Last Lecture

Professor of natural resources Larry Nielsen delivers his final lecture Wednesday in the Piedmont Ballroom in Talley Student Union. Nielsen used the story of Dr. Seuss and the books Seuss wrote to deliver a number of the lessons included in the talk — one of which was perseverance. Nielsen said, "He [Seuss] persevered, and he ended up changing the world for all of us ... and you should persevere too. Maybe you can change the world, a little or a lot."  

Before retiring, Larry Nielsen, former provost and professor for the College of Natural Resources, had seen and heard many things around campus. All these experiences throughout the years inspired Nielsen to write the book “Wolfpack Ramblings,” self-published on May 3.

It took Nielsen over three years to write around 45 short stories to be included in the book. After spending some time away from the writing process, he and his wife read over them. Because of the sheer amount of editing to be done, the original quantity of stories went from around 45 to 36. 

“Some [stories] are more about [myself] versus the campus,” Nielsen said. “Some are about people, and some are about places around campus. I rewrote at least all the stories about 10 times.”

As a result of his numerous years teaching and serving as provost, Nielsen spent a great deal of time traveling from place to place. All this walking is detailed in the first chapter, “Walking 10,000 Miles.”By walking such a distance across campus, Nielsen met many different people and saw the never-ending changes that have been made to NC State.

In chapter two, “First and Ten, Wolfpack Style,” Nielsen recalled the booming voice of the much beloved sports commentator Edward Funkhouser.

“I still hear his voice, a perfect example for why I wanted to write this book,” Nielsen said. “In my role as provost, I got to meet a lot of people, because my job entails meeting and knowing what’s going on. I met Funkhouser, a fixture at NC State, and I had the privilege of knowing him. By telling his story, I get to share Ed with everybody who will read this book and those who did not have a chance to experience it.”

Wolfpack Ramblings does not limit itself to people: it also explores the University’s numerous buildings and streets. In chapter three, “A Monster Ate My Building” — comically named for the situation it entails — Nielsen reminisces how Harrelson Hall became an architectural disaster.

The way Nielsen described each person or event shows his passion and wit for telling stories. Above all, he wished to give back to the same community and culture that brought him so much joy throughout his 17 years of teaching. Nielsen said recalling these memories allows the reader and him to “keep pieces of [us] alive.”

Nielsen recalls the past with warmth and sincerity; these are all memories, good or bad, that bring up positive emotions. Akin to his teaching style, Nielsen’s goal remains the same even in retirement: to bring joy and educate those around him. 

“I miss the students, teaching and colleagues, the stimulations lost, but that’s why I write and lecture,” Nielsen said. “But I do not miss working, giving grades and meetings, all the bureaucratic stuff. Writing these books allows me to relive and share these experiences. Some people say you’re not fully retired, you're still attending lectures and traveling. It differs from each person, as academics are individual people.”