CULLOWHEE – A native of Rosman, N.C. and a longtime community volunteer, both with extensive records of public service, were awarded honorary doctorates while a noted public education administrator received a major alumni award as Western Carolina University held spring commencement exercises Saturday, May 7.
Western Chancellor John W. Bardo recognized and applauded approximately 840 candidates for graduate and undergraduate degrees and challenged them to continue their education throughout their lives.
Honorary doctorates of humane letters were bestowed upon Blanton J. Whitmire and Margaret S. “Peg” Whitmire, a husband and wife team noted for their gifts to education, environmental concerns, and urban beautification in St. Louis, MO. The Alumni Award for Academic and Professional Achievement was presented to James F. Causby, who earned three degrees at Western, an education degree from Appalachian State, and a doctorate in education administration from UNC-Greensboro and who currently serves as executive director of the North Carolina Association of School Administrators.
Chancellor Bardo praised Blanton Whitmire as a “businessman, entrepreneur, pioneer environmentalist, advocate and benefactor of education,” noting that his company’s insect control technique is “today considered the world’s most environmentally safe and effective method of applying insecticides indoors.” Dr. Bardo recognized Peg Whitmire’s work with an urban renewal organization, “which has transformed neglected and abandoned lots in St. Louis into productive gardens and beautifully landscaped areas.” Longtime benefactors of education, the Whitmires provided funding in 1997 for the establishment of an endowed professorship in environmental sciences at Western.
In response to the Chancellor’s remarks, Blanton Whitmire congratulated this year’s class of graduates and reminded them that care for the environment is the most important issue they all will have to deal with. Peg Whitmire told them she was a child of the Depression and never had a chance to go to college. She challenged students to put their knowledge to good use in their fields of study and in the world around them.
Dr. Causby, winner of this year’s Alumni Award for Academic and Professional Achievement, has carved out a distinguished career in education, having served as an elementary and middle grades teacher; principal of elementary, middle and high schools; and school superintendent in Johnston, Polk and Swain counties. A Marion native, Causby currently serves as executive director of the 7,000-member North Carolina Association of School Administrators and has won numerous awards for his outstanding work in public school administration.
He told the commencement crowd that he was happy to share such an important event in their lives. “Without the education I got here,” he said, “I would not have been able to achieve what I have.” “In the years to come,” he said “you will recognize the value and high quality of the education you have received. Remember that, and support Western in the future.”
In his charge to this year’s candidates for graduation, Chancellor Bardo recognized four graduating seniors who contributed significantly to the Lady Catamount’s victory in the Southern Conference Basketball Championship earlier this year. And he congratulated a mother and daughter, Vickie and Jessica Parker, who commuted from Cherokee to study together and earn their degrees in elementary education at Western.
For the entire Class of ’05, Dr. Bardo pointed out that their years at Western have been marked with significant changes, including higher academic standards, growing enrollment, new construction on buildings and roads, and the rapid enhancement of Western’s residential Honors College which now exceeds the standards of most prestigious private colleges in the state.
A complete list of graduates will be announced following the posting of grades from final examinations.