Retired faculty and staff group meets June 25

An organization for retired Western Carolina University faculty and staff members who want to stay in touch with each other and the university will host its inaugural event, a Dutch treat luncheon on campus, on Tuesday, June 25.

More than 90 people are expected and 70 have already registered to attend the luncheon, which will be held at the Peele Westmoreland Suhre Hartshorn Hospitality Room in Ramsey Regional Activity Center.

“It’s evident from the responses we’re receiving that faculty and staff want to be more connected and are coming in from distant locations to see their friends and to hear the chancellor,” said Gordon Mercer, professor emeritus of political science and a co-chair of the planning committee for the WCU Association of Retired Faculty and Staff.

Mercer and fellow co-chair Fred Hinson, former vice chancellor for academic affairs who retired in 2012, are pleased that word is spreading about the group as the committee continues efforts to reach as many retired faculty and staff as possible.

The June 25 event, which is open to any retired faculty or staff member and their spouses or partners, kicks off at 10:30 a.m. with a reception during which Bill Ogletree, head of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, will perform on guitar.

A brief information session will follow, and the luncheon will begin at noon. The Sicilian-style menu features a variety of pasta dishes, including chicken masala, linguine and other dishes as well as vegetarian options, salads, desserts and beverages.

Chancellor David O. Belcher then will present a state of the university-style update and answer questions.

The cost of $13 per person includes the reception, luncheon and gratuities. To make a reservation, mail a check payable to the association to: WCU Association of Retired Faculty and Staff, P.O. Box 1527, Cullowhee, N.C. 28723. The reservation deadline is Tuesday, June 18.

The association will be the first of its kind at WCU exclusively for retired faculty and staff members, said Mercer.

“Over the years, going to different places on campus and in particular at the Cullowhee Post Office, I would often see people who would mention that they were retired and wanted to do something for the university or help out on occasion, but there just didn’t seem to be anything in place to make that happen. So the seeds for this organization were planted in that way,” he said. “Meeting regularly keeps people linked to the university and aware of opportunities to contribute their skills in various ways, such as sharing their skills or providing a unique perspective”

Curtis Wood, professor emeritus of history who retired 13 years ago, said he still enjoys his connections with former colleagues. He joined the planning committee in its early stages to help get the association started.

“There is a growing community of retired faculty and staff, nearby and far away, who have a continuing interest in and affection for Western Carolina and most of us don’t see each other very often,” said Wood. “The new association offers the opportunity to reconnect, and with all that energy and talent out there I think interesting things will happen.”

Karen Nicholson feels the same way. She retired three years ago as executive assistant to the dean of the graduate school after a long career at WCU and is the secretary of the planning committee.

“I see this as an opportunity to connect with my fellow retirees for fellowship and continue the close relationships that we formed while working at WCU,” said Nicholson. “It’s also a chance to stay informed about all of the changes on campus, including the new building projects, new programs and events. Even though we’re retired, I think we all still feel very connected with WCU.”

Planning committee members researched similar organizations at other campuses and met with Chancellor David O. Belcher, who expressed strong support and enthusiasm for the initiative, said Mercer.

“He wants retired faculty and staff to stay in touch with the university, and he is very interested in an inventory of their skills and the areas they want to assist at the university,” said Mercer.

The chancellor mailed out a questionnaire committee members developed to assess interest in forming the WCU association, and more than 100 retired faculty and staff members responded. Top interests included getting together for Dutch treat meals and other social events, and receiving updates about the university and its various departments.

In addition to Mercer, Hinson, Wood and Nicholson, planning committee members are Pat Brown, Norma Clayton, Sharon Gammon, Richard Collings, Michael Dougherty, Jennie Hunter, Bill Kirwan, Christy Martin, Carol Martin-Vegue, Mary Louise Millwood, Anita Oser, Jane Perlmutter, Lloyd Phillips, Gary Smith, Jim Wallace, Steve White, Brenda Wike and Royce Woosley.

The planning committee has compiled a list of about 300 retired faculty and staff names through the preliminary survey, old university directories and contacting friends and former co-workers. Efforts to reach more retirees are continuing.

To add a name to the association’s mailing list or electronic listserve, contact Mercer at 828-369-2693 or Hinson at 828-293-5620.