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Basnight remembered as a champion for the College of Engineering

Marc Basnight and Dr. Martin-Vega
Dean Louis Martin-Vega, right, shows the late Sen. Marc Basnight around NC State's Centennial Campus in 2010.

State Sen. Marc Basnight, a Dare County Democrat who served as president pro tempore of the NC Senate longer than anyone in history, died on Dec. 28, 2020, at the age of 73.

He was first elected to represent the Senate’s 1st District in 1985 and would hold that seat until 2011. He served as president pro tem from 1993 to 2011.

Basnight has been remembered as perhaps the most powerful state legislator in North Carolina’s history. His support of the College of Engineering was vital to its growth and the steady improvement of its national reputation. That support has been especially important as the College moved from NC State’s main campus to Centennial Campus.

Basnight played a key role in designing and passing a $3.1 billion bond referendum for state colleges and universities that funded construction of Engineering Buildings I and II on Centennial. The two buildings are the current homes of the Departments of Materials Science and Engineering, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Computer Science.

When the College needed additional financial support to help fund construction of a third engineering building on Centennial, Basnight helped guide funding through the General Assembly.

Louis Martin-Vega, dean of the College, said that he established a relationship with Basnight soon after arriving on the NC State campus in 2006. His predecessor as dean, Nino Masnari, knew Basnight well and emphasized to Martin-Vega that it would be a beneficial relationship for the College to continue.

Martin-Vega said that he had only been in his new role in Raleigh for a couple of weeks when he received a phone call from Basnight asking if he could do anything to help the College, and the new dean.

That phone call led to Basnight helping guide legislative funding to the College that finished Engineering Building III, home of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and the UNC / NC State Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering, and helped increase faculty hiring.

“It had a very significant impact on the College,” Martin-Vega said. “That gave us a really good push forward in our quest for national prominence in engineering education and research.”

Civil engineering alumnus Glenn Futrell got to know Basnight while developing Pirate’s Cove residential community and marina in Basnight’s hometown of Manteo, NC. Futrell, a former president of the NC State Engineering Foundation and recipient of the College’s Distinguished Engineering Alumnus award, helped build the relationship between the College and the late senator by hosting several meetings with Basnight and NC State chancellors and engineering deans.

“All of those engineering buildings on Centennial Campus, Marc had a major influence on getting those monies through the legislature,” Futrell said.

Return to contents or download the Spring / Summer 2021 NC State Engineering magazine (PDF, 52.0 MB).

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