There was a week earlier this year when all James Oblinger wanted to do was celebrate success. For the N.C. State Chancellor, there were three groundbreakings that week marking the start of significant new construction project on campus, each of which would eventually yield something good for NCSU.
Yet those ceremonial events all took place as the heat around Oblinger grew. He now calls it "the swirl," a frenzy of media activity surrounding the actions he and others took in hiring former First Lady Mary Easley for a job that didn't exist before she was placed in it.
It was during that week that Oblinger realized he had to step down.
"I never got a question about how great it was for the university," he said of the groundbreakings that week. "The only questions were about the situation. That meant I was overshadowing a lot of great work. I had never planned on anything other than retiring as chancellor at N.C. State University."
Since resigning June 9, Oblinger has stayed largely out of the public eye. But he's now in the running for a new job - the presidency of New Mexico State University - and he knows he'll be facing some tough questions there.
He already has, in fact, and the folks doing the interviews seem pleased with what they've heard. He'll be down there in November for campus interviews, and the university expects to make a decision Nov. 19.
"We're aware of the situation that happened at N.C. State," Del Archuleta, who is chairing the New Mexico State search, told me this morning. "But he's extremely experienced, very professional. He appeared a very sincere man and very qualified. It looks to us like an unfortunate set of circumstances. He told us mistakes were made and things were learned from it."
In an interview Wednesday, Oblinger spoke at length about how he's spent the last four months since resigning the chancellorship. He has been on leave, and thus has had time to both reflect on his actions and to re-tool and prepare for his next venture, as an NCSU faculty member.
But when the New Mexico State job came up, it sounded to him like a good fit.
Here's today's story from that interview.