Bernice Cowan Higdon ’41 has donated a shirt featuring the autographs of a veritable “who’s who” of Western Carolina University to the Mountain Heritage Center. Higdon, a Jackson County native who now lives in Yuba City, Calif., performed embroidery over the signatures of professors and friends, including student body president Charles McCall ’41 and Robert Lee Madison, a founder of the institution that would become WCU. Earl Irby ’40 drew the Catamount on the shirt back. It is on temporary display at the Mountain Heritage Center.


Linda Collins was the lucky winner in a sweepstakes to throw the first pitch in a June game between the Atlanta Braves and the New York Yankees at Turner Field. In front of a 50,000-strong crowd, Collins threw to Braves pitcher Tommy Hanson. “I felt really good about my throw,” Collins said. “It went straight to him. Of course, I was not on the pitcher’s mound, but about halfway there.” An image of Hanson signing the ball flashed to the big screen, and Collins spent the remainder of the game watching with three friends from Turner Field’s posh 755 Club.


Mel Gibson MAEd ’67 and Joanne Gibson MAEd ’67 participated in the 2009 N.C. Senior Games state finals this fall in Raleigh. Both participated in the 65-to-69 age group. Mel won gold in the standing long jump and the running long jump, and silver in basketball shooting. Joanne won silver in the standing long jump.


Louise McTaggart MAEd, broker and owner of Louise McTaggart & Associates real estate agency in Blairsville, Ga., has been named 2009-10 chairman of the resources committee of the community council of the Georgia Mountain Research and Education Center. McTaggart will serve as liaison between the volunteer annual campaign organization and the council.

Gary William Ramsey, retired from a career in retailing, has published his first novel, “The Soul Dies Slowly,” and is at work on a second. He and his wife, Susan, live in Kemah, Texas.


W. Wat Hopkins MA ’73, a professor of communication at Virginia Tech, was named the Roy H. Park Distinguished Visiting Professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina for the 2010 spring semester. Hopkins is teaching a course in communication law, working with graduate students and presenting his research during a colloquium series.


Melody Jenkins has been a librarian for 34 years at the Moultrie-Colquitt County Library in Georgia.

Michael A. Kollar MAEd ’74 has been re-elected as chair of the South Carolina Board of Examiners in Psychology. Kollar is a former recipient of the Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to Psychology Award from the South Carolina Psychological Association.


Terry Bell MAEd ’83 retired as director of auxiliary services in June after more than three decades with Macon County Schools. Bell has worked at various schools in the system, including as assistant principal at Franklin High School, his alma mater.


Wanda Pate Jones was appointed regional attorney in the National Labor Relations Board’s Denver office. She assists in the enforcement and administration of the National Labor Relations Act in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah and parts of Nebraska, Idaho and Montana. The NLRB investigates labor practices and conducts elections to determine whether employees desire union representation. With the NLRB since the beginning of her legal career in 1979, Jones has worked in Hawaii, Las Vegas and Atlanta.


Jay Edwards has launched Green Collar K-9 Development with three partners to train dogs for customers in the military, law enforcement, security and search/rescue fields. Edwards retired as a sergeant in the tactical division after 28 years with the Greensboro Police Department. He and his partners, who share law enforcement and dog training experience, raise the puppies from 8 weeks old. “These dogs will go anywhere and do anything,” Edwards said.


Terry M. Fortner is vice president of industry relations and market development for LKQ Corp., the largest nationwide provider of aftermarket, recycled and refurbished collision replacement products. Fortner is responsible for the development, implementation and coordination of LKQ’s product offerings and services to the auto insurance and collision repair industries. He is married to the former Vikki Richards ’79.

Mitch Lowrey established Mitch Lowrey Construction in Winston-Salem in 2000 and is a certified Energy Star builder. He was named Builder of the Year in 2008 by the Home Builders Association of Winston-Salem. He is married to Gloria Jennings Lowrey.


Sue Lynn Ledford MPA ’06 is community health director for Wake County.