Athletics, smathletics; new chancellor will care about academics, too

Athletics won’t trump academics in the selection of a chancellor for Western Carolina University, committee members charged with hiring a new top leader assured worried professors this week.

“I don’t want you to be concerned,” said Jerry Baker, head of Baker and Associates, a search firm being paid $75,000 to guide the 16-member selection committee through the process. “We won’t let any one voice out shout the others.”

The comments came at the outset of a four-hour public comment session organized by the selection committee. Faculty, staff, students and alumni, community members and supporters of intercollegiate athletics were each given hour-long slots.

Vicki Szabo, a member of the history department, said recent news coverage of the search had given her and others the impression athletics might dominate, or play a larger role than merited, in the selection.

Committee members were dismissive of the news coverage in question, published recently in the Asheville Citizen-Times.

“I’d take it for whatever it’s worth at face value, it is the Asheville Citizen-Times,” said Kenny Messer, a WCU alum and past president of the Catamount Club, which helps raise money for WCU athletics.

Charles Worley, an Asheville lawyer and former mayor of that city who, in his time, has been on the receiving end of less-than-flattering coverage (which is not the same as less-than-accurate coverage), saw an opportunity to educate listeners regarding media coverage in general and newspapers in particular.

“You know how newspapers do,” Worley said in an ominous tone of voice. “They tend to pick on things and take it out of context.”

After that, chairman Steve Warren opted for a gentler approach, reminding those in the audience — and possibly his selection committee — there must be a balance struck in the hiring of a replacement for Chancellor John Bardo, who is retiring next summer after more than 15 years.

“Athletics plays a role at this university, and the new chancellor needs to understand this. And everybody else,” Warren said, before quickly adding that academics would of course remain a top priority.

Debate about the role WCU plays in the region it serves also surfaced. Many professors and staff members emphasized a unique ability of the university to help Western North Carolina and its people. By preserving the culture and environment, saving the ecosystems, and so on — plus providing “the children of the mountains” with an opportunity to receive a quality higher education near home. Some, however, spoke to the need for WCU to be visible on a national, even international scale, and to focus on being a topflight academic institution.

Fred Hinson, senior associate vice chancellor of enrollment management, has been at the university for 45 years. He spoke against hiring someone who needed on-the-job-training. WCU, along with other universities in the UNC system, are facing the prospect of draconian budget cuts.

“We’re at a stage here at the university … (where we) need experience,” Hinson said. “We don’t need a lawyer or a business leader at this time.”

Several faculty and staff members discussed problems with morale. They said a chancellor, in these hard times (low salaries in general, no pay raises in several years, a poor retention rate, key leadership positions unfilled, potentially massive budget cuts looming) must recognize and reward staff in other ways. Recognizing their hard work and dedication, allowing professionals to be professionals, and such intangibles were mentioned.

David Claxton, in WCU’s department of health, physical education and recreation, told selection committee members faculty and staff members have generally had a “great relationship” with the university’s provost (that post is currently open, too).

Claxton added, “sometimes it has been harder to communicate with our chancellor.”


Want to be heard?

There is a questionnaire posted on the Western Carolina University search committee website: Anyone can participate. This allows for comment on the “state of the university,” preferred priorities of the chancellorship, suggested background of candidates and other pertinent issues.

The next meeting of the selection committee is scheduled for 3 p.m. Monday, Dec. 6, in the Hospitality Room of the Ramsey Center. Meetings are open to the public, and can be closed only for reasons specified in the state’s Open Meetings Law.

Putting a rose in his cap: Bob Buckner’s final season as WCU marching band director ends with trip to Parade of Roses

By Brittney Burns • SMN Intern

While preparing Western Carolina University’s Pride of the Mountains marching band for their debut appearance in the 2011 Tournament of Roses Parade, band director Bob Buckner and wife — band auxiliary coordinator Donna — announced their retirement.   

Buckner, a Waynesville resident, is serving his 20th year as WCU’s marching band director. Although Buckner and his wife, who joined the band family the year after her husband, will officially step down in June, they both plan to stay involved with the band.

“We want to retire while we are still in good health and able to still do the things we want to,” said Buckner. “I still plan to come back and help the new director in any way I can. I just don’t want to have to work every day.”

Alyssa Pierce, a WCU junior and marimba player for the Front Ensemble, is saddened by Buckner’s announcement.

“We are all sad to see Bob leave, but we know he will always be a part of this band,” said Pierce. “I am confident that he will remain an inspiration to us and to whoever comes to lead the next era of the Pride of the Mountains.”

The Buckners have plenty to keep them busy once they retire. One of the things they look forward to the most is being able to spend more time with their grandchildren.

“We have three grandchildren who live right here in Sylva,” said Buckner. “Most people retire to travel the world, but we have been lucky enough to have already traveled all over the world. I just want to hang around WCU with my family.”

Buckner and his wife also plan to spend retirement relaxing and working on their golf games, a hobby they both enjoy.

Both Buckner and his wife have built an empire around the Pride of the Mountains. During Donna Buckner’s time with the band she has not only acted as the auxiliary coordinator while still being able to be a substitute teacher, she founded the color guard as well as the dance team. Donna Buckner started the Catamount color guard during her first year working with the band. It began with 12 girls and has grown to a squad of 36 women who play an integral part in the Pride of the Mountains performances. She has coached girls on the dance team who have gone on to perform for NFL professional teams such as the Redskins, Falcons and Panthers.

Buckner’s reign as director is full of milestones. One of his most notable accomplishments is that there are currently more than 100 active band directors in North Carolina who are WCU graduates.

“I think the number of active band directors who are former Catamounts speaks volumes not only about the marching band, but about Western’s music program in general,” Buckner said.  

One of Buckner’s proudest accomplishments while working at WCU came in 2009.

“Receiving the Sudler trophy was a really big deal for our band; it’s the highest honor possible,” said Buckner. “It says a lot considering the size of school we are and highlights how good we really are.”

The most recent accomplishment the band has experienced is one they are still preparing for. On Dec. 30 of this year, the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band will join the country’s most talented bands in the 2011 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif.

Although excited to participate in this prestigious event, Bucker was not surprised.

“I was sitting at home writing the last show of September (of last year) when I first got the call; I was extremely excited, but I was kind of expecting it,” said Buckner. “We had just won the Sudler trophy and are an extremely talented band.”

Band member Stephen Eller was overwhelmed with the news about the Tournament of Roses Parade.

“When we were first told about the Rose Parade, I thought Bob was joking. Marching that day will be one of the highest honors this band has had thus far, and I am proud and excited to be a part of it,” said Eller.

After getting over the initial excitement, Buckner quickly began preparing the band for the performance. The first thing the band did was revise the 2010 pregame show to include the tune they will perform for the “TV Corner” portion of the parade. This allows them to incorporate practice for the performance without interfering with the plans that were already in play for football season.

The theme for this year’s parade is “Building dreams, friendships, and memories.” Instead of doing the predictable and choosing music to highlight the theme, Buckner wanted to approach it with a “hands on” idea.   Assistant Director Matt Henley contacted a southern California, all horn band that mixes Brazilian, rock, country and Cuban flavors to develop their own unique sound, and made arrangements for WCU’s band to perform the band’s tunes at the second part of the Tournament of Roses BandFest.

“When they hear a 390-member strong band play their music — we are going to blow them away.” The two bands will perform together at BandFest, really embracing the theme of this year’s Rose Parade.

With the big day approaching quickly, the band is attentively working to straighten out all the last-minute details of the trip. The band’s staff coordinator, Rachel Rimmer, has worked with travel agents to single-handedly scheduled flights for each band member (totaling 396 people).

“Working out the logistics has been difficult,” said Buckner, “Rachel has been great handling all the travel. Believe it or not, we had some students who didn’t even have a photo ID.”

While the band staff sorts out the final details of the trip, Buckner has been encouraging students to work out and get in shape for the 6.5-mile hike of the parade.

“After all 396 people who will be marching that day actually line up, we measure just over 300-feet long,” Buckner said. “What people don’t realize is that the parade march expands over six miles and will be no easy feat.”

Band members have been regularly visiting the campus gym and joining fitness classes to prepare for the hike. Senior band member Shelby Harrell is taking preparing for the parade seriously.

“I’ve been hitting the gym a lot to prepare for 6-mile parade march. It’s so exciting to think about all of the people that will be there to watch our band,” said Harrell. “I have no doubt that we will be fully prepared for the parade and I know we are going to have the time of our lives.”

Buckner credits the band’s success to being a “real team effort” between himself and both of his assistant directors, Henley and Jon Henson.

“The most fun part of this entire experience is the real unique situation we have here — we are all from the band program at Tuscola High School,” said Buckner. “Three generations of mountaineers working together.”

According to Buckner, the best way to watch the Pride of the Mountain’s Rose Parade performance is the commercial-free, live streaming of the event on HGTV beginning with the BandFest performances on Dec. 30.

Public input sought in chancellor search

Members of the public will have an opportunity to have their voices heard by the search committee that will help select the next chancellor of Western Carolina University during a series of open forums Monday, Nov. 22.

Four hourlong meetings to seek public comment will be held in the theater of A.K. Hinds University Center on the WCU campus beginning at 1 p.m. Each session is designed for a specific constituent group, but all sessions are open to anyone who wants to participate.

The public forum schedule:

• Faculty members – 1-2 p.m.

• Staff members – 2-3 p.m.

• Students – 3-4 p.m.

• Alumni, community members and supporters of intercollegiate athletics – 4-5 p.m.

In addition to the open forums, members of the public also can share their thoughts on WCU’s next chief executive officer through a questionnaire that will be posted on the chancellor search committee’s website –

The online questionnaire will allow visitors to the website to provide input on the “state of the university,” preferred priorities, suggested background of candidates, and any other pertinent issues.

All scheduled search committee meetings are open to the public. The Nov. 22 open forums are the only meetings that will have time for public comment.

Following the forums, the committee will meet at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 1, to discuss public feedback and review the official position description for the chancellor’s post. The meeting will be held in the Peele, Westmoreland Suhre, Hartshorn Hospitality Room of the Ramsey Regional Activity Center. Another meeting is set for 3 p.m. Monday, Dec. 6, in the Hospitality Room of the Ramsey Center.

The WCU Board of Trustees recently appointed a 16-member search committee to help select a successor for Chancellor John W. Bardo, who has announced his plans to step down next summer after more than 15 years in the position. The committee is working closely with Baker and Associates, an executive search firm, to identify a pool of candidates.

After reviewing candidates, the committee will recommend its top choices to the WCU trustees, who will forward the names of at least two nominees to Tom Ross, who takes over as University of North Carolina president later this year. Ross then will present his recommendation to the full UNC Board of Governors for final consideration and approval.

Search committee members are striving to have a new chancellor named and ready to lead the university by July 1.

Dillsboro puts out welcome mat for WCU

The town of Dillsboro will host Western Carolina University faculty, staff and students during a special event called “Destination: Dillsboro!” on Thursday, Nov. 18, from 5 to 8 p.m.

Designed to show Dillsboro’s appreciation for WCU, the event will feature merchants staying open late and offering free samples and discounts especially for the WCU community.

The evening will feature a raffle drawing for numerous prizes from Dillsboro merchants for faculty and staff and a scavenger hunt using the social network Twitter for students.

To be eligible for the prizes, faculty and staff will enter their registration forms into a basket at the Jarrett House, which is serving as headquarters for the event. Registration forms are being sent through the WCU e-mail system, and prizes will be drawn throughout the evening. Once visitors register at the Jarrett House, they will be given a new holiday shopping guide that provides an updated map of the town and ideas for holiday gift giving from Dillsboro.

Mayor Mike Fitzgerald will be greeting guests and making an official declaration of appreciation for WCU at the Jarrett House at 6 p.m.

“We’re looking forward to a great night,” Fitzgerald said. “The town will be decorated in purple and gold, but we’re rolling out the red carpet for the Catamounts. We hope WCU folks and their families will come down — if only for a little while — to check out the shops and eat at the restaurants. We’ve made a special effort to provide free child care and activities for the kids, so the whole family can enjoy the event.”

For WCU personnel with children, volunteers will provide free child care services at the Jarrett Memorial Baptist Church on Church Street. There will be 20 spots available from 5 to 6:30 p.m. and 20 spots from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Children ages 3 to 12 are eligible and advance reservations are required. Art activities, games and snacks will be provided. To RSVP for child care, contact Casey Hodges at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Destination: Dillsboro! is the latest event in a recent partnership forged the town and WCU. The overall goal of the partnership is economic revitalization. Numerous faculty, staff and students from across the university are working on a variety of projects including small business counseling, survey research, marketing, public relations, broadcasting, arts, entertainment and special events.

For more information about the Dillsboro/WCU partnership or any of the Nov. 18 activities, contact Betty Farmer, special assistant to the chancellor for Dillsboro, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 828.227.3804.

— By Matthew Hoagland, WCU

Budget woes leave higher education institutions with tough choices

Up to 1,700 jobs, perhaps a whole campus eliminated — the dire picture painted this month by Erskine Bowles, president of the University of North Carolina system, on the state of higher education during these tough economic times isn’t pretty.

Locally, staff and faculty at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, Southwestern Community College in Sylva and Haywood Community College in Clyde are preparing for significant budget cuts.

Most likely, a 10-percent reduction is coming. State colleges and universities across North Carolina, however, are outlining what they’d do in response to higher and lower reductions, as directed by the UNC system and The State Board of Community Colleges.

“We are hearing talk of impending heavy slashing and have been asked to prepare scenarios of how we would deal with 5-, 10- and even 15-percent cuts,” said Rose Hooper Garrett, public information officer for SCC, via email.

A year ago, the UNC system took a $70 million cut, or less than 3 percent.


Sorting it out

“At this point, it’s too early in the process to provide the actual impact of what a 10-percent budget reduction would do to the overall operations of WCU,” said Chuck Wooten, vice chancellor for administration and finance for the university.

“It’s fair to say that most likely we will have fewer class sections, more students in each class, more dependence on part-time faculty, reduced funds for faculty travel and professional development, fewer funds for general operations such as supplies and equipments, elimination of vacant positions, possible elimination of positions that are currently filled, and reduced funds for general maintenance of the physical plant of the campus.”

Here’s what is happening: North Carolina is facing a budget deficit of $3.5 billion.

At 5 percent, the UNC system would cut $135 million and likely eliminate 800 jobs. At 10 percent, the UNC system would cut $270 million and eliminate 1,700 jobs.

“We’re really going to impact the academic side,” the Associated Press quoted Bowles as saying.

Rose Harrell Johnson, president of Haywood Community College, said the community college would lose more than $1,306,478 with a 10-percent reduction.

“For comparison, the college received an increase of $1,213,111 in state funding this fiscal year because it had a 10.77 percent enrollment increase,” Johnson said. “If the budget reduction becomes reality, the college will lose its enrollment growth budget increase and potentially more.”

Among other measures, Garrett said SCC has been considering tuition increases.

“At the system office we will look at operations, contracts and personnel,” she said.


Preparing for the worst

Wooten said WCU anticipated budget reductions by making a number of decisions in the 2009-2010 fiscal year to take in budget reductions totaling about 8 percent, which eliminated 93.92 positions.

“After satisfying budget reductions for 2010-11, $4,404,792 remained for use against future budget reductions,” Wooten said.

WCU would see reductions of $8,638,874 at the 10-percent level and $4,319,437 at the 5 percent level, he said.

“WCU’s plan, which was submitted to the Office of State Budget and Management, would first offer up the full amount remaining from previous budget reductions ($4,404,792) to satisfy the 5-percent budget reduction plan, and campus divisions and departments have identified additional budget reductions ($4,234,082) to satisfy a 10-percent budget reduction plan … (this) would potentially eliminate 41.08 positions in the 2011-2012 fiscal year budget.”

Fine Art Museum hosts family fun, holiday shopping, reception

The Fine Art Museum at Western Carolina University will host a number of events in November.

The museum is in the Fine and Performing Arts Center on the WCU campus. All events are free and the public is invited to attend.

• Family Day, 10 a.m.-noon Saturday, Nov. 13 — Parents and children are invited to participate in a scavenger hunt and other activities that encourage children’s interest in art. Enjoy popcorn and prizes at the event, which is sponsored in part by the WCU School of Art and Design’s art education program and the Jackson County Arts Council through support from the N.C. Arts Council.

• Handmade Holiday Trunk Show, 2:30-6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18 — As part of its 3rd Thursdays at the FAM series, the Fine Art Museum will host the Handmade Holiday Trunk Show, an opportunity to buy directly from artists including WCU students and staff and community members. All items are priced at less than $100 and include silk scarves, jewelry, knitted wear, soaps, note cards and more. Coffee and tea will be available, with wine and cheese served from 5-6 p.m.

• Reception for exhibit by graduating students, 4 p.m. Monday, Nov. 29 — Titled “Oh Sweet Pestilence,” the exhibition will include a mix of ceramics, drawing, painting, printmaking and sculpture by 12 students who are part of a class taught by Marya Roland, associate professor of art, that prepares students for entry into the professional art world. Participating students, all earning bachelors of fine arts, are Christine Cady, sculpture; Michael Dodson, sculpture; Lisa Erato, painting; Allyson Greer, printmaking;  Rachael Griffin, painting; Lauren Hill, printmaking; Alexandra Kirtley, printmaking; Sarah Lovell, painting; Michelle McAfee, sculpture; Constance McCormick, ceramics; Janine Paris, drawing; and Traci Pierce, ceramics. The exhibit will run through Friday, Dec. 3.

The Fine Art Museum’s hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday. The museum also is open one hour before Fine and Performing Arts Center Galaxy of Stars performances.

For more information about these events, contact Denise Drury, the WCU Fine Art Museum curatorial specialist, at 828.227.3591 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Visit the museum online at

This group might have some bite — watchdog group formed to monitor WCU

It just wouldn’t be the Jackson County we’ve all come to know and love if there wasn’t some kind of community-action group watchdogging Western Carolina University’s attempts to create its very own incorporated town.

But it’s Jackson County, so of course, there’s now such a group — with the working name of the Cullowhee Coordinating Committee.

“The school, in the past, has behaved as if this is Cullowhee,” Robin Lang, the group’s spokeswoman, said one day last week, gesturing toward the university.

But, she argued, that’s not all of Cullowhee. The people who live in the area are Cullowhee, too. So are the local businesses, and the many people who have invested time and emotional energy into the university and into the area around WCU. All of these people and institutions, Lang said, deserve to be heard before something is done to change what they claim as theirs, too.

Some issues the group might look into:

Possible legal sales of alcoholic beverages — how will local restaurants compete if they can’t do the same? Are there Cherokee archaeological sites? Any Indian burials around WCU, or perhaps an old village or two? Environmental questions also abound — does the proposed Town Center have wetlands within its 35-acre tract, like some are claiming gave way during the building of the Ramsey Center? Are there ways to accomplish revitalization goals along Old Cullowhee Road without annexation?

A bit of background.

WCU, under the leadership of Chancellor John Bardo, is attempting to pair with its tiny neighbor, the 1997-incorporated Village of Forest Hills, to create a college town that would probably be called Cullowhee. Forest Hills is made up of fewer than 400 residents, most being current or retired faculty and staff of the university. (In an interesting twist of irony, the Village of Forest Hills  — which has no town hall or services to speak of, though it does contract some police protection — incorporated for one simple reason: to stave off students from taking over the community.)

WCU wants Forest Hills to voluntarily annex university land as the town center. There, Bardo has said, there would be commercial development, with leases extended to restaurants, bookstores, coffee shops and such, as well as condos and a few university offices. That vision has not included much in the way of local businesses — franchise restaurants have been mentioned, not such campus fixtures as the Mad Batter Bakery and Café or its ilk.

WCU bought 2.2 acres on Centennial Drive in January 2007 that houses the Mad Batter, a Subway sandwich shop, and several other commercial businesses.

Forest Hills Mayor Jim Wallace indicated last month that town aldermen were expecting to receive information from WCU soon on how the town could best accommodate a mixed-use land plan.

Tom McClure, director of the office of partnership development for the WCU Millennial Initiative, said there are some “internal discussions” taking place, and that it could be a matter of weeks before the necessary documents are ready for review.

McClure said he has prepared a draft, but that it is not yet ready for review. McClure said a 20-year or more development agreement is key. A “planned-unit development” would eliminate the need for each new business involved to get individual approval from the town.

Chancellor John Bardo has said WCU will ask town leaders to adopt wholesale the university’s design for a town center.

WCU’s desire to create a commercial hub and vibrant college town hinges on its tiny neighbor. Cullowhee is not currently incorporated as a town, and as a result, stores and restaurants can’t sell beer, wine or liquor drinks. That has proved a major stumbling block in attracting commercial ventures typically associated with college towns.


Get involved

The next meeting of the Cullowhee Coordinating Committee will be Thursday, Nov. 18, at 2 p.m. in WCU’s Honors College conference room. The meeting will last an hour.

WCU board of trustees tasks search committee to find a new Bardo

Don’t rush when hiring a new chancellor to replace John Bardo, one board of trustee member for Western Carolina University cautioned the university’s other top leaders last week during a two-day annual retreat in Cullowhee.

Echoing the sentiments of the search firm — Baker and Associates, which has offices in Winston-Salem and Atlanta — hired to help a newly constituted search committee find exactly the right candidates for chancellor, former Asheville Mayor Charles Worley urged his fellow board of trustee members to “be sure we’ve got the right one — even if it takes a little longer.”

The selection process is estimated to take five to six months.

Bardo announced Oct. 11 he planed to retire. He spent more than 15 years as WCU’s chancellor.

“It is very important that you keep control of the process,” board of trustee member George Little said, adding cautionary words to those by Worley. “That’s why you’re there (on the committee) as a board member — so that we will have the best candidate.”

Six board of trustee members, including Vice Chairman Worley and Chairman Steve Warren, were placed on a 16-member committee tasked with nominating candidates to the full WCU board of trustees. The board will forward the names of at least two nominees, probably three, to new University of North Carolina system President Tom Ross. The UNC president will present his top selection to the full UNC Board of Governors for consideration and approval.

Ross, acting as president-elect (Erskine Bowles is retiring this year, at age 65, as UNC system president), will “charge” the WCU search committee Nov. 16. That date also represents the first meeting of the new committee.

In addition to the trustees, the committee is made up of WCU faculty, students, community members, alumni and administration.

Warren said the search committee would actively solicit ideas on what is wanted from the next WCU chancellor, through a Website being built and more. He wants to see a “statement of position” for the chancellor crafted before candidates are identified.


Internal appointments made

In other WCU-related news, Bardo announced last week that Dianne Lynch, chief of staff for WCU, would assume the role of acting vice chancellor for operations, effective immediately. The move, Bardo said, is in response to several interim appointments at the university’s executive level and in recognition of his own pending retirement.

“I have made this decision because I anticipate a challenging legislative session and I expect to be spending a considerable amount of time in Raleigh once the legislature convenes in late January,” said Bardo, who owns a house near Raleigh. “This interim appointment ensures that Dianne has the delegated authority to make and/or approve institutional decisions for non-academic areas of the university that may become necessary when I am not on campus, and until the chancellor’s search is completed and that individual has been named.”

Bardo’s retirement announcement meant the suspension of national searches that had been under way to fill two top university leadership positions. Chuck Wooten retired as vice chancellor on Jan. 1, and internal auditor Robert Edwards last week was tapped interim vice chancellor for administration and finance.

Additionally, searches were taking place for a replacement for Kyle Carter, who left WCU’s provost office to become chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke on July 1. Linda Seestedt-Stanford, dean of WCU’s college of health and human sciences, is serving as interim provost.


The search committee

• Steve Warren, chair of the board of trustees who will also chair the selection committee.

• Charles Worley, trustee, an Asheville attorney and 2001-2005 mayor of Asheville.

• Gerald Kister, trustee, a 1969 graduate of WCU and resident of Columbia, S.C. Former chief executive officer of La-Z-Boy Inc.

• Joan MacNeill, trustee, a Webster resident who is the former president and chief operating officer of Great Smoky Mountains Railway.

• Virginia “Tommye” Saunooke, trustee, a Cherokee resident and an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians who serves on Tribal Council. Earned two degrees at WCU.

• Teresa Williams, trustee, a Huntersville resident who serves as board secretary.

• A.J. Grube, head of WCU’s department of business administration and law, and sport management.

• Erin McNelis, current chair of the WCU Faculty Senate. Associate professor of mathematics and computer science.

• Billy Ogletree, head of WCU’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders.

• Daniel Dorsey, president of the Student Government Association. A senior from Decatur, Ga., majoring in communication.

• William Frady, chair of the WCU Staff Senate. Manager of instructional and student computing in the Division of Information Technology. Holds two degrees from WCU.

• Carol Burton, associate vice chancellor for WCU’s undergraduate studies. Holds two degrees from WCU.

• Betty Jo Allen, president of the WCU Alumni Association. A resident of Lincolnton and a 1968 graduate of WCU.

• Kenny Messer, former president of the WCU Alumni Association and past president of the Catamount Club Board of Directors. A Greenville, S.C., resident who is an executive with Milliken Corp.

• Phil Walker, former chair of the WCU Board of Trustees. Senior vice president with BB&T, a 1971 graduate of WCU, and chair of the recently completed campaign for WCU, which raised more than $52 million in private support.

• Scott Hamilton, president and chief executive officer of Advantage West, the regional economic development commission of Western North Carolina. Hamilton lives in Henderson County.

WCU Public Policy Institute launches N.C. politics blog

The Public Policy Institute at Western Carolina University has created a new blog site designed to offer a nonpartisan glimpse into the world of North Carolina politics and policy.

The site, “Politics and Policy in the Tar Heel State,” features ongoing analysis and commentary about political issues.

After the election, the site will include posts designed to help explain what happened and what the results are likely to mean for North Carolina residents in the months ahead.

The site is the brainchild of Chris Cooper, director of WCU’s PPI and associate professor of political science and public affairs, and Gibbs Knotts, head of the WCU department of political science and public affairs.

“We intend to use this as a platform to add to the policy debate in the Tar Heel State,” Cooper said. “Most of our posts will try to connect findings in political science and public affairs to the real world of politics and policy in North Carolina.  Many of our posts will include original data analysis.”

To read the PPI blog, visit

Tickets on sale Nov. 2 for annual WCU madrigal dinners

Tickets go on sale at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 2, for the annual Madrigal Christmas Dinners at Western Carolina University.

Tickets for the 2010 Madrigal Christmas Dinners at Western Carolina University will go on sale at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 2.

The dinners are re-creations of the pageantry, music and food of 16th-century England, with authentic madrigal entertainment and costumes. An annual event at WCU, they will be held this year at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3, and Saturday, Dec. 4, in the Grandroom of the A.K. Hinds University Center. The menu will include a choice of three entrees (including a vegetarian option), side dishes and beverages; tables seat eight apiece.

This will be the final year that Robert Holquist of the School of Music will take a lead role in organizing the dinners. Holquist, who has been active in the madrigal dinners since he joined the WCU faculty in 1979, conducts the Early Music Ensemble, a chorus that performs at the dinners. This year marks the introduction of a new lord and lady, Boyd and Lynda Sossamon, owners of Radio Shack in Sylva and both alumni of WCU.

Tickets for the dinners can be purchased in the University Center administrative offices (on the second floor of the U.C.) or by calling 828.227.7206 for credit card orders.

Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.