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Living history

To learn the story behind the names of most buildings at NC State, you’d have to look to the fairly distant past.

Holladay Hall? Built in 1889, it was named in 1915 for Alexander Quarles Holladay, the university’s first president.

D.H. Hill Library? The 1953 facility was named for Daniel Harvey Hill, the Civil War general’s son who served as NC State president from 1908 to 1917.

But to learn where Talley Student Center got its name, you need only go to an office on the building’s third floor. There you’ll find Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Emeritus Banks Talley. For 60 years, Talley has championed a diverse approach to higher education that offers as much outside the classroom as in it.

“I think that the students that come to this institution ought to have a broadly based education,” Talley said.

As a massive renovation begins at Talley Student Center, its namesake reflected on a tenure that’s spanned nearly half the university’s 124-year history. Talley came to the university in 1951 as assistant dean of students. Talley helped create the Division of Student Affairs and led it from 1969 to 1983, first as dean and later as vice chancellor. During his tenure, the division grew to resemble what it is today, a collection of university units that support campus life, including Student Health Services, University Recreation, University Housing, Greek Life, Student Government, the student media, the Union Activities Board, ARTS NC State and many others.

Banks Talley, pictured in the 1960s. Photo from the NC State University Archives.

Talley said he has always been guided by the idea that, whatever a student majors in, he or she benefits from exposure to a wide range of other fields: music, athletics, theater, civic affairs and others.

“I think that’s an important element in having a higher education,” he said. “The opportunity, not only to be exposed and trained in a specific area, but that you broaden that area. Hopefully, when you graduate from here, you’ll support the symphony in your hometown, or you’ll support the theater in your hometown and make life more interesting and richer than it would be otherwise.”

Talley’s own career illustrates that idea. In the late 1970s, he later took a leave of absence from NC State to serve as Gov. Jim Hunt’s executive secretary. He later worked as executive director of the North Carolina Symphony and executive vice president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Talley retired from his administrative role in 1983, but he remains deeply involved with the arts at N.C. State. As director of special projects for ARTS NC State, he raises money to support the university’s arts offerings. His impact on the university is as visible as the building bearing his name.

“Banks Talley is an icon for NC State,” Chancellor Randy Woodson said during a groundbreaking this week for the student center renovation.