Cathy Sterling recalls some of the challenges she faced as the first female student body president and the general student reaction to increased female student enrollment at NC State. Interview on November 2, 2010. (4:10)


Text Timestamp
There's some times now, particularly with the elections that are going on and the ads that are being run and there's just times when I 00:00:00.000 - 00:00:06.295
look at how people become elected officials 00:00:06.295 - 00:00:13.530
and how things happen at a state level and a national level that I'm sometimes sitting there going, 00:00:13.530 - 00:00:19.690
this is so oddly familiar. 00:00:19.690 - 00:00:21.955
Maybe the language is a little upgraded but this is like the same battles that happened back at State over student government. 00:00:21.955 - 00:00:30.576
Don't we ever evolve? [Laughs] 00:00:30.576 - 00:00:33.122
and there were of course a group of people that were really hostile to me for the athletics. 00:00:33.122 - 00:00:39.608
I was really naive about hostility. 00:00:39.608 - 00:00:46.577
I was raised in a religion that was very gentle and very loving and very positive 00:00:46.577 - 00:00:53.821
so it was like a bath in cold water to look at somebody and go but you don't like me just because of the opinion I hold? 00:00:53.821 - 00:00:59.673
I mean you really, really don't like me? [Laughs] You're really angry at me? 00:00:59.673 - 00:01:03.754
And I remember after I was elected Chancellor Caldwell had a dinner at his house for just the start of the year 00:01:03.754 - 00:01:13.233
and he put me at a table with a bunch of student athletes. 00:01:13.233 - 00:01:18.253
And they were very well behaved, but I remember going in going, I'm being fed to the lions. [Laughs] 00:01:18.253 - 00:01:25.879
But they weren't--. I don't know whether--. Casey was the athletic director then 00:01:25.879 - 00:01:33.955
and he was such a gentleman. 00:01:33.955 - 00:01:36.009
Any hostility that came towards me never came because he told anybody to be, 00:01:36.009 - 00:01:40.947
or encouraged it or supported it, and I was always very clear about that. 00:01:40.947 - 00:01:44.621
He was an amazing man, and he got what I said. He got it. 00:01:44.621 - 00:01:48.460
He didn't necessarily agree but he got it, he understood it. 00:01:48.460 - 00:01:51.306
But that level of hostility was really shocking, 00:01:51.306 - 00:01:57.726
and then there were other people that were just, this is State. Girls don't become student body president. 00:01:57.726 - 00:02:05.537
And there were people who outside of the university, 00:02:05.537 - 00:02:09.513
in fact there may be some letters in those letters I gave you. 00:02:09.513 - 00:02:12.066
I got a lot of nasty letters from out in the state. 00:02:12.066 - 00:02:17.365
Yeah, and just like, what? [Laughs] Whoa. 00:02:17.365 - 00:02:20.920
And then when I was elected that happened too, 00:02:20.920 - 00:02:24.027
but because being student body president could be seen as building that resume to go on to leadership within the state, 00:02:24.027 - 00:02:33.758
and you know, for me, I mean women weren't going anywhere, right? I was going to get married, make babies, and stay at home. 00:02:33.758 - 00:02:40.559
Why would I do such a--? It was perceived as a taking away of something that by right belonged to some guy. 00:02:40.559 - 00:02:49.171
ut not me, not me. This was State. Maybe UNC, 00:02:49.171 - 00:02:54.165
nd if you go back in that time and look at the issues with UNC, 00:02:54.165 - 00:03:01.723
I remember Jesse Helms could say it in a way that I could never be able to say it: liberal. [Sounds like "libral"] 00:03:01.723 - 00:03:09.021
It's "libral". There were all these battles going on at UNC about free speech and things like that that just didn't touch State, 00:03:09.021 - 00:03:19.599
not until we got liberal arts, and that was, I think, 00:03:19.599 - 00:03:23.944
the big wakeup call for State in terms of joining that larger community of universities. 00:03:23.944 - 00:03:31.027
By making this choice they were going to experience the same things at the same time, but they did it at a time that was just at the beginning of this incredible time 00:03:31.027 - 00:03:41.277
in universities and student activists 00:03:41.277 - 00:03:44.837
on campus, so it's not like they even got ten years of quiet time-- [Laughs] 00:03:44.837 - 00:03:48.624
--so they could kind of get used to girls being here, or women being here. 00:03:48.624 - 00:03:54.359
But it was just like boom, boom, boom. [All at once.] All at once. 00:03:54.359 - 00:03:57.915
So they went through quite a process, a baptismal. [Laughs] 00:03:57.915 - 00:04:03.350

Request transcript of full interview