Welcome to the Spring 2019 WCU magazine. This last year has been full of exciting recognitions and awards, as well as challenges and opportunities to continue the forward and upward momentum of our great institution. The inspirational theme for this year is “Choose Great,” and it has been motivational for our students, faculty and staff. As an institution, we have chosen to be great, and that is reflected in the stories and updates that you will find in this edition of the WCU Magazine.
First, as you probably know, the University of North Carolina Board of Governors met in July to discuss our chancellor search, but did not take action on a candidate. That candidate later withdrew from consideration, and the board decided to put our search on hold while it conducted a review of the process for selecting chancellors across the system. Our search is now back underway, led by Board of Trustees Chair Patricia Kaemmerling ’71 and Vice Chair Bryant Kinney ’82. They and the rest of the search committee remain committed to the task of finding Western Carolina University’s next great leader.
In the meantime, I am fully present in the role of interim chancellor, dedicated to our shared goal of supporting the success of Western Carolina University and its students. It has taken all of our constituent groups – faculty and staff, alumni and friends – to help build WCU into what it is today. I know that, with your sustained engagement, your university will continue the incredible upward trajectory of recent years.
One of the most important activities underway in our ongoing efforts to move the university forward is the “Lead the Way” comprehensive fundraising campaign, inspired by our late chancellor, David O. Belcher. Under his leadership, WCU enjoyed unparalleled momentum in enrollment, recognition and reputation. Our academic programming is stronger than ever, and our student success metrics continue to climb.
Our “Lead the Way” campaign, with its focus on raising funds for scholarships and academic and programmatic support, will enable us to continue that progress. It will facilitate student success as we help them recognize their possibilities, inspire their determination, remove obstacles in their way and lead them toward better futures.
As you will see in this issue, we are approaching the finishing line in our effort to raise $60 million by this spring. Many members of the Catamount family have been stepping forward with transformational gifts that will make a tremendous difference in the lives of students for generations to come. It is my sincere hope that there is a story or two among these pages that inspires you to help us meet our ambitious goal and timeline.
For example, Dr. David Westling, WCU’s Adelaide Worth Daniels Distinguished Professor of Special Education, recently received one of the top honors presented by the UNC System – the Gov. James E. Holshouser Jr. Award for Excellence in Public Service. Dr. Westling has been an internationally recognized leader in special education for nearly 50 years, particularly concerning individuals with severe and profound disabilities.
His work with the University Participant Program for young adults with intellectual disabilities embodies the pillars of scholarship, engagement and service that make WCU a gem in the UNC System. Dr. Westling came to Cullowhee in 1997 to accept the first endowed distinguished professorship in WCU’s history, and now he has made history again as WCU’s first recipient of the Holshouser Award.
Speaking of making history, we will celebrate this fall the dedication of a new residence hall, a 600-bed facility that will bear the name of the first African-American student to enroll at WCU and among the first admitted to any of North Carolina’s all-white state institutions of higher education. That student, Levern Hamlin Allen, arrived in Cullowhee in the summer of 1957 seeking the post-secondary certification she needed for permanent employment in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System.
That was only three years after the historic Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision outlawing racial segregation in public education. The naming of Levern Hamlin Allen Hall recognizes the courage and grace of a quiet civil rights trailblazer who is an outstanding alumna and supporter of this university. It also serves as a proud declaration of WCU’s longstanding and ongoing commitment to inclusive excellence.
As you can see, these continue to be exciting times for your university. I urge you to remain engaged with this special place and to join us in strengthening and deepening our commitment to the education of our students and serving the needs of Western North Carolina – and beyond.