WCU steered generations on a mission of helping others


Dana Tucker ’88 MSW ’09 spent two years working full time and taking night classes to complete her master’s degree, an immensely rewarding experience in itself. During a department of social work graduation ceremony in May, Tucker enjoyed the additional reward of having her great-aunt, Jimmie Tucker Sutton ’49 – a woman Tucker calls “her hero” – place the ceremonial hood around her neck and shoulders.


Dana Tucker ’88 MSW ’09 (left) hugs great-aunt
Jimmie Tucker Sutton ’49 at a social work
department ceremony.

She and her great-aunt, a relative on Tucker’s father’s side, share a love of education, and both have a “huge heart for children and people,” Tucker said. The women also have deep roots in Western North Carolina. Tucker originally is of Jackson County’s Pine Creek community and currently lives in Sylva, as does Sutton, now a resident of Morning Star Assisted Living. They each focused their careers on improving the lives of area residents.

Tucker, a social worker at Fairview School, earned her master’s degree to better serve the children and families with whom she works. “Often, people in rural areas have to make do, and I want to be the best I can be for them,” she said.

Sutton attended the university when it still was Western Carolina Teachers College, earning a diploma in 1930 and then a bachelor’s degree in education. She went on to spend more than 40 years teaching in WNC public schools, including those in Jackson, Macon, Haywood and Graham counties. Her first job was teaching in a one-room schoolhouse up Cullowhee’s Cane Creek Road, on weekends walking and hitching to her family’s home (close to what is now WCU’s Hennon Stadium and Childress baseball field). Later, she grew to love teaching the primary grades.

Sutton will turn 100 in November. She and Tucker, 43, have been close for – from Tucker’s perspective – what seems like a long time. Recently, Tucker said to her great-aunt, “Aunt Jimmie, we’ve been friends for 26 years.” Sutton turned to her great-niece and said, “That’s not long, is it?”

Sutton never stopped learning, continuing to take university and community college courses after graduation. She often contributed toward the tuition expenses of others who expressed a desire for education, Tucker said.

“She’s a phenomenal lady,” Tucker said. “I will never measure up to what she does, but she’s a wonderful mentor, so I’m trying.”