RALEIGH — Randy Woodson and his wife, Susan, moved into the new N.C. State University chancellor's home a few weeks ago, but they have already hosted more than 2,000 visitors and at least eight official events.
That heavy guest count, say university officials, underscores why NCSU needed a new official residence for its leader.
In a national trend, chancellors' homes are becoming less about them, and more about creating an inviting place where universities can woo donors, wow other official visitors and honor exceptional students, staff and faculty. As state allocations to public universities decline nationwide, including repeated cuts to the state system here, winning over those donors has become increasingly important.
Woodson has emphasized fundraising from the minute he arrived on campus in 2010, vowing among other things to boost the university's endowment by hundreds of millions of dollars. NCSU officials figure the new house - nearly two-thirds of which is dedicated to public spaces to handle groups of up to 200 - gives him a powerful tool.
"The chancellor is really our primary fundraiser, and this provides a great venue for him to welcome potential donors, and of course other groups, too," said Kevin MacNaughton, the associate vice chancellor for facilities.
It's not so much Woodson's home as a strategic asset for the university, said Jim Woodward, who, as interim chancellor before Woodson's arrival, jump-started the long-stalled house project and helped guide its design.
UNC Charlotte built two chancellor's homes during Woodward's long tenure as chancellor there before his stint at NCSU. After hosting more than 600 public events in his home, he had a good idea of what worked.
For potential donors and other key visitors, the chancellor's residence will set the tone for the way they think about NCSU, he said.
"It's critical when they come - and some may only come once - that they get a good impression and leave with a good impression," said Woodward. "If you are entertaining in a rundown building, they will leave with an impression that it's a rundown university."
University officials opened the house for a media tour Tuesday morning. Rundown it's not.
The new $3.5 million home has about 5,000 square feet of space downstairs and 3,000 upstairs. It was built with cutting-edge "green" construction techniques and materials, including a 13-well geothermal heating and cooling system and six-inch, insulation-packed walls. Rain that falls on the property stays there, with sophisticated systems to catch and retain all runoff.
The home was paid for entirely with private donations and in-kind gifts of materials and labor; it was officially dubbed The Point by the largest donor, Ann Goodnight, wife of SAS Institute Founder Jim Goodnight.
The emphasis on modern design and cutting-edge systems was to make it an integral part of Centennial Campus, and underlines the university's role in driving the technology economy.
It also is a kind of residential take on the foodies' "locavore" movement, with nearly all the materials, including the brick and wood, coming from North Carolina, and many of the contractors and suppliers, including builder Jon Rufty, being NCSU alumni.
Marvin Malecha, dean of the NCSU College of Design, was chief designer.
"Many of the people involved, from the donors who provided funds to the contractors and vendors who in many cases gave deep discounts, had deep connections to the university," said MacNaughton. "It was really much like a barn raising in the old days, with all these people stepping forward make it happen."
Even the framing lumber, which normally would be fir from the West Coast, is from in-state trees. It's yellow pine, a species not traditionally a top choice for framing because it will warp, said MacNaughton. But NCSU researchers helped the lumber industry fix the problem, and so it seemed a natural fit for the house.
Wood for the interior trim came from an NCSU research forest.
The lighting was donated by Cree Inc. of Durham, which got its start with research at NCSU.
All the NCSU-connected material and labor, Woodson said, offers a way to start NCSU stories during gatherings.
The new home is only a few hundred square feet larger than the old one on Hillsborough Street, which was built in 1928 and felt cramped with more than 30 people in it. But the layout alone makes it much more useful, said Woodson.
He and his wife mainly live on the second floor in private quarters that include a small kitchenette.
The Woodsons' kids are all grown and living elsewhere, but the space has four bedrooms and was designed to be flexible enough to accommodate families of future chancellors that might include small children, elderly parents or a spouse who needs a home office.
It seems like an unusual place to live, but Woodson said it's a great house, and gave it rave reviews for the layout for entertaining.
Even with 200 people, there's still room to move around, he said, yet when there's just a handful for a more intimate dinner, it's still an inviting place.
The location is inspiring, atop a bluff overlooking Lake Raleigh and the fast-growing heart of Centennial Campus.
The university trustees picked Centennial, MacNaughton said, in part because the heart of the university is shifting to the technology-oriented research campus. Also, from a practical sense, parking was always a problem for large events at the old home, and the new house is connected to a large parking lot nearby at the Park Alumni Center.