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Young alumnus follows mother’s example in giving back to NC State

Charles Townsend, second from right, holds two awards. He is joined by three other people, two to his right and one to his left.

When two-time North Carolina State University graduate Charlie Townsend began to think about giving back to the university, he didn’t have to look far for a role model.

His mom, Pam Townsend, is also a two-time grad and an avid supporter of NC State.

“From a young age, I’ve always seen my mother give back,” Charlie said. “Seeing what she did – her passion in giving back to the university – it was a no brainer for me.”

“I saw how rewarding it was for her and how much she got out of it.”

Charlie holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the College of Engineering and an MBA from the Poole College of Management. He’s a member of the College of Engineering’s Young Alumni Advisory Board (YAAB). Pam holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from NC State. She has been a member of the Engineering Foundation Board for several years.

For Charlie, the opportunity to serve on the YAAB aligns with his passions. He serves on no less than five boards and commissions within the local community. He said YAAB provides the opportunity to think about how he and other young alumni can support the university.

“It really does align with what I like to do,” he said. “How can we on the YAAB invigorate the next generation to share that same passion to give back?”

He grew up hearing about the importance of volunteering one’s “time, treasure or talent,” and it’s something Charlie has taken to heart.

Charles Townsend writes on dry erase board at front of classroom while guest lecturing.

Beyond his work on the YAAB and other boards, he’s supported NC State as a guest lecturer and financially as well – recently taking to heart the atmosphere of friendly competition that NC State’s annual Day of Giving provides and jumping in to make several gifts contributing toward Day of Giving challenges.

“I can volunteer my time, I can volunteer my talent, and I can do what I can from the financial standpoint,” he said.

For Townsend, who says he’s nearly gone to school on the same street for his entire life (he attended Dillard Drive Elementary and Middle and Athens Drive High schools before enrolling at NC State), it all leads back to his passion for his community and for the university that he holds close to his heart.

“I’m about as local as it gets,” he says with a laugh.

He grew up rooting for the Wolfpack, with a number of family members having attended NC State. When it came time to apply to college, Charlie had a passion for engineering and knew NC State’s College of Engineering was among the best in the country.

After a year studying aerospace engineering, he realized he wanted to go into an engineering field that better combined his passion for planning with the opportunity to use his creative side, and switched to civil engineering. Today, he’s the Land Development Team Leader at VHB in Raleigh – still keeping it local with an office on Centennial Campus – and said he embraces the opportunity to shape the places where people live, work and play.

His projects include everything from redesigning a two-block area in downtown Raleigh, to converting an old chicken processing plant to a YMCA and Elementary School.

“I get to drive by projects that I’ve designed and see the positive impact on my community, and that’s really the most rewarding part for me,” he said.

He went back to earn his MBA a few years after graduation to round out his business skills and today, managing a team of eight, finds he directly pairs everything he gained from both the engineering degree and the MBA in his day-to-day job.

When he talks about what was most impactful during his time at NC State, Charlie is quick to answer that it’s been the people.

Charles Townsend mentoring a fellow associage.

“Everyone I encountered had a similar ‘what can I do to help you’ attitude,” he said. “Whether it was professors or fellow students, people want to help.”

And he called upon some of those same classmates for help this year, asking them step up for NC State’s 2023 Day of Giving, in what became a small competition among them to see who supported various Day of Giving challenges, or the colleges or units they were passionate about.

“We know the money we donate is really going to support all of the programs at NC State,” he said. “And it was fun – late at night, seeing those last donations trickle in and trying to be the last one to give, or participating in one of the Day of Giving challenges.”

Charlie hopes his fellow young alumni and others will think how they can give back to NC State, whether with time, talent or treasure.

He recognizes that the way in which people can give will change throughout their lives as their circumstances change, but says it doesn’t take much to show support. Young alumni know the most about what current students are experiencing, he said, and can try to afford their knowledge to help the next generation.

“Whether it’s a few hours a month, or putting a little toward someone else’s future, or sharing your industry knowledge – it doesn’t have to be all three; it can be one or the other,” he said. “Do what you can, when you can.”