As Vice Chancellor Charles Moreland retires this summer after a 38-year career at NC State including ten years as quarterback for research and graduate studies, he calls one last play. “Go long,” he advises. “Focus on the future. Be tenacious. And be patient.” It’s his version of Wayne Gretzky’s famous quote about skating to where the puck is going to be.

While the astounding pace of change on NC State’s research scene during Moreland’s tenure might make one question his patience, he has clearly proven his focus and tenacity. NC State’s research expenditures increased 70% on his watch, now topping $290 million—exceptional for a university without a medical school. Ranked in the top 50 public and private universities in research and development expenditures ten years ago, NC State now ranks in the top 30. Moreland has also transformed the university’s technology transfer operation which today holds a premier national ranking with 235 patents and 35 spin-off companies.

Always pushing for new initiatives, Moreland led the creation of “The NC State Model” for industry partnerships in innovation, entrepreneurship and economic development—so successful that NC State received a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to disseminate the model to other universities. Moreland’s key challenges in building the model were convincing
university foundations to invest in a seed venture capital fund for university-affiliated start-up companies and getting office and lab incubators open on the Centennial Campus.

Under Moreland’s leadership, the university also began taking equity in lieu of part of the license fees for companies that commercialize university patents, giving the institution an upside benefit when those companies are profitable. With a legendary sense of humor and an aversion for both micro-management and unnecessary meetings, Moreland also catalyzed a cross-campus effort to streamline the research proposal and administration process, now electronically based.

“It should not be forgotten that Charlie has also been a fantastic classroom teacher who was so important to bringing excellence to what was not a very strong chemistry department when he came here in 1964,” remembers longtime friend Bill Tucker, who joined the chemistry faculty one year before Moreland arrived. “His satisfaction comes from accomplishment, not recognition. That’s what makes him such a great team player.”

Moreland has played a key role in promoting faculty research in nanotechnology. His persistence is credited for persuading university officials to begin construction of Partners Building III, a new building for nanotechnology researchers to break ground on Centennial Campus this fall.

While he credits the success to an outstanding faculty and administrative team, his staff and his boss are unanimous in their praise for his decision-making skill.


 
   

Moreland proudly points to industry and government partnership development on the Centennial Campus as some of the most fun he’s had. He has paid careful attention to creating meaningful research and workforce partnerships, rather than merely leasing real estate—a “no-brainer,” he claims—but one that has propelled the exponential growth of the new campus for the past ten years.

Will he miss all the fun after retirement? “Sure,” he says. “How many people can spend the last ten years of their careers working in a place where there’s something this great happening every day?”