the second and third floors.

The name of Main Building was officially changed in 1915 to Holladay Hall after Colonel Alexander Quarles Holladay, the first President for the College (1889-1899).

Today the building is a registered North Carolina historical site and serves as the office building for several campus administrators to include the Chancellor.

What were the original school colors for the University?

Pink and Blue were the original school colors adopted from an early literary society on campus.

The original colors were replaced with Brown and White in September of 1895 by the Athletic Association, but it only lasted for one football game (the A&M Farmers verses UNC Chapel Hill).  The Chancellor, Dr. George Tayloe Winston disliked the colors so much, he put it to a vote of the student body. The majority vote was for Red and White, and it has remained uncontested ever since.

What were some of the historical nicknames for the athletic teams?

1892 – 1910: The athletic teams were inconsistently referred to as “The Farmers”, “The Mechanics”, “The Aggies”, and “The Techs”.

1910 – 1919: The basketball team became known as the Red Terrors and a bull terrier named Togo became the mascot.

1921: The nickname “Wolfpack” was first used in reference to the football team when a letter was written to the school paper complaining that the football players were as “unruly as a pack of wolves”

1946: Chancellor J. W. Harrelson asked students to suggest a new name for the sports teams. The football team had increasingly become known as the Wolfpack, while other NC State athletic teams were still referred to as Red Terrors. The Chancellor disliked the term Wolfpack because of connotations with World War II German U-boat formations. However, the students voted overwhelmingly to keep the nickname Wolfpack and use it for all the athletic teams. Go Pack!

What is the history and evolution of the University mascot?

1910’s: During the 1910’s the NC State basketball team became known as the Red Terrors. A bull terrier named Togo became the mascot. Other athletic teams, such as baseball, also adopted the Red Terrors nickname and were supported by Togo the mascot.

1921: The nickname “Wolfpack” was first used in reference to the football team when a letter was written to the school paper complaining that the football players were as “unruly as a pack of wolves”

1946: After the student body overwhelmingly voted for the adoption of the Wolfpack as the official University nickname for the athletic teams, much to the disapproval of Chancellor J. W. Harrelson, the first Wolfpack mascot was introduced. Mechanical engineering student Ira Helms, Jr., created a robot-like Wolfpack mascot costume worn to football games during the 1946 season. One student wore the costume, while another walked behind with a “remote control” that appears to control the “robot’s” movements.

1947: Students started bringing a live timber wolf to football games to roam the sidelines. But the animal was unruly and eventually sold to a traveling animal show.

1950’s: Members of the cheerleading squad began to dress in a wolf costume at sporting events. The students were provided the head and tail of the costume and they provided the rest.

1960’s: Student government sold 25-cent shares to purchase a timber wolf, which made its appearance on October 8, 1966 during the first game played at what became Carter-Finley Stadium. The animal howled, making it popular, but it was later discovered to be a coyote. This was also the time frame that Tuffy the Strutting Wolf logo appeared.

1974: A female version of the wolf costume was created after women’s athletics were introduced on campus.

1981: During half-time during a basketball game against Wake Forest on February 28th, the male and female mascots were married at mid-court in Reynolds Coliseum. The two were joined in “canis matrimonium” by the Wake Forest Demon Deacon. Chancellor Joab L. Thomas gave the bride away. The cheerleaders and fans stood as witnesses.

1983: Student Scott Joseph had been selected to serve as the male wolf mascot. His mom sewed a full suit of fur and put a jersey on him. They decided to put the name “Mr. Wuf” on the back of the jersey, and the name stuck!

2010: A Tamaskan dog named Tuffy (after the Strutting Wolf logo) became the new live mascot.

What is the history and impact of the US military on campus?

The University was founded with a focus to “provide a liberal and practical education while focusing on military tactics/science, agriculture and the mechanical arts without excluding classical studies.”

During the Second World War enrollment dropped to less than 1,000. However, the University contributed to the war efforts by hosting a number of military detachments and training exercises. The University also worked to refit the curriculum of several departments and programs with more of an emphasis on military and defense purposes.

The campus experienced unparalleled growth during the postwar years as the G.I. Bill brought thousands of ex-servicemen to campus. Enrollment first went above 5,000 in the fall of 1947. Temporary structures were built around campus to meet the sudden demand. Veterans and their families were housed in groups of trailers and pre-fab housing called Vetville, Westhaven, and Trailwood.

For years, every student at NC State was required to take part in military training through ROTC. It was an essential part of the campus experience for any student who studied at NC State. However, in 1964 the Faculty Senate at NC State voted to abolish compulsory ROTC. The trustees for the state university system approved the change the following year, ending the days of compulsory military training for all NC State students. ROTC continued a strong program with voluntary participation that remains active to this day. As a result, NC State has graduated more general military officers than any non-service academy in the country.

What is the timeline and history of the Belltower?

Officially named the Memorial Tower, the NC State Belltower is one of the most recognized landmarks on campus and an iconic symbol for the University. It also serves as the centerpiece for the University Seal.

In 1919, the Alumni Association voted to build a monument to commemorate the 1,400 State College men who had served their country and to honor World War I veterans and specifically 33 fallen NC State Alumni. The idea started with alumni Vance Sykes, a member of the class of 1907. By 1920, Sykes and other alumni had formed a planning committee and hired architect William Henry Deacy to design a memorial tower at the entrance to the campus on Hillsborough Street.

The first section (the base and Shrine Room) were completed in 1922 after the cornerstone was laid in 1921 with 10 foot sections added in 1924, 1925 and 1926. But construction was halted for extended periods during the Great Depression and again during World War II due to funding issues.

Student honor societies and the class of 1938 donated the clock, and the class of 1939 purchased a set of floodlights.

The Tower stood that way until it was finally completed in 1949. The Shrine Room and Memorial Plaque were dedicated on Veterans Day that same year. Prior to the dedication, it was discovered that one of the 33 fallen alumni represented on the Memorial Plaque was still alive. The alumnus and veteran’s name was GL Jeffers (class of 1913). The name was altered to GE Jefferson, and now represents all the unknown fallen alumni.

The Bell Tower stands at 115 feet tall and the tower is made of 1,400 tons of fine cut granite from Mount Airy, NC (the same granite used for the National World War II Monument in Washington, DC). In it’s final form, the Belltower was constructed at a cost of more than $150,000.

Former Chancellor Marianne Fox (1998-2004) started the of lighting the Bell Tower red for designated special occasions:

* Important sports victories

* A prestigious student or faculty honor

* Commemorate certain holidays that honor our veterans (e.g. Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day)

The Belltower is a stately and dramatic landmark where students pose for photos before they graduate and where senior class rings spend the night before commencement ceremonies. ROTC cadets receive their commissions in the shadow of the Belltower, which is illuminated by red floodlights to mark NC State’s proudest occasions and achievements. Students organize the Krispy Kreme Challenge at the Belltower every year to raise money for North Carolina Children’s Hospital, renewing the commitment to service that’s been a hallmark of NC State for generations.