Asheville residents to receive honorary doctorates at Western’s May 10 commencement

CULLOWHEE – Western Carolina University will bestow honorary doctorates on two current Asheville residents, and present a major alumni award to an Asheville native, as the university holds spring commencement exercises Saturday, May 10.

Commencement will begin at 2 p.m. in Ramsey Regional Activity Center. The ceremony is open to everyone and no tickets are required for admission. Approximately 725 students are candidates for undergraduate and graduate degrees, pending final examinations and review.

The recipients of honorary doctorates of humane letters, Adelaide Daniels Key and Stephen W. Woody, are former members of the university’s board of trustees. Alumni award winner Gerald D. Austin is a leadership development consultant who has refereed at professional football’s highest level – the Super Bowl.

Key, a humanitarian, philanthropist and business woman, has lived most of her life in Western North Carolina, making Asheville her home since 1987. A former owner of The Mountaineer Publishing Co. Inc. of Waynesville, she has served as a director for the Raleigh News & Observer, the newspaper founded by her grandfather, Josephus Daniels. In 1996, she provided funding for Western to establish the Adelaide Worth Daniels Distinguished Professorship in Special Education, the first endowed professorship in the institution’s history.

Woody was born in Atlanta, Ga., but his family moved to Western North Carolina when he was 2 years old and he considers Waynesville his hometown. Woody served as an officer in the U.S. Navy, and then began his business career, being affiliated with First Union National Bank of North Carolina for 23 years. Since 1989, he has served as executive vice president and chief operating officer for Mills Manufacturing Corp. of Asheville. Woody has served as a leader for many civic and charitable causes in the region.

The Alumni Award for Academic and Professional Achievement will be presented to Austin, an Asheville native and current resident of Greensboro who has carved out careers in the areas of school administration and leadership development, and on sports fields as a referee for the National Football League. Austin began his educational career as a teacher in Buncombe County schools and was associate superintendent of Guilford County schools from 1986 to 1993. Since then, he has been head of The Austin Group Inc., a leadership development company. He also has worked for 21 years as an NFL official and has been assigned to postseason games each of those years, including the 1990, 1997 and 2001 Super Bowls.

Chancellor John W. Bardo will preside over commencement and deliver the charge to the graduates. Richard J. Collings, vice chancellor for academic affairs, will preside over the presentation of degrees.

A required rehearsal for the graduates will be held from 9:30 to 11 a.m. the day of commencement in the main arena of the Ramsey Center. Graduating students will line up for the processional at 1:15 p.m. in the auxiliary gymnasium on the lower level, west side of Ramsey Center. The processional will begin at 2 p.m.

Receptions for graduates and their families and friends will be held in the Ramsey Center following commencement. Receptions for undergraduate students (recipients of bachelor’s degrees) will be held on the Ramsey Center concourse in a designated area for each college, while a reception for graduate students (master’s and doctoral degrees) will be held in the Ramsey auxiliary gymnasium.

Spectators should enter the Ramsey Center through one of four upper concourse doors. Those with physical disabilities should use the northeastern upper entrance, adjacent to the stands of E.J. Whitmire Stadium.

There will be no access to the arena floor during the awarding of diplomas. A commercial photographer will photograph each graduate as the diploma is awarded, and will be available to take pictures after the ceremony.

Faculty marshals for the commencement exercises are Julie Temple, chief; David Luginbuhl, vice chief; B.J. Dunlap; Karena Cooper-Duffy; and Gibbs Knotts.

Student marshals are Emily Adams, Nicole Beehner, Crystal Belch, Jennifer Belyeu, Tiffany Collyer, Lauren DeBord, Heather Ann Emmons, Amanda Farmer, Sarah Hanson, Megan Hazelrigg, Heather Kazmierski, Michael Massey, Lindsey Monteith, Rod Palmer, Amanda Sanders and Jessica Schwarz.