The Western Carolina University Board of Trustees has bestowed one of the institution’s highest honors on Clifton B. Metcalf, vice chancellor for advancement and external affairs at WCU and former associate vice president for state governmental affairs for the University of North Carolina system.
Metcalf, who will be retiring from WCU at the end of January, is only the ninth person in university history selected to receive the Trustees’ Award. The WCU Board of Trustees surprised him with the award as part of the board’s quarterly meeting Friday, Dec. 7.
The Trustees’ Award is presented only on rare occasions in recognition of exemplary service to the university, Joan MacNeill, board chair, said in announcing the award. MacNeill was one of four board members to publicly praise Metcalf for his service.
“One of the finest Southern traditions is that of coming to another’s home bearing gifts,” said trustee Teresa Williams. “When you came to the home of the Catamounts, you came bearing gifts of your experience, your influence and your love for higher education.”
Board member Ed Broadwell reminded those in attendance that Metcalf, throughout his career as an advocate for his community and his state, “worked tirelessly” for better schools, roads, recreation programs and economic development opportunities. “He has been one of those 24/7, 365 people,” Broadwell said. “Clifton, we are indebted to you as a region, as a state and as a university.”
Board member Steve Metcalf (no relation) said that Metcalf is deserving of the award not just because of his service to WCU, but to the entire UNC system. “Through it all, your primary focus has been not just to the university or the institution, but to the wonderful students that we serve, especially these mountain students up here in Western North Carolina,” he said.
In accepting the award, Metcalf told the trustees that WCU was the first university campus on which he had ever set foot, when he visited one summer as a high school student from Brevard attending a band camp in Cullowhee. “It’s appropriate that I finish a career here,” he said.
Metcalf oversees a university division encompassing public relations, marketing, communications, media relations, alumni affairs, creative and design services, governmental affairs and the Mountain Heritage Center museum. He joined WCU’s senior administrative team in January 2002, coming to the Cullowhee campus after serving as the UNC system’s principle liaison to the N.C. General Assembly from 1998 to 2002.
Among his most notable accomplishments during his career are his leadership role in WCU’s first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign, which netted more than $51 million in contributions and pledges of private support when completed in October 2009, and his efforts in developing the legislation that permit Western Carolina and other UNC institutions to develop “millennial campuses,” said Chancellor David Belcher.
“Clifton has brought to Western Carolina University an extraordinary set of experiences and knowledge that has played out wonderfully for our university,” Belcher said. “He brought passionate advocacy about WCU and, more importantly, he brought passion about what WCU should mean for this region.”
A resident of Haywood County, Metcalf also served as interim vice president for public affairs for the UNC system and as associate vice chancellor for public affairs at Appalachian State from 1996 until 1998. During his career in higher education, he held several positions at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, including federal and state government liaison, associate vice chancellor for university relations, and director of news services.
He began working at UNC after a 30-year career in journalism. He is a former executive editor of The Mountaineer newspaper in Waynesville, where he began working as general assignment reporter in 1961. A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Metcalf earned his bachelor’s degree from UNC-CH in 1959, where he studied journalism as a Morehead Scholar.
Past recipients of the Trustees’ Award are Wallace Hyde, E.J. Whitmire, Barbara B. Coulter, Ruth C. Shuler, Burton B. Fox, Judy H. Dowell, Rich Kucharski and George “Chuck” Wooten.