The A.K. Hinds University Center lawn and Central Plaza area of Western Carolina University, always a hub of campus activity, will be more abuzz than usual Monday, March 26, and Tuesday, March 27.
That’s when the recently revamped heart of the WCU campus will become the setting for two days of free, student-focused activities to help celebrate the installation of Chancellor David O. Belcher. The schedule of events includes musical performances, food, fun and games, a disc golf tournament and, on the other side of campus, a baseball game.
T.J. Eaves, president of WCU’s Student Government Association, encouraged his fellow students to turn out for activities to help celebrate the arrival of the university’s first new chancellor in 16 years.
“This is a unique opportunity for students to experience a memorable event in our university’s history. It is very rare for students to be able to say they experienced a chancellor’s installation, and it should not be something that is overlooked,” said Eaves, serving on a 30-person committee of faculty, staff and students and members of the surrounding community planning installation week events.
“Chancellor Belcher’s positive energy is completely contagious for anyone around him. Anyone who saw him in the middle of the student section at the Southern Conference men’s basketball championship game in Asheville earlier this month can attest to that,” he said. “I would like to see the students support him the same way that he supports us.”
The schedule for Monday, March 26, includes an event titled “The Fount-astic Festival” from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Central Plaza. The Catamount Singers and Electric Soul will perform beginning at 11 a.m.
Then, students, faculty, staff and community members are invited to witness the launching of a new WCU tradition, “Firing up the Cata-Fount,” as the water fountain at the plaza is turned on for the season at approximately 12:15 p.m., followed by a special surprise activity being organized by SGA.
The Belcher Open, a disc golf tournament open to all members of the community, will begin at 5 p.m. on the university disc golf course.
Meanwhile, a variety of off-campus events throughout the day March 26 are designed to bring students, faculty and staff into the neighboring towns of Sylva and Dillsboro, including special discounts with local businesses, the unveiling of a new mobile application for Dillsboro visitors, and an evening of regional storytellers at Sylva’s Jackson County Public Library.
The action returns to campus Tuesday, March 27, when “Lawn-gating” gets under way at 1 p.m. on the Hinds University Center lawn. The festival – with games, music and food – will feature the unveiling of Belcher’s signature flavor of ice cream at 1:30 p.m.
Lawn-gating will continue until 4 p.m., when the WCU Purple Thunder drum line will lead students and other members of the campus and surrounding communities to Hennon Stadium to watch the Catamounts take on Kennesaw State in baseball action. The first 200 fans who enter the stadium for the game will be given a voucher that will allow them to purchase a hot dog and a soft drink for $3. For baseball ticket information, visit catamountsports.com.
Pregame activities at the stadium will include the singing of the national anthem by Belcher’s wife, Susan Brummell Belcher, a classically trained vocalist, with the chancellor throwing out ceremonial first pitch.
Thirty minutes after the end of the baseball game, students are invited to join David Belcher in the theater of A.K. Hinds University Center for a free screening of one of his favorite movies, with complimentary popcorn.
Belcher will be installed as chancellor of Western Carolina during a traditional ceremony at 10 a.m. Thursday, March 29, capping a week of activities designed to highlight and celebrate the accomplishments of the university’s students, faculty, staff, alumni and community partners. Activities are centered on the theme “Defining Our Future in Pursuit of Distinction.”
The installation ceremony is the traditional academic ritual at which the chancellor takes the oath of office. The event is typically attended by UNC system officials, state legislators and other elected state and federal officials, academic delegates from other institutions across the nation and around the world, representatives of professional organizations and honor societies, and members of the campus and surrounding communities.
No state funds are being used for installation activities, which are paid for through private and corporate contributions.
For information and a complete schedule of events, visit the website installation.wcu.edu.