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The ‘Cullowhee idea’: Cullowhee institution traces evolution from a rural schoolhouse to regional powerhouse

coverIt’s August, freshman move-in day, and Western Carolina University is welcoming a new class of freshmen to campus. It’s what WCU Chancellor David Belcher calls a “huge day.”

“We’ve got students coming in right and left,” says Belcher. 

One of those students is Kailey Spencer. She plans to study forensics and is looking forward to the lab work. 

“I love the campus,” Spencer says. 

Dennis and Lori Spencer have traveled from Charlotte to bring their daughter to Cullowhee. It’s a pretty “huge day” for the Spencers. It’s also a pretty “huge day” for WCU in general — founded 125 years ago, the university is celebrating its quasquicentennial.

Over the past 125 years, the school in Cullowhee has taken many forms, from its humble beginnings to its ambitious present. While much has changed, “there’s a whole bunch,” as Belcher says, “that has remained constant.”

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“It’s just changed incredibly dramatically in some ways,” the chancellor says, “but I think the thing that sort of holds us together is that our fundamental mission has not changed, and that is to serve the educational needs of the western portion of the state.”



Journey to the 21st century: Two-room school transforms to major regional university

• Graduation and beyond: Local WCU alums reflect on university’s place in region

WCU: a timeline


You’re invited to join the party

Western Carolina University is opening the academic year by throwing itself a party in honor of the 125th anniversary of its founding, and all alumni, friends, students, faculty, staff and members of the surrounding community are invited to take part in the festivities.

Christened the Big Birthday Bash, the free event is scheduled from 4 until 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 26, on the A.K. Hinds University Center lawn and the adjoining Central Plaza. The afternoon will include a picnic on the lawn featuring barbecue, hamburgers, veggie burgers, hot dogs, watermelon, funnel cakes, deep-fried goodies, lemonade, tea and – of course – birthday cake.

For more information about the Aug. 26 Big Birthday Bash, 828.227.3033. For more information about other 125th anniversary events, visit

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