Steve Rea, as a young child, marveled over the fanciful “Tom Swift” adventure book series penned by Victor Applegate. Those pages full of giant robots, ultrasonic cycloplanes, and deep-sea hydrodomes inspired Rea’s career in engineering as well as his philanthropy to the NCSU Libraries.
Written in the early 1900s, the books were “thoroughly immersed in technology,” Rea recounts, “so they were talking about devices that hadn’t been made yet….the writer was very forward-thinking.” Rea credits those visionary stories as what led him to NC State where he received both his B.S. (‘80) and M.S. (‘87) in Mechanical Engineering.
Impressed with the James B. Hunt Jr. Library, Steve and his wife, Phyllis, decided to honor NC State by becoming donors to the NCSU Libraries in 2015, and since then have supported the Libraries broadly. Most significantly, the Reas established the Stephen and Phyllis Rea Endowment for Mechanical Engineering Collections in order to provide resources for all students, and particularly those in the College of Engineering, to prepare them for professional life after graduation. These resources are also useful for the university’s valuable, leading-edge research into traditional and renewable power production.