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January 2024 Dinner Seminar Recap

January’s dinner seminar, held on Sunday, January 21st, served as a touch-point in reconnecting after a long winter break and meeting our guest speaker, Charles Joyner, an artist - North Carolina Native.

Caldwell's enjoying conversation during our January Dinner Seminar.

The first dinner seminar of the new year provided fellows with a much-needed evening of community and warmth as the semester kicked off. Hosted on Sunday, January 21st, the seminar was centered around the theme of the use of the principles of servant-leadership as guides to a creative life. For context as to the dinner, the current Caldwell community joins together once a month on a Sunday night over dinner to foster our on-campus community while discussing topics relevant to a central theme for the year, this year’s theme being “Thinking Outside the Box: Creating your Life.” Each seminar follows a specific idea related to the theme, which is explored through table discussion and the contributions of generous guest speakers. Joining us for the seminar was Mr. Charles Joyner, a lifelong artist and former esteemed teacher here at NC State. 

Fellows were welcomed by Olivia Townsend (class of 2026), followed by words of gratitude delivered by Andrew Hammock (class of 2025), James Kurdi (class of 2024), and Saumya Gangwal (class of 2025).  Fellows were invited to dine, and stimulating table conversations were sparked, ranging from friends catching up to reflections of values and aspirations.

James Kurdi, c/o ’24, presenting words of gratitude alongside Andrew Hammock c/o ’25, and Saumya Gangwal c/o ’25.

After dinner was served, Charles Joyner was formally introduced by our keynote speaker, Shelley Smith, a professional artist and the creative director of Anchorlight Studio in downtown Raleigh. Smith recounted Joyner’s life thus far, which was followed by an open Q&A between Fellows and Joyner. 

For some background on our guest, Joyner is a North Carolina native, hailing from Smithfield in Johnston County. In 1964, he moved to Westport CT, as one of thirty-five students selected to participate in a project to integrate public highschools. During his early school years, Joyner was a star football player by day, and took up a “secret life” of artistry by night, motivated by his life-long love for creation and working with his hands. His artistic outlets proved to be long-lasting, and helped carve out his life story for years to come. Joyner initially attended Iowa State University to study Landscape Architecture, but soon thereafter transferred to North Carolina A&T University, where he changed his theme of study to Art and Design, a move which he claims saved his life. He earned a MFA in painting and printmaking from UNC Greensboro in 1972, and went on to own and operate a screen printing firm in Durham, NC throughout the 1970’s. His connection with NC State University began when he came to campus, portfolio in hand, to learn more about their masters program. Initially hoping to earn a second master’s degree, he was surprised to be offered a teaching position instead in the NCSU department of Art and Design. He stayed at NCSU for 38 years, teaching fine arts to countless students and serving as both department chair and assistant dean of the College of Design throughout his career. During his time here, he spearheaded the Design Road Show, a project which took students’ projects to high schools throughout the state, promoting arts education and opportunity to our youth. This project was crystallized into the “Summer Design Workshop” (now “Design Camp”) in 1980, and has had  a large impact on arts and design education throughout the state. In addition to this home front pursuit, Joyner created a study abroad program for NCSU students to travel to Ghana, where they have worked on building international educational relationships between NCSU and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (along with other institutions) between 1995 and the present, with a running total of 26 trips made! 

Charles Joyner and Shelley Smith taking questions from the audience.

Throughout these pursuits, Joyner maintained his creative pursuit through studio work and a constant dedication to authenticity and curiosity, which is meaningfully reflected in his life and work. His life so far serves as an inspiration for all aspiring artists and intentional thinkers, as someone who took risks in the name of being true to himself and his art, and as someone who was not afraid to change direction when the time called. Joyner emphasized to Fellows the idea that at some point in our lives, we will all be faced with challenges and will have to “course-correct,” and that it is never too late to make changes to our path in the name of pursuing the authentic self. 

Following the discourse, meaningful words of departure were given by program director, Dr. Janice Odom, and Fellows were encouraged to enjoy time with their peers and discuss the events of the night before parting ways. This seminar served as yet another thought-provoking experience for Fellows, and continued to build the ever-growing theme of building our lives through service and creativity.

This article was written by Kole Ptetraj class of 2026.

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