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Board of Visitors

The Board of Visitors serves NC State University by providing advice to the chancellor, and through the chancellor, to the Board of Trustees. The Board of Visitors is composed of 30 members appointed by the chancellor. The Board of Visitors has the following functions:

  • assists the chancellor and the Board of Trustees in ensuring that NC State University’s relative standing among the premier universities in America is maintained and enhanced,
  • serves as advocates for NC State University in achieving its educational purposes and accomplishments,
  • and brings visibility and contacts to the campus from distant areas.

The next Board of Visitors meeting will be held on Friday, October 7, 2022, beginning at 10:00 a.m.

Board of Visitors members standing together with Chancellor Woodson for a photo.

Members

Jim Hansen, Chair (2018-2026)

Jim Hansen

James “Jim” M. Hansen, is the regional president of Eastern Carolina and Southeast territory executive for PNC Bank. As senior regional executive, he is responsible for PNC’s business, implementing the company’s strategy and delivering the brand in the region. He also leads all sponsorship and philanthropic efforts for the region. In addition to his PNC Bank responsibilities, Hansen is actively engaged with North Carolina CEOs focused on increasing third-grade reading proficiency. He is chair of the board for the Research Triangle Regional Partnership and the NC State University Board of Visitors. He serves on the executive committee of the North Carolina Chamber, the Dix Park Conservancy and the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, where he is a past chair of the board. In addition, he is a member of the board of directors of the South Carolina Aquarium.

Hansen received his Bachelor of Science in business administration with a concentration in finance and a minor in statistics from NC State University and an MBA from the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

W. Dwight Armstrong (2016-2024)

W. Dwight Armstrong

Dr. Dwight Armstrong built a career in the swine nutrition area beginning at Akey Inc. in Lewisburg, Ohio, where he served as director of nutrition, director of Sales and, finally, president. In 2000, the company was sold to Provimi, located in the Netherlands. There, Armstrong served as CEO of North American Nutrition Companies, director of the Americas and global group vice president. In 2008, he retired from Provimi to start his own consulting business in the animal nutrition and agribusiness areas, which he continues today. In 2009, Armstrong joined the National FFA Organization as chief operating officer and was later named chief executive officer of both the National FFA Organization and the National FFA Foundation, where he served until his retirement in June 2016.

Dr. Armstrong earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from Murray State University and master’s and doctoral degrees from Purdue University in animal science. He served on the faculty at NC State in the Department of Animal Science from 1975 to 1982.

Johnny Barnes (2018-2026)

Johnny Barnes

Johnny Barnes is president of Barnes Farming Corporation and FarmPak Products LLC. FarmPak is the nation’s largest grower, packer, shipper and exporter of sweet potatoes. He farms and own property in five counties in eastern North Carolina. FarmPak is Nash County’s 13th-largest employer. Currently, Barnes is president, American Sweet Potato Marketing Institute; Chairman, North Carolina Farm Bureau Labor Committee; on the Board of Directors, Nash County Farm Bureau; on the Board of Directors, North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission; and a Board member, North Carolina Peanut Growers Associations.

Barnes earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from NC State University. He has completed the Executive Program for Agricultural Producers at Texas A&M; the Phillip Morris Agricultural Development Program; and leadership training at the Center for Creative Leadership.

Marcus L. Belvin (2018-2026)

Marcus Belvin

Marcus Belvin serves as a digital marketing leader, managing a team of IBM hybrid cloud digital marketers. His responsibilities include leading the team’s effort to increase digital marketing effectiveness of hybrid cloud solutions in support of a multimillion dollar portfolio. Belvin started his career with IBM as a software engineer and has since expanded his business expertise through a number of roles spanning marketing (e.g., demand generation, category, product), worldwide offering management (for PureApplication platform Patterns), as the technical assistant to z Systems Software vice president Mike Perera and as a development manager in IBM Blockchain Platform leading SREs, datacenter design, deployment automation and security compliance. He actively participates in IBM’s patenting program, enjoys mentoring MBA candidates and IBM new hires, and serves on various nonprofit community boards.

Brenda Brickhouse (2016-2024)

Brenda Brickhouse

Brenda Brickhouse retired from the Tennessee Valley Authority in Chattanooga as vice president of environmental and energy policy and chief sustainability officer. Prior to working at TVA, she served in several capacities with Progress Energy and CP&L. Over 25 years, Brickhouse has served in a variety of roles at NC State, including serving as president of the North Carolina Forestry Foundation and the NC State Natural Resources Foundation. She worked on the committee that developed a new business model for Hofmann Forest, led the effort to merge the Forestry and Pulp and Paper Foundations supporting the college and served on the most recent Dean Search Committee. She has worked collaboratively with faculty, administration, staff and volunteers. Brickhouse has a 37-year career in industry that has both informed and influenced her work for NC State through considerable experience in business and organization development and external relations, including regulatory and other government agencies, communities, stakeholders and customers.

Brickhouse earned a bachelor’s degree in forestry in 1980 and a master’s degree in public affairs, public administration in 1988, both from NC State.

Harry Brown (2021-2025)

Harry Brown

Former senator Harry Brown served in the North Carolina Senate for 16 years representing Jones and Onslow Counties. He was elected by his colleagues as majority leader for 10 years. As a co-chairman of the Senate Appropriations/Base Budget Committee, his main priority during the legislative session was developing a balanced state budget.

Brown is very involved in local civic matters. He is the past chairman of the Jacksonville/Onslow Chamber of Commerce; past president of the Jacksonville Breakfast Rotary Club; an Eagle Scout; past district chairman for the White Oak River District of the Boy Scouts of America; and past president of the North Carolina Automobile Dealers Association. He also received the Man of the Year Award from the Jacksonville/Onslow Chamber in 2001.

Brown completed both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration at Campbell University. He has been in the automobile business for 45 years and has been the owner of National Automotive Group Inc. for 35 years. Brown is a native of Maysville, North Carolina, located in Jones County and currently lives in Jacksonville with his wife, Lisa, who serves as the clerk of Superior Court in Onslow County.

Kevin Clark (2021-2025)

Kevin Clark

Dr. Kevin Clark is currently a program director at the National Science Foundation, where he provides oversight for a multi-million dollar portfolio of research and development projects that focuses on digital technology and media for STEM learning. Previously, Kevin was director of preschool animation at Netflix. Dr. Clark was also a professor and founding director of the Center for Digital Media Innovation and Diversity at George Mason University. In addition to his academic experience, he has extensive experience as a children’s media advisor and consultant. Some of Dr. Clark’s credits include: creative producer on Netflix’s preschool series, Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices; co-writer on Arthur on Racism short; and consultant on Amazon’s movie adaptation of Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day. Dr. Clark holds both a B.S. and an M.S. in computer science from NC State University, where he is a 2020 inductee into the Computer Science Alumni Hall of Fame, and a Ph.D. in instructional systems from Pennsylvania State University.

Mike Elder (2021-2025)

Mike Elder

Mike Elder is the head of business relations and regional business development for Novozymes, covering North America. Approaching $1 billion in sales in the United States and Canada, Novozymes, which has its North American base in Franklinton, North Carolina, is a global biotechnology company headquartered in Denmark. With more than 39 years of experience in industrial biotechnology, Elder began his career as a microbiologist with the company in 1981, where his career progression has spanned a variety of functional disciplines. In 2000, he entered sales as global strategic account manager leading regional industry sales teams in North America and South America. As a strategic account manager for 17 years, Elder built his career on developing partnerships, including longstanding relationships with Cargill, Tate & Lyle, Anheuser-Busch, Ingredion and PepsiCo. He has driven Novozymes business partnerships in 15 countries over the past decade. In his current role, he relies on his deep understanding of Novozymes’ technology and capabilities to find new business partners and opportunities for the company. Elder currently serves on several boards: the NC State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Research Foundation, the North Carolina Biosciences Organization, the Research Triangle Regional Partnership, the North Carolina Biotechnology Center Ag Tech Advisory Council and the Industry Advisory Committee for Feed the Dialogue. He also serves on the Plant Science Advocacy Task Force. Elder earned a B.S. degree in chemistry from Gardner-Webb University.

Cristina Fernández Pierce (2018-2026)

Cristina Fernández Pierce

Cristina Fernández Pierce is a health care and pharmaceutical attorney, practicing in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. Over the past 33 years, her practice has focused on providing contractual, regulatory and health care legal services to corporate clients in the pharmaceutical industry. Fernández Pierce was a past member of the Board of Legal Aid for North Carolina and is a member of the Advisory Board for the Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at NC State University.

Fernández Pierce graduated from NC State University with a degree in political science in 1982 and from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1985. She was born in Havana, Cuba, and is bilingual.

Vinton E. Fountain III (2016-2024)

Vinton E. Fountain the third

In 2020, Vinton E. Fountain III joined CAPTRUST from Fountain Financial Associates, where he served as president and founder for more than 20 years. As a principal, financial advisor for CAPTRUST, Vinton offers his clients the knowledge, experience and judgment they need to make effective financial decisions. With more than 33 years of experience in the financial services industry, Fountain specializes in strategic decision-making, problem-solving and financial advice for successful individuals. Fountain formed Fountain Financial Associates Inc. following successful careers with Wachovia Corporation and the Centura organization. As a professional with significant experience on financial topics, Fountain has contributed articles to the Wilmington Star News and Greater Wilmington Business, and he has been featured on WWAY for investment perspective. His views have been published in the book Successful Financial Planners by Allen Duck. Fountain is an active participant in his community, having served in a leadership capacity on numerous boards including the Greater Wilmington Chamber of Commerce (chairman), Wilmington Industrial Development, YMCA (president), Cape Fear United Way, Cape Fear Academy and the Advisory Board for the UNCW Watson School of Education. He has been an officer for Rotary International and the Wilmington Executive Club and an elder for First Presbyterian Church in Wilmington.

Fountain earned a B.A. from NC State University in 1983 and is a graduate of Virginia Episcopal School in Lynchburg. Fountain is originally from Tarboro, North Carolina.

Kady Gjessing (2021-2025)

Kady Gjessing

Dr. Kady Gjessing is a partner at Quail Corners Animal Hospital in Raleigh, where she practices as a small-animal veterinarian. The focus of her practice is ensuring older cats and dogs are healthy, comfortable and unafraid. Dr. Gjessing earned her veterinary degree from the College of Veterinary Medicine at NC State University in 1994. She has been a committed and enthusiastic volunteer board member and an innovative adjunct faculty member at CVM. She has also advised NC State’s veterinary hospital about hospital policy and veterinary services. Dr. Gjessing made the largest donation to CVM by a graduate to establish the Dr. Kady M. Gjessing and Rahna M. Davidson Distinguished Chair in Gerontology, named for herself and her mother, an animal lover who once served on CVM’s North Carolina Veterinary Medical Foundation Board. It is the largest endowed chair in NC State University history and laid the foundation for a veterinary gerontology program at CVM, the first of its kind at a veterinary college in the United States, and a focus area that is close to Gjessing’s heart. In 2020, Dr. Gjessing was awarded the prestigious Watauga Medal, which honors individuals who have made significant contributions to the advancement of NC State university.

Charles Heilig, III (2021-2025)

Charles Heilig the third

Mr. Charles Heilig, III’s vision and strong drive has shaped a successful 29 year career in textile manufacturing starting with Sara Lee Knit products and continuing today as President and CEO of Parkdale Mills Inc. and Parkdale America Inc. During his tenure, he has held leadership positions across the company, including responsibility for a global manufacturing footprint, international sales and a strategic distribution network. Heilig leads Advanced Materials teams who create innovative patented polymers to build a more sustainable textile supply chain.

Heilig graduated with a B.S. in Textile and Apparel Management from N.C. State University Wilson College of Textiles in 1992. He has served on the North Carolina Textile Foundation for 8 years, where he served as President and Chair of Grants and Audit committee. He is a board member of the National Council of Textile Organizations, a pivotal organization for the textile industry. As an Eagle Scout, his dedication to the community is exemplified by his service leadership in the Council at Lutheran Chapel Church, Next Generation Board and past Chair of the Board of Trustees Gaston Day School.

Wesley Horne (2018-2026)

Wesley Horne

Wesley Horne was born and raised in Wadesboro, North Carolina. In 2009, after a five-year professional golf stint playing on mini-tours in the United States, as well as abroad on the European Tour, he joined his family’s company, Hornwood Inc. Hornwood’s Board of Directors named Horne to be president of the company in 2016, where his role is to grow and strengthen the 72-year-old business for the future. The company employs 350 people and serves many markets, including athletic and active wear, military, digital print, automotive, reverse osmosis filtration, fleece, aerospace and footwear, to name a few. Horne is a member and former president of the Wadesboro Rotary Club, serves on the board of directors for the Anson County United Way, is a senior fellow of the American Leadership Forum, serves on the scholarship committee for the North Carolina Textile Foundation, is a charter member of the Wilson College of Textiles Dean’s Young Alumni Leadership Council and is a member of YPO.

After completing high school at the McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee, he entered NC State in the fall of 1999. He was a four-year letter winner on the golf team and earned Academic All-American. He graduated in 2004 summa cum laude with a degree from the College of Textiles in textile apparel management. He earned an MBA from the Wake Forest University School of Business working professional program, graduating with distinction — the highest honor the school awards. He also enjoys downhill skiing. Horne lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is an aviation enthusiast, as he is a private pilot flying a Piper Cherokee 180 and Cessna 172.

Chavonda Jacobs-Young (2021-2025)

Chavonda Jacobs Young

Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young is administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, the USDA’s chief scientific in-house research agency. She is currently serving as the acting undersecretary for research, education and economics and as acting USDA chief scientist. Prior to joining ARS, Dr. Jacobs-Young served in several scientific leadership roles, including director of the USDA Office of the Chief Scientist, acting director for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and senior policy analyst in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. In these roles she transformed USDA’s scientific coordination and made a lasting impact on the conduct, quality, and integrity of science and on access to science for stakeholders. In these roles she also elevated the visibility of agricultural research globally. Dr. Jacobs-Young is a native of Augusta, Georgia. She holds M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in wood and paper science and a B.S. degree in pulp and paper science and technology from NC State University. She is also a graduate of American University’s Key Executive Program. Dr. Jacobs-Young is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration, an If/Then Ambassador for AAAS and a 2016 recipient of the Presidential Rank Award.

C. Matthew Keen (2015-2023)

Matthew Keen

Matthew Keen has been a practicing attorney at Ogletree Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. since 1987. Ogletree Deakins is one of the nation’s leading labor and employment law firms. He has spent the past six years on the Board of Directors at Ogletree Deakins and became a managing director in 2014. Keen is recognized as a leading labor and employment lawyer by The Best Lawyers in America and was named ”Lawyer of the Year“ in the area of Employment Law — Management in Raleigh by Best Lawyers in both 2012 and 2014. He has been named in the top tier of the leading employment lawyers in North Carolina by Chambers USA America’s Leading Business Lawyers since 2006. He has also been recognized by North Carolina Legal Elite and Super Lawyers. He is one of three lawyers from North Carolina to be inducted as a fellow in the American College of Labor and Employment Lawyers.

Keen earned his B.S. in textile management from NC State in 1983 and his J.D. from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1987.

Brian Leonard (2021-2025) 

Brian Leonard

Brian Leonard is currently vice president of Design for Lenovo’s Personal Computing & Smart Devices business group. He leads the global design team responsible for all consumer, commercial and SMB personal computers and smart device offerings, including the legendary ThinkPad, multimode Yoga, IdeaPad and Lenovo Legion gaming product lines. He is a veteran award-winning industrial designer with numerous patents, publications and museum exhibitions under his belt.

Prior to this role, Leonard was executive director of Lenovo’s Laptop Design. He first started his tenure at Lenovo with IBM. Raised in an IBM family, Leonard has been influenced by computers for as long as he can remember. As an IBM intern he fell in love with the concept for what would become the first ThinkPad. Leonard later became an IBM industrial designer, where he drove the design for servers, desktops, and peripherals—influencing everything from large enterprise computing to the smallest mice.

Leonard also spent 10 years at Dell where he successfully led design teams for XPS laptops, Alienware gaming and Latitude laptops. He then led the Next Gen design team for three years focused on design strategy across all personal computing products.

Brian Leonard holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in Industrial Design from North Carolina State University. During his graduate education, Leonard taught undergraduate studies in Ideation I & II, beginning his journey as a future design educator. During his tenure at IBM, Leonard taught classes focused on developing concepts into reality using Pro/Engineer software. Brian’s love for design and developing designers and the culture of design continues today as he leads a 100+ global design team developing amazing design experiences.

Danny Peebles (2016-2024)

Danny Peebles

Danny Peebles is an executive sales leader specializing in strategic and consultative sales processes. He is currently the business development director with InfoPro Learning Inc. Prior to working at InfoPro, he held various positions with Xerox, IBM, GP Strategies Corp. and SAP.

Peebles played football and ran track at NC State. He was a two-time ACC Track and Field Championship’s Most Outstanding Performer (1985, 1986) and was the winner of the Kennett Award as NC State’s top male athlete in 1989. He caught 65 passes for 1,086 yards during his NC State football career. On the track, he was a nine-time All-American, a nine-time ACC champion and a four-time All-American in the 4×100 relay and the 200 meters. In 2014, he was inducted into the NC State Hall of Fame. He was a second-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1989 NFL draft. He played three NFL seasons until an injury ended his career.

Peebles has bachelor’s degrees in both accounting and business management from NC State’s Poole College of Management.

Frank Rackley (2018-2026)

Frank Rackley

Frank Rackley retired as timberlands manager in 2013 after 40 years with Weyerhaeuser Company. Frank has served as a past Board of Directors member on the NC State College of Natural Resources Foundation Board. He has also served as the executive vice president of the North Carolina Forestry Association and the past president of the North Carolina Forestry Association Board of Directors, and he is currently serving on the North Carolina Forestry Association Board of Directors.
Rackley received degrees in wood science and technology and economics from NC State in 1973. He then earned his MBA from East Carolina University in 1978. His interests involve golf, fishing, hiking and travel.

Cathy Sigal (2018-2026)

Cathy Sigal

In 1981, Cathy Sigal joined Mobil Research and Development Corporation, where she developed new catalysts for petrochemical manufacturing. She moved to Merck Research Laboratories in 1984, where she designed and scaled up processes for the production of new drugs and vaccines. She joined the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in 1998, eventually serving as director of international research. In this role, Sigal oversaw JDRF’s international research portfolio and worked to build numerous partnerships with governmental agencies worldwide for the funding of diabetes research. Sigal is now retired but continues to stay engaged in volunteer activities. Currently, she serves as chair of the American Chemical Society Development Advisory Board. As chairperson, she has worked to advocate for scholarships for underrepresented students in the field, as well as to support other cociety priorities such as green chemistry. Sigal was a member of NC State’s College of Sciences Foundation Board for ten years, and for most of those years, she served on the Finance Committee.

Dr. Sigal received her B.S. degree in chemistry from NC State University in 1976. During her undergraduate years, she had the privilege of participating in the NC State Fellows Program (now the Caldwell Fellows Program). Sigal earned an A.M. degree in chemistry from Harvard University in 1978 and an M.S. degree in chemical engineering from MIT in 1981. In 1989, Sigal returned to graduate school at Princeton University to obtain a Ph.D. degree in molecular biology (1995), after which she pursued a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institutes of Health.

Kimberly Siran (2018-2026)

Kimberly Siran

Kimberly Siran opened her own firm, Coaly Design, in 2005, and has been a licensed landscape architect for 15 years. Siran has practiced land planning and land development with a wide range of projects, including large-scale master and urban planning, greenway design and site-specific design. Current projects include pedestrian and downtown master planning, an adaptive reuse of a downtown historic building, a 23-lot Habitat for Humanity community in western North Carolina and commercial site design.

She is also a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Triangle Commercial Association of Realtors, and the Urban Land Institute. Siran is also a licensed real estate broker in North Carolina. In the past, Siran has been an assistant adjunct professor at NC State University in the College of Design’s Department of Landscape Architecture. She is currently a member of the college’s DesignLife Board. She has also given numerous presentations at the college as well as at the annual Urban Design Conference co-hosted by the College of Design. Siran also actively serves the local community. Most recently, she was a member of the City of Raleigh’s Parks, Recreation, and Greenway Advisory Board from 2010 until June of 2016. Upon her Parks Board term expiring, Siran was appointed to the Dix Park Master Plan Advisory Committee. The committee will work with the consultant over the next two years, facilitating the design of and community involvement in the planning of the 306-acre proposed park. Siran actively served the local community in the past as a member of the Wake County Planning Board from 1999 to 2003.

Siran received her undergraduate degree from Pennsylvania State University in 1995 and her Master of Landscape Architecture degree from NC State University in 1997. She is a lifetime member of the Alumni Associations of both universities.

Pamela B. Townsend (2017-2025)

Pamela B. Townsend

Pamela B. Townsend, PE, is a senior vice president for WSP|Parsons Brinckerhoff, a world-leading engineering and professional services firm. Townsend is a past president of the Professional Engineers of North Carolina and the PENC Education Foundation. She is a past director of the American Council of Engineering Companies of North Carolina. Townsend is the current chairwoman of the joint ACEC/PENC Engineers PAC. Townsend’s service to the state of North Carolina includes a North Carolina House of Representatives appointment to the Joint Legislative Blue Ribbon Commission to Study the Building and Infrastructure Needs of the State. Townsend served on the leadership team for the development of the STEM WAKE/NC State High School focusing on the NAE Grand Challenges, included in legislation developed by the JOBS Commission. Townsend received a gubernatorial appointment to this joint legislative commission.

Townsend is a 2016 Distinguished Alumnus of the College of Engineering. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from NC State (1984 and 1987). Townsend is a strong advocate for NC State and currently serves on the Engineering Foundation Board. She has served on the Civil Engineering Advisory Board and is a past chair of the Paul Zia Lecture Committee. Townsend holds professional engineering licenses in several states.

Wayne “Gil” West (2021-2025)

Gil West

Gil West is the chief operating officer of Cruise, General Motors’ majority-owned autonomous vehicle subsidiary. He joined Cruise not long after retiring as the senior executive vice president and chief operating officer of Delta Air Lines. At Delta he led the team responsible for safe, reliable operations across the globe, including more than 70,000 employees in airport customer service; cargo; corporate safety, security and compliance; Delta Connection; Delta Global Services; Delta Private Jets; flight operations; inflight service; information technology; operations analysis and performance; operations and customer center; supply chain management; and technical operations. After joining Delta in March 2008, West led the Delta and Northwest airport and customer service merger integration and helped champion customer service and operational improvements, which have resulted in consistent annual ranking improvements from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Prior to Delta, he worked for Laidlaw Transit Services as president and chief executive officer, and also held leadership roles at Northwest Airlines, United Airlines and the Boeing Company. He also currently serves on the boards of the American Cancer Society and Business Leaders for Michigan. West is a key alumni volunteer in the Atlanta area and is a contributor to both the Dean’s Circle and Fitts-Woolard Hall. He also established an endowed scholarship for students in Engineering from his hometown of Hayesville, North Carolina. West is a 2018 Distinguished Engineering Alumni recipient as well as a 2016 inductee into the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department Hall of Fame. He earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from NC State and his MBA from National University in San Diego.

Contacting the Board of Visitors

Debbie Robertson

  • Executive Assistant to the Vice Chancellor
  • External Affairs, Partnerships and Economic Development

Mailing Address

  • NC State University
  • Holladay Hall B/Campus Box 7021
  • Raleigh, NC 27695

Contact Info

Kevin Howell

  • Vice Chancellor for External Affairs, Partnerships and Economic Development

Mailing Address

  • NC State University
  • Holladay Hall B/Campus Box 7021
  • Raleigh, NC 27695