Western Carolina University’s College of Arts and Sciences held a ceremony recently to recognize eight of the college’s distinguished alumni.
Honorees included graduates from the departments of biology, chemistry and physics, English, geosciences and natural resources, history, mathematics and computer science, modern foreign languages, and political science and public affairs. The honored alumni are:
Paul Burton – Burton graduated from what was then Western Carolina College in 1954, studying under the founding dean of Arts and Sciences, Gerald Eller. Burton went to an extensive career in cellular biology as a faculty member at the University of Kansas. Now retired in Door County, Wis., he and his wife spend considerable time outdoors and have authored natural history and general interest books about the region where they live. Burton also has been a frequent benefactor for WCU’s biology department over the years.
James L. Breece – After graduating from WCU with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1967, Breece attended Georgia Tech and received his doctoral degree in inorganic chemistry in 1973. He was one of the founding partners of the Holston Fuel Company in Waynesville, where he worked from 1975 to 1979. Breece then was employed by the Safety Kleen Corp. for 20 years, where he held a number of managerial posts. He later founded JB Technologies, which provides consulting services and legal support in technical areas in which he holds expertise. He currently lives in Elgin, Ill.
Nick Taylor – Taylor graduated from WCU in 1967 with a bachelor’s degree in English. The 10 nonfiction books he has authored include the New York Times best-seller “John Glenn: A Memoir,” “Laser: The Inventor, the Nobel Laureate and the Thirty-Year Patent War,” “In Hitler’s Shadow,” “Sins of the Father” and “Bass Wars.” Taylor’s memoir of concern and care for his aging parents, “A Necessary End,” was called “one of the key stories of our time” by the Washington Post. His also has had many articles published in publications such as The New York Times Magazine, Esquire and The New Yorker. He lives in New York.
Craig A. Harper – A resident of Knoxville, Tenn., Harper serves as professor of wildlife management and extension wildlife specialist in the department of forestry, wildlife and fisheries at the University of Tennessee. After earning his bachelor’s degree in natural resource management at WCU in 1990, Harper went on to earn a master’s degree in biology and a doctorate in forest resources. He is now responsible for developing wildlife-related programs for UT extension services, and he also is active in research related to applied habitat management and white-tailed deer management.
Jesse R. “Dick” Lankford Jr. – Lankford’s two degrees from WCU include a bachelor’s degree in history in 1969 and a master’s degree in American history in 1973. A Raleigh resident, he currently serves as state archives and records administrator for the North Carolina State Archives. In his position, Lankford has led efforts to increase accessibility to the state’s historical and governmental records. He was recipient of the 2006 Thornton W. Mitchell Service Award, which is presented by the Society of North Carolina Archivists for outstanding service to the archival profession.
Carl Mummert – Mummert graduated with a double major in computer science and mathematics as a member of the first graduating class of WCU’s Honors College in 2000. He went on to earn a doctorate in mathematics at Penn State University in 2005. A researcher in the field of mathematical logic, Mummert is the author of nine publications and co-authored a book on Latin squares published by the American Mathematical Society that is used as a textbook at WCU. A resident of Huntington, W.V., he currently holds a tenure-track position in the mathematics department at Marshall University.
Dr. Laura Klatt House – After earning a bachelor’s degree in Spanish at WCU in 1998, House attended medical school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, receiving her medical degree in 2005. She completed her residency in family medicine at Wake Forest University Medical School and is currently a fellow with the UNC Department of Family Medicine. A Raleigh resident, she also earned a master’s degree in public health leadership at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2010.
Leslie Anderson – An Asheville resident, Anderson graduated from WCU in 1985 with a master’s degree in public affairs. She has worked more than 30 years in the nonprofit and public sectors, including nine years as Asheville’s director of downtown development, where she helped secure investments, establish the Asheville Downtown Association and administer festivals and special events. A volunteer for many state and local organizations, Anderson is the recipient of several leadership awards and was named one of Western North Carolina’s 50 “most influential people of the century” by the Asheville Citizen-Times.