In 1982 he left New Hampshire to serve as chancellor of North Carolina State University; he was the school's 10th chief executive. While at N.C. State he obtained land and funding for the university's Centennial Campus. He also developed Centennial Campus' first master plan. He stepped down from the chancellor's position in 1989 and served as director of N.C. State's Literacy Systems Center. Poulton's resignation was marked with controversy as it came just before the release of a six-month investigation into N.C. State's athletic department. The investigation was triggered by Peter Golenbock's Personal Fouls: The Broken Promises and Shattered Dreams of Big Money Basketball at Jim Valvano's North Carolina State and allegations made therein against the school's basketball program under head coach Jim Valvano.