CLASS NOTES

1949

At the age of 97, Luther Bailey MAEd ’53 is one of WCU’s oldest alumni. Bailey attended Western Carolina Teachers College in the late 1940s, during a time of dramatic transformation on campus as soldiers returned from World War II. An Army Air Corps veteran of the 334th Bomb Squadron, he vowed at the end of the war never to fly again and kept his pledge until 2010, when he joined other veterans on an Honor Air flight to the World War II Memorial Monument in Washington, D.C. Bailey taught fifth and sixth grades at Old Fort Elementary School for many years. He lives at Mars Hill Retirement Center.

1958

Dee Thompson Smith of Cherokee and her four daughters will compete in the state finals table tennis competition of the North Carolina Senior Games in Raleigh in September. The family qualified for the finals during games held in May at the Jackson County Recreation Center. Smith’s daughters are Jan Smith ’78, Kathi Littlejohn ’86, Laura Smith and Karla Reed. She taught physical education and elementary art at Cherokee Elementary School for 24 years.

1966
Jean Dowell, retired athletic director and longtime head women’s basketball coach at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, Ohio, has released an album of vocal recordings, “A Place Way Back in Time.” The album was recorded and produced with Cincinnati musician Mike Oberst. Dowell is a former star women’s basketball player at WCU. A member of WCU’s Athletics Hall of Fame, she averaged 30 points a game in 1965-66 for the university’s first nationally affiliated women’s team.

1974

Lanny Peters, pastor of Oakhurst Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia, retired in April after serving for 28 years. A native of Lexington, Peters was formerly a teacher and counselor in North Carolina schools. He earned his master of divinity degree at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and doctorate of divinity at Columbia Theological Seminary.

1976

Brenda Kay Ledford MAEd ’79 received the Paul Green Multimedia Award from the N.C. Society of Historians for her blog, “Blue Ridge Poet.” Ledford was honored for her efforts to collect and preserve Appalachian history.

1977

The National Football League’s Baltimore Ravens hired Joe D’Alessandris MAEd ’79 in January as offensive line coach. D’Alessandris also has coached in the NFL for the Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers. He was a three-year starting guard on WCU’s men’s basketball team, where he was voted team captain and most valuable player his senior year. D’Alessandris immediately broke into coaching after graduate school and in his 40 seasons has worked at nine universities, the Canadian Football League and World League (later NFL Europe), in addition to the NFL.

After three decades of service to public radio audiences in Western North Carolina, Dick Kowal MME retired in April as music director of WCQS-FM radio. An accomplished musician who plays multiple instruments, Kowal joined the station in 1986 just as it was getting started. An Asheville native, he was selected for the Asheville Symphony as a young high school student and also played with the Howard Hanger Jazz Fantasy and the Appalachian Brass Quintet. He taught trumpet and audio production at UNC Asheville.  *

1979

Works by mixed-media artist Dick Roberts were on exhibit at Acme Art Studios in Wilmington in January. Roberts was formerly a curator of exhibits at the Science Museum of Charlotte (now Discovery Place).

1980

A book authored by Larry Clark EdS of Morganton won a historical book award from the N.C. Society of Historians. Clark’s book, “Tawodi: Cherokee of the Blue Mountains Confront Spanish Conquistadors,” also was nominated for the Sir Walter Raleigh award for fiction and the Clark Cox historical fiction award. “The Last Conquistadors,” another historical work by Clark, also was nominated for literary awards. Clark is dean emeritus of Western Piedmont Community College.

1981

The N.C. Coastal Federation honored Laura Jane Richardson Price MAT ’03 of Morehead City with the 2016 Pelican Award for her contributions as a volunteer. Price’s activities for the federation range from bagging oyster shells and planting marsh grasses to weeding vegetables and removing marine debris from coastal waters.

1982

Kevin Johnson of Mooresville retired after a career of 30 years in the Iredell-Statesville school system teaching physical education at all levels, from elementary through high school. Johnson continues to serve as a substitute teacher and works for Pro Skills Basketball Select, a youth basketball development organization.

1983

Longtime South Carolina graphic designer Gil Shuler was featured in a story in the Charleston Post and Courier in November 2016 about his work to create new visual identities for many of the city’s commercial, municipal and nonprofit enterprises. His business, Gil Shuler Graphic Design, was described as the center of Charleston’s design community.

1984

Derrick Harding MA ’85 of Miami, Florida, has published a memoir of his experiences since being diagnosed with acute leukemia. Harding’s book, “Two Years Journey, the Rise from Leukemia and Aneurysm to the Opportunity of a Lifetime: Healed Survivor,” chronicles his hospitalization and the solace he found in his religious faith. He is a native of Hanover, Jamaica.

1986

Jeff Coghill MA co-edited a book, “Developing Librarian Competencies for the Digital Age,” with Roger G. Russell. Coghill serves as director of the Eastern Area Health Education Center Library Services and outreach librarian at East Carolina University’s William E. Laupus Health Sciences Library.

The Weslaco (Texas) Area Chamber of Commerce named Doug Croft its president and chief executive officer. A native of Louisiana who also has lived in Virginia and Indiana, Croft served as head of the Thomasville Area Chamber of Commerce in North Carolina for 27 years.

Rebecca “Becky” Garland MPA ’16 has been named Graham County manager. As the county’s chief financial officer since 2009, Garland won praise for her work managing the budget, which enabled the county to purchase a new building last year with a cash surplus in the general fund. At WCU, Garland achieved an exceptional academic record, graduating from her bachelor’s and master’s programs with a perfect 4.0 GPA.

Former Catamount football player David Wagner is the top prosecutor for South Carolina’s 10th Judicial District, which includes Anderson and Oconee counties. Wagner took office as the district’s solicitor in January following a successful bid in the November 2016 elections. A native of Greenville, South Carolina, he earned his law degree at the University of South Carolina.

1987

The name of the accounting firm where Mike Crawford is employed as chief operating officer was incorrect in the winter 2017 edition of this magazine. The correct name of Crawford’s firm is Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP of Asheville.

Foy Jenkins II, previously special operations chief for the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department, has returned to North Carolina to become fire chief for the town of Morrisville. Jenkins, who has more than 34 years of experience as a firefighter, is originally from New Bern.

Scott Thomas of Sanger, Texas, was recently promoted to federal coordinating officer with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Thomas has responsibilities for federal resources and programs during national emergencies and major disaster declarations. He joined FEMA in 2010 after retiring from the U.S. Army.

1988

A group of senior citizens created a large mural at Brookdale Eden senior living community depicting a beach scene, under the direction of Elizabeth Boles, president of the Fine Arts Festival Association of Rockingham County. Boles teaches art classes for seniors living in long-term care facilities. She has painted 59 murals in North and South Carolina and Virginia.

1991

Chip Chiappini was one of 821 financial advisers in the U.S. and Canada selected by Edward Jones in May to attend the annual leaders’ conference hosted by the company in St. Louis, Missouri. Chiappini, now in his 24th year as a financial adviser, works in the Asheville office of Edward Jones.

Clay Cox, a member of the Georgia House of Representatives from the 108th District, hosted visitors from WCU in March at the Georgia state house. The event was a job-shadowing day for students sponsored by the Alumni Association. Cox previously served in the legislature as a representative for District 102.

1993

Laura B. Leatherwood MS ’96 EdD ’07 is the new president of Blue Ridge Community College. Leatherwood, previously vice president of student services at Haywood Community College, began her duties on July 1. While at HCC, Leatherwood also served as the executive director of the college’s foundation, director of institutional advancement and executive director of continuing and adult education. She was named vice president at HCC in 2011.

1994

Danell Arnold Moses MAEd ’00 has been promoted to dean of career technologies at Southwestern Community College in Sylva. Moses previously was a faculty member in the business department. She also serves as vice mayor of Webster, where she lives with her husband Brad Moses ’93 MBA ’96.

1995

Kimberly Gold MBA is the new president of Robeson Community College in Lumberton. Gold, who earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her doctorate at Appalachian State University, was previously executive vice president and chief academic officer at Isothermal Community College in Spindale.

Carson-Newman University selected Jennifer Hall MA to receive its Distinguished Faculty Award, the university’s highest faculty honor. Hall, a professor in the English department, joined the faculty in 1995. She also serves as director of the Appalachian Cultural Center.

1996

Clyde Simmons, formerly an All-American on WCU’s football team and a National Football League veteran, has been named defensive line coach of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns. A Wilmington native, Simmons previously held the position with the Los Angeles Rams for five seasons. Before joining the coaching ranks, he played in the NFL for 15 years, beginning in 1986 when he left WCU to join the Philadelphia Eagles. Simmons returned to WCU to complete his degree in 1996. He is a member of the WCU Athletics Hall of Fame.

1997

Samantha Hyatt Cabe of Chapel Hill was elected in November as district court judge for District 15B, serving Chatham and Orange counties. An attorney for 16 years, Cabe has represented clients in district court in child welfare, family law, juvenile delinquency, criminal/traffic and general civic matters. She is married to Drew Cabe ’98.

Joseph Hefner, assistant professor at Michigan State University, is associate editor of a new journal, Forensic Anthropology, to be published by the University of Florida Press beginning in 2018. The journal’s editor-in-chief is Nicholas Passalacqua, WCU assistant professor of anthropology and sociology. The journal has an international editorial board and is devoted to the advancement of science and professional development in forensic anthropology and forensic archaeology.

Robin Parton Pate is serving in the second year of a two-year term as president of the WCU Alumni Association. Pate is head of communications at the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation in Knoxville, Tennessee.

1998

Ed Foster of Greensboro is studying in the MFA program in documentary film at Wake Forest University.
Matthew Haney MSA ’10 was named principal at Etowah Elementary School in March. Haney previously was the assistant principal at Flat Rock Middle School. He has taught, coached and held administrative roles in public schools in Western North Carolina since 1999, serving in Buncombe, Haywood and Henderson counties.

2000

Vincent Castano MA has been promoted to dean of institutional effectiveness at Fayetteville Technical Community College. Castano served as the department’s director for the past seven years. He previously was director of student services at Central Carolina Community College in Sanford.

Caroline Wilson Daily is serving as vice chair of North Carolina’s Safer Schools Task Force. Daily was appointed by former Gov. Pat McCrory. An eighth-grade teacher at Riverwood Middle School in Clayton, she developed the curriculum for a character education program known as the Student Tutoring and Mentoring Program that is being used in schools.

2002

Crystal Olson has a new job as clinical project leader at R.J. Reynolds in Winston-Salem. Olson designs clinical trials with a goal of helping smokers transition to lower risk tobacco products or quit smoking altogether. She previously was a clinical research associate for Medpace, the Cincinnati-based clinical research organization, and was a finalist in the 2017 PharmaTimes clinical research associate of the year competition. Olson completed the Boston Marathon in April, a race she ran to raise funds for the American Liver Foundation.

2003

Erin Danielle Anderson Fox was selected as teacher of the year for South Carolina. Fox teaches English and coaches the girls’ cross-country team at Gaffney Senior High School. As 2018 teacher of the year, Fox will serve as a roving ambassador and provide mentoring, give speeches, work with Teacher Cadets and Teaching Fellows and lead a statewide teacher forum. She received a $25,000 cash prize and will have the use of a new BMW to drive during her award year.

Former Catamount football player Mitch Hall and his wife, Carrie, have a 3-year-old son and a new baby daughter, born Oct. 4, 2016. Hall is assistant football coach at Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina.

James Hogan joined Mitchell Community College in Statesville in January as vice president for advancement, with responsibilities for endowment, fundraising and planned giving, alumni relations, and public relations and marketing. Hogan previously served as a major gifts officer at Davidson College. A Statesville native, he previously taught high school English in the Iredell-Statesville school system.

2005

Jennifer Gordon MAEd ’08 is working hard to transform a primary school in a rural farming community in the Blue Mountains of Saint Andrew Parish in Jamaica. Gordon, principal of Woodford Primary and Infant School since 2015, organized a successful literary fair and began seeking corporate sponsors for the school. “We have students who are bright and just want that opportunity to excel, so I am imploring organizations and individuals to do a little bit more – to come out of their comfort zone in the cities and urban areas and come up to the hills, because schools like ours are waiting and ready,” Gordon told the Jamaican Information Service News.

Durham attorney Brandon Robinson MA ’10 has been elected chair of the WCU Board of Visitors. Robinson, a former recipient of the WCU Young Alumnus Award, practices in the areas of constitutional law, real estate and real property, wills and trusts, and corporation and nonprofit law. The board elected Lisa Hill of Apopka, Florida, to serve as vice chair. Hill, who attended WCU from 1981 until 1983, is president of Long Farms and co-owner of Southern Hill Farms with her husband, David Hill ’83. The 30-member Board of Visitors was established in 2014 to function as an advisory board to the chancellor.

Bill Vespasian MAEd, vice president of business and finance at Tri-County Community College, is active in a variety of community projects in the Murphy area. Vespasian serves on the board of directors of Hiwassee Valley Pool and Wellness Center, the United Way of Cherokee and Clay counties, First United Methodist Church Foundation, Industrial Opportunities Inc., Murphy Shrine Club and Cherokee Lodge 146.

2006

Carrie Vickery was sworn in as Forsyth County District Court judge in January. A Rutherford County native, Vickery won the judgeship in the November 2016 elections. She earned her law degree from Elon University and joined Holton Law Firm in Winston-Salem in 2009.

Rachel McMahan MAEd has retired from teaching after 31 years in the classroom. McMahan, a Black Mountain native, spent her entire career teaching kindergarten through fifth grade in the Owen district’s elementary schools.

2007

Matt Dietrich has moved to Bozeman, Montana, to accept the position of production manager for Simms Fishing Products. Established in 1980, Simms manufactures waders, outerwear and technical fishing apparel at its facility
in Bozeman.

Laura Hensley, a teacher in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District of Seward, Alaska, was a participant in Miami University’s global field course held in Belize in the summer of 2016. Hensley studied coral reefs and wildlife and learned about community efforts to sustain them.

Patrick Kelly MPA ’09 of Sanford finished first out of eight candidates in the November 2016 elections for Lee County School Board. The board then elected him as vice chairman. Kelly is assistant director of student outreach at Central Carolina Community College and serves as an adjunct instructor of political science.

Kyle McCurry MBA ’11, director of media relations at Warren Wilson College, led a professional development opportunity in April for a group of student videographers. McCurry took the students to the Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia, where they worked on NASCAR’s green initiative project, spent time at Fox Sports and met NASCAR drivers. Prior to joining Warren Wilson, McCurry was a reporter for Fox Television in Charlotte, where he covered racing.

Ben Cutler has been named one of North Carolina’s emerging poets and selected for mentorship in the 2017 Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poetry Series. Cutler teaches English and creative writing at Swain County High School in Bryson City. His mentor for the year is Pat Riviere-Seel of Asheville, author of two prize-winning poetry chapbooks.

2008

Singer-songwriter Matt Williams of Asheville was a featured violinist and received a writing credit for his work in “Infinity Plus One,” an album by Secret Agent 23 Skidoo that won a 2017 Grammy Award for best children’s album.

Former WCU point guard Eric Wilson is in his second year as assistant men’s basketball coach at North Carolina Central University in Durham. Wilson helped lead the team to 25 wins and the second trip to the NCAA basketball tournament in the school’s history. The Eagles lost to the University of California at Davis, 67-63, in the First Four in Dayton, Ohio. Wilson previously was assistant coach and director of basketball operations at WCU.

2009

Taylor Howard is a founding partner and owner of H&H Distillery of Fairview, maker of a dry rum, Hazel 63, that won bronze medals from both the American Craft Spirit Association and American Distilling Institute.

Brenda Mills MPA, economic development specialist for the city of Asheville, was honored for her contributions during the YWCA Stand Against Racism program held April 30. The Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Asheville and Buncombe County and the residents’ council of the Asheville Housing Authority sponsored the program. Mills promotes minority business development and is an active community volunteer.

2010

Cole Bowen and wife Brittney are owners of a company that salvages old houses, barns, buildings and household junk and turns the items into furniture and home decor. Their company, Carolina Chic Home Decor and Salvage of Gibsonville, has items available online and at shops in Rural Hall, New Bern and Gibsonville.

Heather Swayne Klipa MAT ’12 was named head girls’ basketball coach at Smoky Mountain High School in Sylva after serving for several years as the team’s assistant coach. Klipa, who played guard on the WCU women’s basketball team, is married to Tyler Klipa ’16, who teaches physical education and is the strength coach at Smoky Mountain.

2011

Former WCU football defensive back Brett Allen is a special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration. Allen is stationed in Washington, D.C., where he conducts criminal investigations. A graduate of the DEA Academy in Quantico, Virginia, he previously was a police officer for the city of North Charleston (South Carolina) and served in the drug interdiction unit and on the riot and SWAT teams.

Logan Sherrill is the new 11 p.m. weekday anchor at WDBJ-7 television station in Roanoke, Virginia. Sherrill previously was at Fox 46 in Charlotte.

2012

Brad Bassinger MBA, Clinton Lawing MBA and Jeremy Balog ME ’13 are working together in an online business, UsedEquipmentGuide.com. The site allows buyers of used construction equipment, agricultural equipment, cranes, on-highway trucks, lift trucks, industrial engines and power generation equipment to see the offerings of many websites in a single search. The guide was in the development stages for two years under Balog’s leadership.

2013

Alex Edwards MS has joined the middle school faculty of Tate’s School, a private school located in Knoxville, Tennessee, as instructor of science. Edwards is pursuing his doctoral degree in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Tennessee.

The New Hanover Regional Medical Center honored Eric Freeman in February for his longtime commitment to the care of trauma patients. Freeman, director of the emergency medical services program at Robeson Community College, received the Mike Law Award of Distinction. Freeman has a long history as a first responder and joined the Prospect Fire Department as a volunteer when he was in high school. He started the emergency medical technician program at the Robeson County Public Schools’ career center.

2014

Travis Allen MPA ’16 was named assistant to the county manager of Scotland County in January. As a graduate assistant at WCU, Allen conducted research on projects related to North Carolina public policy issues. He previously was a right-of-way supervisor for Cherokee Clearing Inc. of Murphy.

Franklin native Tyler Cook has written a new book, “Vigilante,” the second in his fantasy adventure series that began with “Aluria,” released in 2016. Cook also wrote “The One” in 2015 and “A Guide to Historic Dillsboro” in 2014.

Kayla Myers McMahan is the new volleyball coach at Swain County High School in Bryson City. McMahan, who served as assistant coach last year, was formerly a star athlete at Swain High, where she played on the 2008 state championship volleyball team and the state runner-up softball team.

2016

Rhett Harrelson has been named head coach of boys’ basketball at Enterprise (Alabama) High School. Harrelson, a 2012 graduate of the school, is believed to be the top scorer in the school’s basketball history. He also was a standout basketball player at WCU and served as team captain during his senior year.

Connor Kick joined the broadcast team at WNCT “9 On Your Side” television station in Greenville in February as a reporter and digital journalist. A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Kick was a member of WCU’s Pride of the Mountains Marching Band and had his own campus radio show, “Inside the Pride.” He finds himself working alongside fellow 2016 alumnus Brandon Truitt.

Western North Carolina pro wrestler Trent Weatherman, known in the ring as “Tracer X,” was featured in a WCQS public radio program about wrestling’s popularity in the mountains.
A middleweight wrestler who has achieved several titles, Weatherman aspires to be picked up by World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. His interview with WCQS aired on March 1.

Ragan Whitlock of Newnan, Georgia, has been named editor of Southern Fly Fishing Magazine, an online bimonthly publication that focuses on the sport of kayak fishing in the South. At 22 years old, Whitlock is the magazine’s youngest staff member. An avid fly fisherman and licensed fishing guide, he previously was the assistant editor of Southern Trout Magazine.