An Asheville native who is a co-owner of the Greensboro Grasshoppers minor league baseball team has stepped up to the plate on behalf of his college alma mater through financial contributions that have enabled Western Carolina University to create an endowed professorship in the field of business education.
Wesley R. Elingburg, who graduated summa cum laude (with highest honors) from Western in 1978 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and accounting before embarking on a successful business career, recently made the final contribution in a series of gifts totaling $250,000.
The University of North Carolina Board of Governors at its August meeting approved WCU’s request for $250,000 through a program initiated by the General Assembly to encourage private support of public institutions of higher education. The matching funds make it possible for Western to create the $500,000 Wesley R. Elingburg Distinguished Professorship in Business Innovation.
Elingburg, who recently retired from the Burlington-based Laboratory Corp. of America, said he made the contribution to Western out of a desire to give something back to a university that he credits for much of his success in his career and life.
“I will forever be grateful for the foundation of education that Western Carolina provided me,” Elingburg said. “To give back to the institution is my way of saying thanks. The professorship will benefit many students in the future and will help provide them with a similarly solid foundation.”
The professorship will enable the university to recruit a nationally recognized expert in a business discipline to join the faculty of the College of Business. The professor will work closely with WCU’s undergraduate and graduate programs in entrepreneurship, including a master’s degree program that was named best in the nation in 2005 – just two years after its inception.
“The generous gifts from Wes to the university will have a significant and lasting impact on academic quality and will substantially strengthen Western’s future,” WCU Chancellor John W. Bardo said. “It is only through the contributions of alumni, supporters and friends that the university will be able to continue to move forward. Thanks to gifts such as those from Wes Elingburg, we can build upon our tradition of academic excellence by attracting some of the nation’s top scholars to our faculty to share their knowledge and expertise with our students.”
Upon graduation from WCU in 1978, Elingburg went to work for the accounting firm Peat Marwick Mitchell (which would later become KMPG), where one of his audit clients was Roche Biomedical Labs, a wholly owned subsidiary of pharmaceutical giant Hoffman LaRoche Inc. After two years, Roche Biomedical offered him a position in its corporate finance office.
The company later became Laboratory Corp. of America, also known as LabCorp, a Standard & Poor’s 500 company that was a pioneer in commercializing new diagnostic technologies, the first in its industry to embrace genomic testing and the second-largest medical testing company in the nation. The company currently has revenues in excess of $3 billion and employs 25,000 people nationwide.
Elingburg retired in June 2005 after 25 years with the company, including the last eight as its chief financial officer. He lives in Greensboro with his wife, Cathy, and son, Nolan, a senior at Greensboro Day School. He serves on the board of trustees at Greensboro Day School, and also is a member of the board of trustees at Elon University, serving on several finance-related committees at both institutions. He also serves on the board of directors for Hospice of Alamance and Caswell counties.
Now that he has retired from the world of corporate finance, Elingburg is finding that he has a little more time to spend on the golf course and at the ballpark in Greensboro, keeping tabs on the team he co-owns and on the sport that loves. An avid basketball and baseball player at Asheville’s T.C. Roberson High School, where he graduated in 1974, he arrived at Western with dreams of playing baseball with the Catamounts. He earned a spot on the junior varsity team during his freshman year, but decided to hit the books instead of hitting grounders.
“Although my playing days came to end, my love for baseball and for Western Carolina has never ended,” said Elingburg, whose Greensboro Grasshoppers are an affiliate of the Florida Marlins organization.