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Professor Emeritus Larry Nielsen Shares Campus Stories in New Book

"Wolfpack Ramblings" recounts 32 stories from Larry Nielsen's regular walks around the university's campus.

Bell Tower - Professor Emeritus Larry Nielsen Shares Campus Stories in New Book - College of Natural Resources News NC State University
The NC State Belltower on main campus. Photo by Marc Hall.

Larry Nielsen spent nearly two decades at NC State, serving as a professor and dean at the College of Natural Resources and then as the university’s provost.

During this time, Nielsen learned a lot about life at the university, which served as the inspiration for his new book, “Wolfpack Ramblings.”

Published in May 2021, “Wolfpack Ramblings” features 32 stories about life at NC State, which Nielsen said he heard while walking upwards of 1,000 miles around the university’s campus.

“When I came back to the College of Natural Resources in 2009, I started taking a new walk for three, four or five miles, for exercise,” he said. “And during those walks — since I wasn’t hurrying to class or hurrying to a meeting — I had the opportunity to look around a bit.”

Nielsen said his experience compares to that of Phil Connors, played by Bill Murray, in the movie “Groundhog Day,” which was set in the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania: “Bill Murray kept walking around Punxsutawney, and he learned all sorts of things that were going on in that town.”

“The point being is that if you spend a long time walking around, you get to know someplace. And I started to notice things in my walks around campus,” Nielsen added. “I started writing down these stories, and in the process, I would generally take somebody out for lunch and have them share their story with me.”

Among the 32 chapters in “Wolfpack Ramblings” are stories about NC State’s marching band, the circular Harrelson Hall and the restoration of Rocky Branch Creek. In one chapter, Nielsen recounts the story of bringing a live python to one of his classes at the College of Natural Resources. 

In addition to sharing stories of NC State’s history, Nielsen also hopes to support current students through his book. He plans to donate a dollar from every book sale to the Nielsen Family Scholarship, which provides financial support to first generation college students in the College of Natural Resources.

“Wolfpack Ramblings” is just one of the many books Nielsen has written. In 2016, he published “Nature’s Allies,” which includes eight one-chapter biographies of great conservationists. He’s also taken up writing mysteries. Recently, Nielsen published his first mystery novel, “Dead Man on Campus.”