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Sharing Community and Connection

Wolfpack Women in Philanthropy hosts a celebration of NC State women across the generations.

Lyndenise Berdecia Rivera, Paula Gentius, Nora Lynn Finch and Kat Campbell
Lyndenise Berdecia Rivera, Paula Gentius, Nora Lynn Finch and Kat Campbell took part in a lively panel discussion March 8 as part of a special luncheon hosted by Wolfpack Women in Philanthropy and held in collaboration with NC State University Libraries.

A current exhibit at D.H. Hill Jr. Library celebrates the history of women at NC State, and a March 8 luncheon honored the past, present and future of that story.

Wolfpack Women in Philanthropy hosted the luncheon — which also marked International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month — in the Special Collections Reading Room adjacent to the gallery where Dare and Do! Women’s History at NC State is displayed.

Held in collaboration with NC State University Libraries, the event brought together women spanning generations, academic disciplines, professions and university relationships, just as Wolfpack Women in Philanthropy does. Attending were members of Wolfpack Women Strengthening the Pack, volunteer leadership boards from across campus, faculty and staff members, women appearing in the exhibit and more.

Kat Campbell, an on-air meteorologist at WRAL since 2018 and an NC State alumna, moderated a lively panel discussion. Campbell, who also has worked in eastern North Carolina, the Triad, New York City and Huntsville, Alabama, was president of the Broadcast Meteorology Club and a teaching assistant for computer science during her NC State years.

Susan Woodson, left, part of the group that founded Wolfpack Women in Philanthropy, speaks to guests at the March 8 event.

The other panelists were:

  • Nora Lynn Finch, a longtime NC State staff member who served as the ACC’s first woman assistant athletics director. The inaugural chair of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee (1981-1988), Finch negotiated the first women’s basketball TV contract with CBS. Her many honors include induction into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2019.
  • Paula Gentius, who oversees the Office of the Chancellor and serves as assistant secretary to the Board of Trustees as NC State’s chief of staff and secretary of the university. Gentius, a strong advocate for higher education, has earned a doctor of philosophy in educational management from Hampton University, a juris doctor from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, a master’s of education in higher education from Ohio University and a bachelor of arts in mass media arts from Hampton University.
  • Lyndenise Berdecia Rivera, an alumna of Poole College of Management who describes herself as a disruptor in the higher education field. Berdecia Rivera has dedicated more than 17 years to furthering access, equity and inclusion, primarily through amplifying the voices of individuals from historically marginalized communities. A cofounder of NC State’s Latinx Alumni Network, she serves on the Alumni Association Board of Directors.

The panelists addressed questions that included their professional challenges as women.

“How long do you have?” Finch, one of dozens of women featured in the Dare and Do! exhibit, joked before sharing stories about the growth of women’s collegiate athletics over the past few decades. “We at NC State led the ACC and set an example nationally. I would do all of it again.”

Other topics included the importance of mentors and examples to follow, the life-changing power of education, passion for lifelong learning and gratitude at opportunities to change other lives. The women also discussed the ways NC State continues to transform and their hopes that everyone can find their home at the university.

To kick off the March 8 program, Gayle Lanier, current chair of Wolfpack Women in Philanthropy, offered a brief introduction to the volunteer organization, which launched formally in 2020.

“Our tagline gives you an idea of what we focus on: Impactful giving. Meaningful engagement. Influential leadership. Amazing learning,” Lanier said. “We provide opportunities for women to connect with one another and with different aspects of NC State. We help them to find areas where they might make a positive difference through their time, talents, treasure, ties and testimony.”

Melanie Flowers and Jackie Gonzalez, former student body presidents, with their exhibit panels in Dare and Do!

Wolfpack Women in Philanthropy’s activities include advocating for greater diversity on the university’s leadership boards, shining a light on women’s accomplishments, providing educational programs about ways to make financial gifts and why they are important, and linking women to volunteer opportunities at campuswide events such as Day of Giving, Pack Appreciation Day and Red and White Week.  

Lanier urged luncheon guests to appreciate that NC State had women on staff when it opened in 1887 and their role has expanded from Lucille Thompson becoming the first fulltime woman student in 1921 to recent incoming classes being more than 50% female.

She also drew attention to the section of Dare and Do! that addresses archival silences — the challenges of telling stories that were not always valued, recognized or recorded, and thus few archival materials survive.

Luncheon guests also heard briefly from Kelly Arnold, a master’s student in public history who co-organized the thematically arranged exhibit, which expanded from desires to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Thompson’s enrollment and the 30th anniversary of the opening of the Women’s Center to cover more than a century of women’s history at NC State.

The exhibit team worked closely with the Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center and many groups on campus to recover and highlight the names, photographs and stories of women who made an impact on and off campus.    

“Creating the exhibit involved brainstorming names and events from members of the campus community, searching through hundreds of articles published by the school, and shifting through archival boxes and digitized materials,” Arnold said. “Oral histories were particularly important for more recent history, as they allowed women to tell their stories in their own words.”

One of many themes that emerged was community and connection.

“This event continues that theme even to this moment,” Arnold said. “The exhibit seeks to both celebrate people that are well known and to lift up the stories of women who have not had the opportunity to be championed by the school. Each of the women featured in the exhibit and each of the women on this campus increase the excellency and vibrance of NC State in their own unique ways, as these fantastic panelists have shown here today.”