CULLOWHEE – Western Carolina University paid tribute Saturday, Oct. 18, to a Winston-Salem banking executive who recently completed an eventful term as chairman of the university’s board of trustees, to the president of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, and to a young Wake County attorney who donates his services to an organization for the developmentally disabled.
The university presented its Distinguished Service Award to Joseph D. Crocker, senior vice president for Wachovia Bank, who stepped down in June as chairman of Western’s board of trustees. A-B Tech’s K. Ray Bailey, recognized across the state as one of Western North Carolina’s most distinguished educators and public servants, received the Alumni Association’s Professional Achievement Award, while Raleigh lawyer Brian Edlin received the association’s Young Alumnus Award. Presentation of the awards was part of 2003 Homecoming activities during a morning ceremony in the Ramsey Regional Activity Center.
Crocker, a 1974 graduate of Western with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, joined Western’s board of trustees in 1995, and in 2001 he became the first African-American elected to serve as chairman of the board, Western Chancellor John W. Bardo said in presenting the award.
“During his tenure as chairman, Joe was an extremely active and vocal advocate on behalf of Western during a time of unprecedented growth and campus expansion,” Bardo said. “He was instrumental in helping win approval by The University of North Carolina Board of Governors of new degree programs in electrical engineering and computer engineering, offered jointly by Western and the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.”
Crocker, who stepped down June 30 after serving the maximum two four-year terms on the board, also has provided personal and corporate financial support to a wide variety of university initiatives, including a center for business-to-business professional sales training, CulloWHEE! ArtsFest, Mountain Heritage Day, Public Policy Institute, Patrons of Quality Scholarship Fund and construction of the Alumni Tower.
Bailey, recipient of the Alumni Association’s Professional Achievement Award, earned his master’s degree in educational administration from Western in 1970. President of A-B Tech since 1990, he joined the community college in 1966 as director of adult basic education. He is perceived by many of his colleagues as the most effective and outstanding president within the 58-member North Carolina community college system, Eric Powell, president of Western’s Alumni Association, said in presenting the award.
“In 2000, he secured an unprecedented gift of nearly 37 acres and three buildings containing 277,000 square feet of space from textile manufacturer BASF Corp. in Enka, the largest donation of property ever made to a community college in the nation,” Powell said. “Thanks to Ray’s efforts to acquire the property, the former manufacturing facility is being transformed into a biotechnology research facility, a small business incubator to assist fledgling entrepreneurs, and a corporate technology and training center.”
Edlin, recipient of the Young Alumnus Award, graduated from Western in 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and history. He went on to earn his law degree from Villanova University School of Law in May 2000, graduating in the top half of his class, and is now a member of the Raleigh firm of Jordan, Price, Wall, Gray, Jones and Carlton. He specializes in civil proceedings, with an emphasis on construction litigation, homeowners’ association law, commercial collections and insurance defense.
“In his young career, Brian has already been involved in several high-profile cases, including proceedings before the N.C. Court of Appeals and N.C. Supreme Court,” Billy Cooper, president-elect of the Alumni Association, said in presenting the award. “In his spare time, he serves on the clients rights committee for Support Works Inc., a nonprofit corporation that serves the needs of developmentally challenged young adults in the Raleigh-Durham area, and is coach of a Raleigh area youth football team.”