Cathy Sterling at demonstration

Cathy Sterling addresses NC State students at a demonstration on the Brickyard.

Blood Drive Sponsored Peace Retreat

"Our Say," an article by the Technician editors (page 4,) emphasizes the massive changes happening on campus.

The student body presidential election for the 1970-1971 school year was a complicated one. The ticket was filled with vastly different candidates. The three leaders in the race were Rick Rice, a fraternity leader; Eric Plow, a satirical "farmer" who ran his campaign based on "cows' rights”; and Cathy Sterling, a "flower child" and active defendant of students’ rights. Unlike the other candidates, Sterling entered the race later and ended up as a write-in on the ballot.

Once the preliminary elections were over, Plow and Rice were in the lead. After accusations of voting fraud, the election on April 13th that pitted Plow and Rice against each other was characterized as invalid.[1] As a result, there was a recount election that allowed all candidates to run again. This time, Sterling was on the ballot. In the second election, Sterling rose to the top, pushing out Rice and running against Plow. On May 1st., the same day Nixon announced his invasion of Cambodia—Cathy Sterling was elected the first female Student Body President at North Carolina State University.[2]

Unlike previous generations, NC State students in the 1970s became extremely vocal in their opposition to war and wanted more rights as students and as youths. The campus was electrified by the Kent State shooting, and the fervor of campus was facilitated and nurtured by Cathy Sterling. Sterling was extremely clear about her views, advocating for human rights on campus and abroad. Her style stereotyped her as a "hippie chick" and she was instantly seen as the iconic leader for student protest about the Vietnam War.[3] In a recent interview I had with Cathy Sterling, she claimed that she was pushed to run for Student Body President by students at State and believes she was elected because of her image as a “hippie.” She argues that before her election, she did not say very much about her stance on the Vietnam War. Instead, it was her persona that got her on the ballot.[4] Before she was pushed to run, her stances were more focused toward campus problems like student fees, the corruption of the School Bank (an institution she successfully removed during her presidency), and the rights of students on and off campus. However, after her election, she responded to the campus's need to talk about the Vietnam War and led the Peace Retreat, culminating in a March to the Capitol. Her election marked an era of significant change on NC State's campus--a change so visible that even the editors of the Technician recognized it on May 20th 1970.[5]

[1] Technician, Volume LI, Number 77, April 14, 1970.

[2] Technician, Volume LIV, Number 77, May 1, 1970.

[3] Cathy Sterling, interview with author, Samantha Smith, November 13, 2014.

[4] Cathy Sterling, interview with author, Samantha Smith, November 13, 2014.

[5] Editors, "Things are Changing at State," Technician, May 20, 1970.