WCU to award honorary doctorate during Dec. 15 fall commencement

Western Carolina University will bestow a posthumous honorary doctorate upon a former chairman of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors as WCU holds fall commencement exercises at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, at the Ramsey Regional Activity Center.

An honorary doctorate of humane letters will be awarded to the late Benjamin S. Ruffin, a Durham native who was appointed to the Board of Governors in 1991. Ruffin became the first African-American to lead the UNC system’s governing body when he was elected its chairman in 1998. Considered to be a powerful advocate for higher education in the state, Ruffin was serving as chair emeritus of the board when he died in 2006.

The primary commencement address will be delivered by Cara Elizabeth Ward, a theatre and art major from Sylva. Ward enrolled at WCU in fall 2002, but left the university in fall 2005 to serve 11 months with the Army Reserves in Iraq. She returned to her studies at WCU this fall.

Commencement is open to everyone and no tickets are required for admission. Approximately 560 students are candidates for undergraduate and graduate degrees, pending final examinations and review.

WCU Chancellor John W. Bardo will preside over commencement and deliver the charge to the degree candidates.

Receptions for the degree candidates and their families and friends will be held in the Ramsey Center following commencement. Receptions for students from the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, Education and Allied Professions, and Health and Human Sciences will be held on the Ramsey Center concourse in a designated area for each college, while receptions for students from the Graduate School, the College of Fine and Performing Arts, and the Kimmel School of Construction Management and Technology will be held in the 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.