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A Grandstand View: One Alumni’s motivation for giving back

Richard Sloan (BSCE 1958) has what he terms “a grandstand view” from the ridge top where he lives looking east to the Tennessee River. “I got tired of city living, so I retired to the river.  I think that’s my country background coming out.”  But he knew this river long before he retired to her banks.  His primary job with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was to inspect its dams and navigation locks.  “I chased the dams right on up from the headwaters to where the Tennessee dumps into the Ohio,” he recounts.  “That is about 650 miles of commercially navigable waters.”

It was roads, not rivers, that got him interested in engineering. A native of the North Carolina piedmont, he spent one summer working on the highways outside of Asheville.  That got him thinking about building roads and bridges, which sent him in pursuit of a civil engineering degree.

He earned his diploma in 1958 and immediately had two job offers. One would have taken him to Los Angeles, and one would land him in Knoxville in the mountains of East Tennessee. He chose the latter.

“I don’t think I can make anyone understand how important that department was to me. How important the degree was. “

Sloan spent his entire career with TVA, retiring in 1988. He has vivid memories of the work. “It was not a job that would suit a claustrophobic person, or appeal to someone who had a fear of heights,” Sloan advises and goes on to describe how much of the structural inspecting had to be done in very cramped areas.  This might also explain why he and his wife sought open space after they retired.

They also sought meaningful ways to give back, and have generously gifted to NC State College of Engineering, the NC Zoo, and many other causes that were important to them. A widower since 2005, Sloan said over the past few years he decided to focus his gifts by giving more to fewer places.  In addition to a planned gift from his estate, he contributes annually, designating his funds directly to the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering.  “I don’t think I can make anyone understand how important that department was to me.  How important the degree was. “

Richard Sloan was born in the depths of the Great Depression, to a rural family with little means. He worked his way through college, saying there were times he had very little to eat. “I got through by the skin of my teeth. I just came from nowhere, with no prospects, and when I earned that diploma, it changed my life. Literally. Forever. I just hope I can make a difference for somebody else.”

“I just hope I can make a difference for somebody else.”  Richard Sloan, BSCE 1958