WCU to recognize graduating class, summer graduates during Dec. 14 commencement

Western Carolina University will hold commencement exercises Saturday, Dec. 14, to recognize its fall graduating class and a group of new WCU alumni who received degrees after this year’s summer school sessions.

The 2 p.m. ceremony at the Ramsey Regional Activity Center is open to everyone and no tickets are required for admission. Chancellor David O. Belcher will preside over commencement and deliver the charge to the fall semester degree candidates and summer graduates.

T'Shana Marie McClain

T’Shana Marie McClain

Graduating student T’Shana Marie McClain, a sociology and psychology major, will deliver the primary commencement address. Activities also will include the presentation of an honorary degree to Cullowhee poet Kathryn Stripling Byer, who served as North Carolina’s first female poet laureate from 2005 to 2009 and was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame last year.

WCU’s fall class includes about 700 students who currently are completing academic requirements to receive their degrees, and approximately 600 of those students will be participating in the ceremony. Another 195 WCU graduates who completed degree requirements during summer school and who already have been conferred degrees also will be donning caps and gowns for the event.

More than 500 of the graduating students and participating alumni will be wearing eco-friendly gowns they purchased at the WCU Bookstore. The gowns are made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic bottles and each one will keep an average of 23 plastic bottles out of landfills, according to the Virginia-based manufacturer, Oak Hall Cap & Gown.

“We realized the importance of the university’s sustainability initiative, and when we found out about this opportunity, we were thrilled to be able to participate in this effort,” said Pamela DeGraffenreid, director of Catamount Stores.

Kathryn Stripling Byer

Kathryn Stripling Byer

Lauren Bishop, WCU’s energy manager and chief sustainability officer, said the special gowns provide an additional opportunity for the graduating students and alumni to take pride in their accomplishments and in the university. “When they walk across the stage, they can truly be a part of the Catamount spirit to reduce our carbon paw print,” Bishop said.

For those students and alumni who wear the eco-friendly gowns and don’t want to hold onto them as a keepsake, recycling bins will be placed in the Ramsey Center and at the WCU Bookstore so the used gowns can be sent back to Oak Hall Cap & Gown for more recycling. The company works with vendors to turn the used gown fabric into other sustainable products, including down comforter material for pillows and blankets.

Individuals attending WCU’s commencement 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.

For more information about commencement, contact the WCU Registrar’s Office at 828-227-7216 or e-mail registrarsoffice@wcu.edu.