On December 17, 1980, NC State University Chancellor Joab L. Thomas dedicated Bostian Hall on North Campus as a facility for research and teaching biological sciences. Thomas said during the dedication that the new building near the Brickyard honored “Carey Bostian, a warm, compassionate human being, dedicated and skillful administrator, and very clearly one of the world’s greatest teachers.”
Three years prior, the News and Observer reported the school enrolled a record number of students in biology courses, leaving little laboratory space for “individual work by students and professors.” In response, the university allocated $2,705,000 to construct Bostian Hall. According to the dedication program, Architect F. Carter Williams paid particular attention to lecture halls and laboratories for instruction in designing the building which totaled 38,529 square feet.
A 1983 Course Bulletin indicated many biological programs operated there, including the interdepartmental Biological Sciences and Pest Management for Crop Sciences programs. In 2020, Bostian still housed the Biological Sciences department, along with Plant and Microbial Biology. After hours, school organizations hosted events in Bostian such as the 1983 History Department panel with African American historians entitled “John Hope Franklin, Black History, and North Carolina State University” and the 1990 Women’s Resource Coalition discussion “Sex, Lies, and Campus Rape.”
Bostian originally came to NC State in 1930 because of the Zoology Department. A Zoology professor had resigned suddenly, Bostian reported in a 1987 oral history, and his major professor at the University of Pittsburgh recommended the North Carolina native to fill the vacancy. NC State took the recommendation even though Bostian had neither applied for the position nor finished his dissertation. The State College News (SCN) reported that Bostian’s service on faculty committees after gaining full professorship in 1946 helped him attain the Director of Instruction position in 1950. When the chancellor position opened in 1953, students urged Gordon Gray, the Consolidated University president, to select Bostian. “I was reluctant to be nominated because I was afraid I’d be chosen,” Bostian joked in the oral history. But in his inaugural address on February 22, 1954, Bostian explained he endeavoured “to serve my college and my state.”
Bostian valued his “direct relationship with students” as chancellor, according to his oral history. SCN reported he gathered more than $5000 in scholarships and loan funds and met bi-weekly with student leaders. He received the Distinguished Teaching Award twice, according to his obituary in Bulletin Online. Reagan reported he was also the first faculty member to win NC State’s prestigious Watauga Medal. When Bostian died in 2000, Friday noted in the obituary, “you miss a person like that because his influence never ends.”
Nationwide and statewide forces also affected his term. Bostian spent approximately $8.5 million on nine new buildings; the funds came when voters approved a statewide bond. Because the federal government feared the Soviet Union’s nuclear proliferation and invested heavily in collegiate scientific education, Bostian installed a new nuclear reactor for what one booklet called “peacetime training and research.” Bostian also helped to convince Governor Luther Hodges to develop Research Triangle Park, which attracted technical and industrial companies to North Carolina.
Racial integration was the most important movement to touch Bostian’s administration. He was careful to defend whatever position on integration was lawful and cost-effective. For instance, he wrote Gordon Gray in June 1955 that he would “be glad to” tell African American high schoolers that their applications ”must not be accepted” because of trustee and state policy, although he concurrently enrolled thirty-eight non-European international students (according to registration lists). After a September 1955 District Court case required the UNC system to overturn its segregation policy for undergraduates, however, Bostian admitted two African American students in the Summer 1956 session (as The Raleigh Times reported). In correspondence, Bostian then ordered the dining facilities manager to treat “Negro students exactly as any other student” and told a citizen “we are endeavoring to carry out the law without discriminating either for or against the Negroes we admit.” When Clemson University excluded Black members of NC State’s band from a 1956 football game, Bostian responded, “I don’t think our band ought to go” (according to Provost Nash Winstead and a 1993 Focus article). In 1955, Bostian also prioritized the budget when he sought Gray’s permission to invite Black agricultural extension workers to summer training. He hoped “to provide instruction for the Negro workers on our own campus in order to avoid a great expense in time and money.”
Still, like most leaders of predominantly white universities of the time, he did not address underlying inequalities in the segregated South. He proposed standardized tests for applicants in a 1954 letter, which his own faculty members opposed because other states used tests “to discriminate against blacks,” according to historian Alice Reagan. Although Bostian sought integrated extension training, he told the Board of Trustees they could lodge and feed the Black agents off campus. Winstead reported Bostian later “ruled that the agents could eat in the cafeteria.”
According to Dean of the School of Agriculture and Life Sciences James Legates, who quoted Bostian during the 1980 dedication speech for the hall, Bostian left the chancellorship in 1959 because he wanted “to inform as many people as I can about genetics.” To do so, he taught an 800-student “Genetics in Human Affairs” course (according to his oral history) and spoke before alumni and civic organizations. “Control of genetic processes holds great promises for the good of man,” he told audiences such as the Raleigh Rotary Club in 1977, “while presenting moral and ethical problems.” For Bostian, it was most important to improve life through scientific investigation.
Bostian’s complicated approach to genetics was typical of his time. Bostian advocated for applying new knowledge of human genetics, following the trend of some biologists who envisioned their field generating and then affecting policies based on exciting discoveries. For instance, he celebrated the scientific revelation that “large numbers of diseases and defects are due to heredity,” as he told an Introduction to Agriculture class in 1970. But unless more couples “made use of genetic counseling,” he advised the Watauga Club that same year, “eventually the load of genetic defects will get to the place that compulsory sterilization will be necessary.” The comments echoed the fears and solutions proposed by geneticists discussing the long-term effects of radiation on human health, according to Turney. But Bostian also reflected pre-World War II stances on genetics when he asked in his 1970 Watauga Club speech, “what will be lost to society if parents [with low IQ’s] were to be sterilized?” In 1966, biologist Joshua Lederberg reported that only “a minority” of the many scientists discussing selective breeding “would seek the sanction of law to enforce the doctrine.” “Most geneticists,” he said, “would insist on a deeper knowledge of human genetics before considering statutory intrusion on personal liberties in this sphere.”
In that 1970 Watauga Club speech, “Genetics and the Future of Man,” Bostian described a future advocated by some geneticists: one with selective breeding techniques like “clonal propagation,” “genetic engineering,” and fertilization of eggs outside of a woman’s womb, three possibilities that historian Jon Turney says captured the imagination of some biologists at the time. But other scientists feared “horrifying results” from the new techniques, while journalists declared the “more powerful techniques” of selective breeding “frightening.” Bostian concluded a “less spectacular way of upgrading the genetic make-up of society seeks to encourage a higher birth rate in families where parents are above average in intelligence and achievements, to counteract the higher birth rate among those families of lower intelligence and lesser achievements.” His comment suggested he believed intelligence was genetic.
Even though Bostian saw a possible future for compulsory sterilization for low-IQ individuals and advocated increased birth rates among parents with “above average intelligence,” his views were not totally out of the mainstream for geneticists at the time and in Bostian’s generation.
Original Source References
Carey H. Bostian, interview by D.W. Colvard, January 17, 1979, transcript and recording, Knowledge is Power Oral History Collection, North Carolina State University, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Office of the Dean Records, UA 100.001, NC State University Libraries Special Collections Research Center. https://d.lib.ncsu.edu/collections/catalog/ua100_001-001-oj0098-008
Carey Hoyt Bostian Papers, MC 00076, Box 3: Folders “Talks,1967-1968,” “Talks,1970,” “Talks,1977,” NC State University Libraries Special Collections Research Center
Committees, Institutional History and Commemoration Committee Records, UA 022.009, Box 9, Folders “Correspondence, memos, meeting mins, annual reports, 1978-1979;” “Correspondence, memos, meeting mins, annual reports, 1979-1980;” “Correspondence, memos, meeting mins, annual reports, 1980-1981;” NC State University Libraries Special Collections Research Center
Office of the Chancellor, Carey Hoyt Bostian Records, UA 002.001.003, NC State University Libraries Special Collections Research Center
Box 1: Folders “Agriculture, School of, 1954;”
Box 2: Folders “‘F’ General, 1954;”
Box 4: Folders “Students, Negro, 1954;”
Box 5: Folders “Students,1955;”
Box 7: Folders “‘E’ - General, 1955;”
Box 11: Folders “‘C’ - General, 1956;” Folders “‘D’ - General, 1956;”
Box 13: Folders “Student Affairs, Office of, 1956;” “Students,1956;”
Box 18: Folders “UNC Consolidated, President William C. Friday, 1957;” “Students, 1957”
Box 22: Folders “Nuclear Reactor;” “Student Affairs, Office of, 1957;” “Student Affairs, Office of, 1958;” “Students, 1958;” “UNC Consolidated, President William C. Friday, 1957.”
University Archives Reference Collection, Biographical Files, UA 050.003, Box 45, Folder “Bostian, Carey Hoyt,” NC State University Libraries Special Collections Research Center
University Archives Reference Collection, University Buildings, Sites, & Landmarks Files, UA 050.004, Box 2, Folder “Bostian Hall,” NC State University Libraries Special Collections Research Center.
Secondary Source References
Donaldson, Devan. Desegregation at North Carolina State University -- The Early Years. Galesburg, Illinois: National Association for Black Culture Centers, 2007. In University Archives Reference Collection Student Research Projects, 1969 - 2007 (UA050.005), Special Collections Research Center at NC State University Libraries. https://d.lib.ncsu.edu/collections/catalog/ua050_005-donaldson
Frasier, Ralph K. “Frasier v. UNC--A Personal Account.” The Negro Educational Review 56, no.1 (2005): 83-90. http://gateway.proquest.com/openurl?url_ver=Z39.88-2004&res_dat=xri:bsc:&rft_dat=xri:bsc:rec:iibp:00253357
Lederberg, Joshua. "Experimental Genetics and Human Evolution." The American Naturalist 100, no. 915 (1966): 519-31. Accessed November 27, 2020. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2459206.
Levin, Matthew. Cold War University: Madison and the New Left in the Sixties. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2013. ProQuest Ebook Central.
Link, Albert N. and John T. Scott. “The Growth of Research Triangle Park.” Small Business Economics 20, no. 2 (2003): 167–175. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1022216116063
Reagan, Alice Elizabeth. North Carolina State University, A Narrative History. Raleigh: North Carolina State University Foundation and North Carolina State University Alumni Association, 1987.
Turney, Jon. Frankenstein's Footsteps: Science, Genetics and Popular Culture. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998.
Winstead, Nash Nicks. The Inclusion and Involvement of African-Americans at North Carolina State University, 1953-1993. Raleigh, N.C.: North Carolina State University, 2000. Inclusion and Involvement of African-Americans at North Carolina State University, 1953-1993 (LD3928 .W5 2000) held by Special Collections Research Center at NC State University Libraries. https://d.lib.ncsu.edu/collections/catalog/LD3928-W5-2000