Cathy J. Sterling

Cathy Sterling served as Student Government’s first female president. She conducted a successful write-in campaign with a platform that focused on increasing the administration’s respect for students' rights, investigating the administration's use of student fees without student consent, and improved relations with the student body. Sterling was very active as student body president. During the summer following her election, Sterling hired a lawyer to help her analyze and understand NC State's Judicial System. During her term as president, Sterling received negative feedback from students and the Technician. She responded to students' discontent stating, "I am glad that students are upset enough about me to put signs up in Harrelson." Sterling believed the reaction from students was evidence that students were developing an interest in Student Government. Toward the end of Sterling's presidency, in May 1971, the North Carolina House of Representatives voted to place student body presidents from North Carolina Consolidated Universities on their respective Board of Trustees.

Sterling served as president during a time of change and growth for NC State. In 1971, Jane Carol Pickard was honored as the first female valedictorian of North Carolina State University. Pickard earned a Bachelor of Science degree in applied mathematics. In April of that year, seven students established State's first African American fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha. The fraternity still maintains an active chapter on State's campus. Four members of Alpha Phi Alpha have served as student body president at NC State.

Cathy Sterling married Gene Messick, a State graduate, in the spring of 1970. After her term as president, Sterling left State to live with Messick, who accepted a teaching position at Cornell University. However, Sterling remained active in State’s Student Government activities throughout the 1971-1972 academic year. In 1972, when students rallied in opposition to air strikes over North Vietnam, she addressed the crowd before the protesters' marched to the state capitol.

Cathy Sterling graduated from NC State in December 1977 with a Bachelor of Science degree in vocational industrial education.


Years at State

Student Body President, 1970-1971


As president-elect, Sterling presented a protest statement to Governor Robert Scott at the march to the capitol in May 1970. Students marched in opposition to Scott’s support of President Nixon’s movement into Cambodia. Following the march Cathy called for a “peace retreat” which included self-education workshops, community action projects, and political lobbying. Cathy collected 4,650 signatures in support of the retreat and gained the support of the faculty and Chancellor Caldwell.

In spring 1971, in collaboration with the executive branch of Student Government, Sterling published a report on State’s non-academic student fees entitled, “Due to Circumstances Beyond Our Control.” The report resulted in more student input in the spending and designation of student fees.

Sterling also hosted seminars Sunday evenings in Harris Cafeteria. Guest speakers included the NC Attorney General, professors, and the director of ARA Slater Food Services. Additionally, Sterling wrote weekly articles in the Technician addressing student issues.


Technician (6 April 1970, 8 May 1970, 28 August 1970, 31 August 1970, 6 September 1970, 18 October 1971)