Two alumni issue challenge to increase participation in ‘I Love WCU’ month

WCU students (from left) Eliza Hurst, Miranda Holman, Matthew Smart and Sara Franz get ready for an “I Love WCU” event for students set for Thursday, Feb. 1, at A.K. Hinds University Center.

With Valentine’s Day falling smackdab in the middle of the month, February is known as a time for love. That’s why the Office of Advancement at Western Carolina University is rolling out the second annual “I Love WCU” fundraising campaign throughout the month.

Last year’s inaugural “I Love WCU” month resulted in more than $175,000 in contributions from nearly 600 individual donors, including university faculty, staff and students and alumni, parents and friends.

For this year’s campaign, two WCU alumni are sweetening the deal to help increase the number of donors participating in the effort. Roland Johnson, a 1976 graduate who lives in Lexington, and 1979 graduate Kevin Vasquez of Naples, Florida, have issued a challenge and offered to match the first $50,000 contributed to the “I Love WCU” effort, as long as at least 750 people donate during that timeframe.

“Western Carolina is, without a doubt, the home of where dreams are made, with some of the most outstanding faculty, great students and great facilities. Part of what Kevin and I want to do is to ‘lead the way’ in paying it forward, to give back to the university,” said Johnson, chairman, chief executive officer and founder of Piedmont Pharmaceuticals of Greensboro

“Western Carolina itself is experiencing so much phenomenal success in recent years,” said Vasquez, former chairman, president and chief executive officer of Henry Schein Animal Health. “Roland and I were inspired to be an even bigger part of ‘I Love WCU’ by issuing this challenge.”

“I Love WCU” month will kick off Thursday, Feb. 1, with a campus event during which students can take selfies and fill out paper hearts expressing in their own words why they love WCU. Free “I Love WCU” T-shirts will be distributed, with hot chocolate and cookies available. The event is scheduled for 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. in the second floor lobby of A.K Hinds University Center.

A concurrent Faculty and Staff Giving Champions campaign also kicks off Feb. 1. “Volunteers will serve as department and college champions as we seek to drastically increase giving participation among faculty and staff,” said Stephanie Drum, assistant director of annual giving.

Faculty, staff, alumni and friends will be encouraged to visit the website to learn how to share their own personal stories about WCU though the university’s social media channels. The site also will include printable purple hearts, downloadable Valentine’s Day cards, an “I Love WCU” email signature and social media profile images.

A campus event for students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends to celebrate the results of the 2018 “I Love WCU” month is in the planning stages for Thursday, March 1.

The second annual “I Love WCU” month comes as WCU nears the public stage of its “Lead the Way” fundraising campaign, currently in the preliminary “leadership” stage.

For more information, contact Stephanie Drum at 828-227-2863 or