ourFEATURESCampaign Wrap-up


After topping $51.8 million in contributions, the Campaign for Western Carolina
is producing dividends for students and faculty


Emily Collman, an elementary education and Spanish major from the Gaston County town of Dallas, always knew she wanted to go to college to learn how to be a teacher. What she didn’t know was how she would pay for it, or if she had what it took to achieve her goal. That is, until she received the Taft and Malvery Botner Scholarship, which helped her pay tuition and fees, and which enabled her to gain the skills and self-confidence to succeed in the classroom, both as a student and as a student-teacher.

“I have known since the time I was 12 years old that I wanted to be a teacher,” said Collman, a senior. “Here at Western Carolina, I have found nationally regarded professors who care about me, not just as a student but as a person. Receiving the Botner Scholarship was a huge validation for me, because scholarships are not like birthday presents that you get for surviving another year. Scholarships are a pat on the back, an ‘atta-girl’ in recognition of your perseverance and hard work.”

Campaign CelebrationChancellor John Bardo presents a WCU cap to musician
Matt Stillwell ’98, who performed at the campaign celebration.

For Brandon Robinson ’05, the fact that a university believed enough in the intellectual and academic ability of a first-generation college student from Mocksville to award him the History Excellence Scholarship gave him the self esteem not only to earn a bachelor’s degree in history, but to work toward a master’s degree in history at WCU en route to the ultimate prize – a law degree.

“It’s obvious that receiving a scholarship helped me financially be able to attend the university,” Robinson said. “But it also signaled for me that point of confidence where I knew that Western Carolina University – and specifically the history department – had faith in me and my abilities, and they believed that I could come here and do great things and actualize my ambition of being a Renaissance man. You can have a lot of dreams like that when you come to college, but if you’re a first-generation undergraduate student like I was, when you have Ph.D.s and different committees and deans willing to invest in you and your intellectual abilities, that just sealed it for me.”

Those are just two examples of the types of stories heard time and again across the campus as students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends came together in October to celebrate what Chancellor John W. Bardo characterized as “a most historic day in the life of our university” – the successful conclusion of the first comprehensive fundraising campaign in the university’s 120 years.

Making a Difference in Student Lives

Thanks to the $51.8 million in contributions from benefactors who helped the university shatter its goal of $40 million in private support announced when the Campaign for Western Carolina was launched to the public in February 2007, more students like Collman and Robinson will be able to pursue their dreams of getting a college education, Bardo said.

“A university has never been a collection of buildings, although it is in buildings where we do much of our work. A university has never been a geographic space. A university is about people. And the better the people of a university, the better the university. No university is better than its faculty members, and no faculty member can touch the future unless he or she has the right type of students who care about the future, who want to make a difference in their world. That’s what this university is about,” he said.

It is for that reason that the Campaign for Western Carolina did not focus on money for new buildings or land purchases. Instead, it focused on endowed professorships, endowed scholarship and programmatic support, Bardo said. “This campaign was about extraordinary opportunities for our faculty, for our staff and, most of all, for our students. It was about making it possible to bring the very best minds in the world to Cullowhee.”  The competition for attracting those bright minds has increased greatly, he said, and the only way to get those best and brightest is through endowed scholarships to bring top students to WCU and through endowed professorships to attract the nation’s preeminent scholars to teach those students.

That is why the majority of the dollars raised during the campaign are directed to student and faculty endowments. Thirty-four percent of contributions are earmarked for faculty endowments, including commitments for 24 new endowed distinguished professorships in fields ranging from educational leadership to construction management. Thirty percent of campaign gifts are directed to student endowments, including scholarships, and to support such wide-ranging student activities as travel abroad opportunities, participation in skills-based competitions against students from other universities, and internships or master classes with world-renowned experts.

For example, Andrew Blair, a senior from Liberty majoring in music education, was among only 30 students from across the nation selected to participate in a prestigious percussion class held in New York last summer under the direction of the world’s foremost marimba virtuoso, Leigh Howard Stevens. “It’s really a great honor as a musician and as a percussionist to be selected to participate,” said Blair, who performed selections on the marimba as part of the WCU Foundation’s annual scholarship luncheon during the week of campaign celebration activities in the fall. “I was studying with the father of our modern marimba techniques.”

Thanks to the Honors College Study Abroad Fund, Max DeGrove, son of WCU facilities management supervisor Andy DeGrove ’83 MIT ’84, was able to spend a summer in Shikoku, Japan, bicycling across the smallest of the nation’s four “big islands” and immersing himself in the culture. “It was truly a life-changing experience, one that I would have never been able to have without the support of donors and scholarships,” said DeGrove, a sophomore majoring in engineering technology. “I think that study abroad is something that every student should do. It gives you a sense of maturity from being on your own in a foreign country. I am certainly a better person because of it.”

Christina Banner, a sophomore majoring in musical theater, said receiving scholarship assistance has meant she has not had to take a part-time job to help pay expenses, leaving time to focus on studies and on extracurricular activities ranging from working backstage at theatrical productions to involvement in student leadership groups.

“My scholarship definitely helped me financially. I have an older brother and a younger brother, so I know my parents definitely appreciated it,” said Banner, from Conover. “But it’s also given me the opportunity to do more on campus. It has really freed me up to be able to take advantage of the college experience without having to worry about finances. I’ve been able to take a full course load, plus be heavily involved in the productions that the theater department does.”

Students Give Us Hope

It was concerns about students being able to afford college and about the quality of their educational experience that led Wesley Elingburg ’78, retired chief financial officer with Laboratory Corp. of America, to contribute before, during and after the campaign. “It pains me when I hear stories of students who want to go to school but struggle financially to do so. I would like every student who wants to go to college to be able to do so without the burden of debt,” said Elingburg, whose gifts to the university during the silent phase of the campaign led to establishment of the Wesley Elingburg Professorship of Business Innovation, a position now held by Louis Buck, a former executive at one of the nation’s largest investor-owned energy companies.

Professor Louis Buck, scholarship recipients
Brandon Robinson ’05 and Christina Banner and Wesley
Elingburg ’78 discuss the benefits of the campaign.

“Western Carolina gave me the foundation that led me through my adult life. When I came to the university, I did not know what I wanted to do with my life. But there were faculty here and faculty advisers who gave me that guidance. For that, I will be forever grateful,” Elingburg said. “I’ve given back to Western Carolina. Anytime Western Carolina calls upon me, I am there, and I will always be there.” And Elingburg continues to be a major contributor to the university. In 2009, he issued a challenge to encourage increased giving to WCU’s Loyalty Fund, which provides scholarships and other support for WCU students, faculty and programs (see Challenge Accepted on below).

Elingburg is not alone in his desire to give back. Gifts to the campaign came from 9,564 donors from 48 states. Of those donors, 608 work at Western Carolina as faculty or staff. The majority of donors – 59 percent – were WCU alumni, with 5,661 individual alumni making contributions. Another 34 percent of contributors are not alumni, but are characterized as “friends of the university,” with corporations, foundations and other benefactors making up the remaining 7 percent. Four groups achieved 100 percent participation in the campaign – the university’s board of trustees, the WCU Foundation board of directors, the WCU Executive Council and University Police.

Joan MacNeill, former chair of the WCU board of trustees, said there is a reason why so many people from so many walks of life from across the country were willing to give to the Campaign for Western Carolina – a reason far more important than tax deductions or naming opportunities. “The secret is, for my husband and myself, we are the ones who feel blessed,” said MacNeill. She accompanied Ashley Shemery, the recipient of the Joan and Malcolm MacNeill Scholarship, to a special lecture presented by the Jacksonville sophomore’s favorite professor after a special luncheon to thank scholarship donors. “For us, she’s really what it’s all about. Ashley has expressed her gratitude and thanks to us for the financial help she had received. But what she doesn’t know is we really thank her. She and students like Brandon and Christina have given us hope. They make us feel really good about the future.”



Donors are taking up an alum’s offer to match their gifts to the Loyalty Fund

It was just a few months ago that Wesley Elingburg ’78, a supporter of Western Carolina’s Loyalty Fund for 18 years, issued a challenge to other donors, backing up that challenge with an offer to match new and increased gifts of at least $1,000, up to a maximum of $50,000.

Already, 23 people have taken him up on his challenge, making additional gifts to the Loyalty Fund that, when combined with his match, have resulted in an additional $73,283 to provide merit-based scholarships to WCU students.

Elingburg says he is pleased at the success of the Elingburg Challenge – and its role in extending the success of The Campaign for Western Carolina. “I haven’t quit smiling since I got on campus this morning,” the retired chief financial officer with Laboratory Corp. of America said during a campaign celebration event in October. “I am so happy to be here today, and it’s such a privilege to be able to celebrate what has happened.”

Cynthia Hamilton Beane ’71 is among those who have taken up Elingburg on his challenge. “I had given small amounts to the university each year for several years, but have long felt that I need to give more to my alma mater, to reconnect and to get more involved,” said Beane, a partner in the accounting firm Beane Swaringen & Co. “Learning of the Wes Elingburg Challenge made me realize that now is the time to do what I have always intended to do.”

Additional gifts made through the challenge are helping maintain the momentum of the first comprehensive fundraising effort at WCU. Although the campaign resulted in $51.8 million in contributions and pledges to the university, additional needs remain. “Giving back to the campus and the community, that’s what I want to do. I want to give back to afford opportunities to students – opportunities that, without our help, a lot of deserving students won’t get,” Elingburg said. “How can we help as donors? We can help by giving back to institutions. Let’s think about writing that check. Think about the pleasure that you get from knowing that when you write that check to this institution, you are indeed helping a student.”

For more information on the Elingburg Challenge, visit loyaltyfund.wcu.edu, or contact Natalie Clark, at 828.227.3090 or nclark@wcu.edu.



An aphasia expert has joined the communication sciences and disorders faculty as the first Catherine Brewer Smith Distinguished Professor

Western North Carolina residents participating in an aphasia support group are benefiting from the expertise of a teacher and researcher who literally wrote the book on the disorder. Nancy Helm-Estabrooks, one of the nation’s top experts in adult neurological communication disorders, was appointed WCU’s first Catherine Brewer Smith Distinguished Professor of Communication Disorders in July. The focus of Helm-Estabrooks’ research and writing over the years has been aphasia, a communication disorder, typically caused by a stroke or other brain injury, that is related to understanding and producing language.

Nancy Helm-Estabrooks works with a member
of an aphasia support group.

In addition to teaching courses in aphasia and cognitive-communicative disorders, Helm-Estabrooks trains graduate students to work with individuals affected by aphasia who attend meetings of the Asheville Area Aphasia Support Group. As part of that effort, she also leads discussions for family members and friends who are living with aphasia through a loved one. During weekly meetings at CarePartners Health Services in Asheville, the support group offers free individual and group therapy for those who are no longer eligible for insurance coverage for rehabilitation services.

Before coming to WCU, Helm-Estabrooks was a research professor in the division of speech and hearing sciences in the School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she continues to hold an adjunct position. She was a clinical investigator for 32 years with the renowned Harold Goodglass Aphasia Research Center in Boston, and is co-author of the highly regarded “Manual of Aphasia and Aphasia Therapy.” Treatment methods and tests developed by Helm-Estabrooks and her colleagues, are now used by clinicians around the world.

Ruby Drew, retired associate professor of communication disorders who helps lead the treatment program for the Asheville support group, said Helm-Estabrooks has a “special understanding of persons with aphasia” that is well-received by family and friends. “Nancy is a dynamic clinician and has intuitive knowledge about how the brain has been affected by aphasia, and she is indefatigable in her energy to assist those who have the disorder,” Drew said.

Department head Bill Ogletree calls Helm-Estabrooks a “wonderful role model” for both students and faculty. “Her scholarly and clinical impact has laid the groundwork for future generations of researchers and practitioners, and her international reputation in the area of adult neurogenic communication disorders is simply second to none,” Ogletree said.

A gift of $300,000 from the estate of the late Catherine Brewer Smith provided funding for the distinguished professorship in communication disorders. It was one in a series of family contributions made to honor the memory of Smith’s father, Albert Dudley Brewer, who attended the university. A native of Marion, Ind., Smith owned and managed a motel in Madeira Beach, Fla., for 26 years. She maintained residences in Franklin and Yankeetown, Fla. WCU combined $250,000 of Smith’s gift with matching state funds to establish the $500,000 professorship, while the remaining $50,000 was used to create an endowed fund that supports activities of the department of communication sciences and disorders.



Thanks to the Campaign for Western Carolina, ‘The Progress of an Idea’ is climbing to new heights

Gurney Chambers

Fifty-two years. That is how long I have been observing “The Progress of an Idea,” the phrase Dean W.E. Bird used to describe the founding and progression of a little academy on a small plot of land in the woods of Jackson County to a vibrant, comprehensive university with international influence on a beautiful 600-acre campus in Cullowhee, USA. While Bird’s account of the development of Western Carolina University does not extend beyond 1957, the year I enrolled at Western Carolina, I have been blessed by the extraordinary opportunity to observe up-close, first as a student and then as an employee, the continued “Progress of an Idea.”

I have witnessed a number of impressive events at Western Carolina over those 52 years, but none has made me prouder than the success of the university’s recent, first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign: “Creating Extraordinary Opportunities.” Perhaps I was especially proud because of the historical perspective I brought to the campaign, a perspective that included memories of when the president of the college was the only person on campus with ready access to a public address system, when the cafeteria’s Sunday supper for students consisted of a pimento cheese sandwich and an apple in a brown paper bag, and when there was no store on campus where students could purchase books to supplement their rented texts or satisfy their desire for extracurricular reading.

The individuals responsible for directing the fundraising campaign, which was publicly launched in 2007, insisted on thinking big: $20 million was the initial, unannounced goal. Conditioned perhaps by my 50-year knowledge of the need to penny-pinch, I wondered if the university was campaigning more for embarrassment than funds. Nonetheless, as the campaign progressed, the $20 million target was reset three times: $25 million, $30 million, and finally, a giddy $40 million. When WCU celebrated the results of its campaign on Oct. 15, 2009, Chancellor John Bardo announced that the campaign had generated nearly $52 million.

The astonishing success of the campaign confirmed that WCU is capable of raising funds from private sources to support the “idea” Dean Bird recounted in “Western Carolina College: The Progress of an Idea.” Certainly, the $51.8 million raised will help students and faculty improve teaching and learning; and it will help the university attract even stronger faculty and students, serve more effectively the broader community, and enhance further the quality of the institution’s academic and athletics programs.

But in the opinion of this appreciative alumnus and recently retired 40-year employee, the most pleasing and significant outcome of the campaign is confirmation that, in the eyes of alumni, friends, corporations and foundations, Western Carolina University is a vibrant, dynamic institution that is realizing its goal of offering opportunities to those who aspire to make a difference in their world, and is therefore worthy of private fiscal support.

How much is this widespread sentiment worth to WCU? Certainly, more than $52 million. And that bodes well for the university’s future fundraising campaigns and the continued “Progress of an Idea” that began way back in 1889.

Gurney E. Chambers ’61 is dean emeritus of the College of Education and Allied Professions and served as chair of the faculty/staff component of the Family Gifts Division during the Campaign for Western Carolina.


Financial Downturn Will Slow Support for Construction Management

A significant slowdown in the construction industry resulting from the nation’s lingering economic downturn has led to the recent declaration of bankruptcy by a benefactor in the Campaign for Western Carolina.

Contributions from Joe W. Kimmel and his company, Kimmel & Associates, in 2005 led to the naming of the Kimmel School of Construction Management and Technology.

“For more than a decade, Kimmel & Associates has been among the nation’s top firms in placing construction managers in the U.S. construction industry, one of the strongest segments of the American economy. Western Carolina University anticipates that the company will rebound as the national construction industry, among the hardest hit segments of the national economy in the current recession, returns to normal,” said Clifton Metcalf, vice chancellor for advancement and external affairs.

“Delay in fulfilling commitments planned in the Kimmel gift will mean that fewer student scholarships and less program support – such as brochures and student participation in conferences or competitions – will be available during the interim,” Metcalf said.

Chancellor John W. Bardo expressed his sympathy for the Kimmels, who are among a large number of business men and women, and numerous U.S. companies, who are suffering economically. “The Kimmels are wonderful people with whom we have worked for a number of years and with whom we have a great relationship. They and many among the Kimmel & Associates leadership are close friends of the university and of many of us in the university family,” Bardo said. “Our current concern is for the Kimmel family and their employees. As one does with family, we will take the long view of this trying time. We wish them all the best. We will stand by them in every way we can, and trust that there will be a brighter day in the world economy soon.”


While The Campaign for Western Carolina was successful, university leaders continue to seek outside support. For more information, contact the Office of Development at 828.227.7124 (or 800.492.8496 toll free), or visit campaign.wcu.edu.