Freemasonry and academia have a long, intertwined history dating back to the middle ages, when architects (mathematicians) designed and built monumental ecclesiastical structures to house religious ceremonies, Church officials, and places in which to study the nature of God. The culmination and combination of these things are universities.
North Carolina State University was established by an Act of the State Assembly in 1887—the centennial of the establishment of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina.
The motives behind the establishment of the school were grounded in growing popular sentiment that too many universities and institutions of high learning were too exclusive and failed to provide practical instruction and applications for modern science, agricultural, and engineering. While not spurning more classical educational topics, these new subjects were deemed essential in order to rebuild the South and establish the United States as a leader in innovation, technology, and progress.
On 22 August 1888, following nearly twenty years of work, the cornerstone of the new Main Building of the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts was laid with Masonic honors by Past Deputy Grand Master and celebrated physician Dr. Eugene Grissom.
A tremendous crowd gathered to watch the Masonic procession march down Hillsborough Street to the site of the new college, as well as representatives from Hiram Lodge (Raleigh), Wake Forest Lodge 97 (Wake Forest), Hiram Lodge 98 (Clinton), Mecklenburg Lodge 176 (Cornelius), Cary Lodge 198 (Cary), Richland Lodge 214 (Thomasville), William G. Hill Lodge 218 (Raleigh); Anchor Lodge 234 (Auburn), Greenville Lodge 284 (Greenville), Olive Branch Lodge 371 (Garner), and Reidsville Lodge 384 (Reidsville). Besides acting Grand Master Grissom, the Grand Lodge Officers present included Deputy Grand Master General William R. Cox; Grand Secretary Donald W. Bain, State Treasurer and Treasurer to the new Board of Trustees; Grand Marshal General Carle A. Wooddruff; and Grand Sword Bearer William A. Withers, the new college’s first Chemistry Professor.
Three cups, two silver and one gold, symbolically filled with corn, wine, and oil were used to dedicate the cornerstone. The cups were presented to the Grand Lodge at the site of the new building by the North Carolina Teachers’ Assembly (now the North Carolina Association of Educators, NCAE) by the Assembly’s Secretary Eugene G. Harrell, a member of William G. Lodge 218 in Raleigh.
The cornerstone of North Carolina State University’s Bell Tower–laid and dedicated in November 10, 1921 by J. Bailey Owen, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of North Carolina.