Western to award two honorary doctorates at May 8 commencement

CULLOWHEE – Western Carolina University will bestow honorary doctorates on a longtime dean and on a former chairman of its board of trustees, and present a major alumni award, as the university holds spring commencement exercises Saturday, May 8.

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 750 students are candidates for undergraduate and graduate degrees, pending final examinations and review.

Gurney E. Chambers

Gurney E. Chambers

An honorary doctorate of education will be presented to Gurney E. Chambers, who served as dean of Western’s College of Education and Allied Professions for 17 years before his retirement. An honorary doctorate of humane letters will be awarded to Joseph D. Crocker, an executive with Wachovia Bank and Western trustee for eight years. The Alumni Award for Academic and Professional Achievement will be given to Loretta P. Dodgen, who provides management consulting services from coast to coast through her company, Multiple Choice Inc.

A Wilkes County native, Chambers earned a bachelor’s degree at Western in 1961, and went on to earn master’s and doctoral degrees at George Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. He returned to Western as professor of education in 1967 and fulfilled many roles over the years, being named dean of the School of Education and Psychology (now the College of Education and Allied Professions) in 1981.

Under Chambers’ guidance, the college received approval from The University of North Carolina system for Western’s first doctoral-level degree program, the doctorate in educational leadership. He retired as dean in 1998 after serving Western as a teacher and teacher educator for more than 30 years.

Joseph D. Crocker

Joseph D. Crocker

Crocker, a native of Kings Mountain, earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration at Western in 1974 and completed the North Carolina School of Banking at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He then began a business career that led him to Wachovia Bank in 1988. Crocker currently serves as senior vice president and community affairs manager for Wachovia, based out of Winston-Salem.

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors in 1995 appointed Crocker to a four-year term on the board of trustees. He was appointed to a second four-year term, and in 2001 became the first African-American elected to serve as chairman of the board.

Loretta P. Dodgen

Loretta P. Dodgen

Dodgen earned a bachelor’s degree at Western in 1972, graduating cum laude (with honors). She worked as an educator and administrator in the Gaston County school system for 14 years before co-founding Multiple Choice Inc., where she now provides leadership development, strategic planning, and change management for clients ranging from non-profit organizations, government agencies and small businesses to Fortune 100 corporations.

Chancellor John W. Bardo will preside over commencement and deliver the charge to the graduates. Robert A. Vartabedian, interim 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 David Luginbuhl, chief; Karena Cooper-Duffy, vice chief; Judy Mallory; Hollye Moss; and Gibbs Knotts.