The newly launched Madison Society will pay tribute to those who support WCU’s mission

Western Carolina University’s Office of Development is launching a new way to thank people who support the university with their gifts. The initiative is called the Madison Society in memory of Robert Lee Madison, who founded the Cullowhee Academy, forerunner to WCU, in 1889 with benefactors known as the Noble Nine. “It is important to thank our modern benefactors who believe enough in WCU to help us advance by investing in our future,” said Jim Miller, WCU associate vice chancellor for development.

Friends of the university make it possible for WCU to sustain its deeply rooted tradition of teaching, learning and service, Miller said. Like Madison, they give their time, energy and resources because they believe in the “Cullowhee Idea” of extending an education to students who will build a better future and make a difference in their world, he said.

That is important to students such as Kassie Beam, of Shelby, an elementary education major who plans to earn a master’s degree and teach middle school. Beam, who is paying her way through WCU with grants, work study and student loans, is grateful for the Taft B. and Malvery Botner Scholarship she received in 2012. She said she is especially pleased at receiving the scholarship because she was reluctant to take on any more debt before graduation, and she hopes she can provide similar assistance for future students. “Alumni know what a great school Western is,” she said. “People who have given to the university have helped to make it great. If I have money one day, I will give to the education program to support great professors and provide more opportunities for students.”

Wes Elingburg ’78 is a retired businessman and longtime contributor who provided a gift to create an endowed professorship in business innovation. “I will forever be grateful for the foundation of education that Western Carolina University provided me,” Elingburg said. Giving back is his way of saying thanks, and he encouraged other alumni to do the same. “Our willingness to step up and support WCU will be crucial to the success of the university,” he said.

Friends such as Elingburg and others will find a warm welcome in WCU’s new Madison Society, Miller said, not only because individual gifts are so important but also because contributions, when combined, have more power than any single gift can achieve alone. “We want to thank our friends who know that, working together, we are expanding opportunities for students and contributing to the greatness of WCU,” Miller said.

In addition to the satisfaction that comes with playing a key role in helping WCU maintain traditions of student access and success, benefits of membership in the Madison Society include a newsletter highlighting how gifts to the university are having an impact and exclusive invitations to special events on campus and across the region.

–By Leila Tvedt

To join the Madison Society or for information, visit or call the Office of Development toll-free at 800.492.8496.

Community garden takes root near campus

Adam Bigelow ’11 is managing development of an organic community garden in Cullowhee near campus. Funded with a $39,000 Eat Smart, Move More Community Grant from the state of North Carolina, the approximately 2.5-acre garden will dedicate one acre to growing produce for the Community Table, a nonprofit organization addressing food insecurity in Jackson County. The remaining area will be plots, free to adopt, with gardeners donating half of all produce grown to Community Table.

Edward López named BB&T professor

An economist, author and teacher has joined the faculty as the new BB&T Distinguished Professor of Capitalism. Edward López has taught at San Jose State University in California and the University of North Texas and was manager of public policy programs at the Mercatus Center, an economics research center at George Mason University. He also worked as a staff economist for the Joint Economic Committee of Congress in 1993 and 1994. His research focuses on comparisons of market, political and legal institutions. He has been widely published and is co-author of the forthcoming book “Madmen, Intellectuals and Academic Scribblers: The Economic Engine of Political Change.”

WCU honored for energy conservation

The North Carolina Energy Office honored WCU with a Utility Savings Initiative Leadership Award. Working from a 2002-03 baseline, all universities in the University of North Carolina system are required to reduce energy consumption by 30 percent by 2015. WCU was the first to meet the goal through a variety of efforts, including taking older buildings offline, ensuring new construction employs high building standards and energy efficiency, and campus educational efforts. Last year, WCU students bested Appalachian State University students in the “Battle of the Plug” by achieving a higher percentage of reduced energy usage during a three-week national energy conservation competition. According to Lauren Bishop, WCU’s energy manager, the university has achieved $13.8 million in energy savings since 2002-03.

Sam Miller honored by UNC student group

Sam Miller, vice chancellor for student affairs, has been named recipient of the John L. Sanders Student Advocate Award, the highest honor bestowed upon a member of the University of North Carolina system community by the UNC Association of Student Governments. The award is given annually in recognition of service to UNC system students and to honor those who advocate in the best interests of the students, contributing to the quality of their lives. Miller was nominated for the award by T.J. Eaves ’12, past president of WCU’s Student Government Association.

‘2020 Vision’ strategic planning document wins the approval of the Board of Trustees

A nearly yearlong process of charting the future of Western Carolina University came to a close over the summer as the Board of Trustees unanimously endorsed a new strategic plan. Titled “2020 Vision: Focusing Our Future,” the plan is a roadmap designed to guide the institution’s direction and development over the next decade while strengthening relationships with the communities and regions WCU serves.

The board’s approval of the document also signals the beginning of the next part of the process, as individual divisions and units of the university begin to develop their own strategic plans.

The plan was drafted by the 2020 Commission, a 36-member committee appointed by Chancellor David O. Belcher, who announced last August that strategic planning would be a top priority in the first year of his administration. It defines six directions the university will take in the years ahead, and spells out numerous initiatives designed to help the institution work toward specific goals.

The plan calls for WCU to:

• Fulfill the educational needs of the state and Western North Carolina through high-quality academic programs at the undergraduate, graduate and professional levels with a specific focus on curricular areas of creative arts, education, environment, health, innovation and technology, and recreation and tourism.

• Enrich the total student experience through a mix of curricular and co-curricular elements, including programs in leadership, active citizenship, international experiences, diversity and intercollegiate athletics.

• Enhance external partnerships by positioning the institution as a key leader in regional and economic development efforts, developing the Millennial Initiative as a national model for public-private partnerships in a rural environment, and being an active participant in the formation of a formalized community leadership structure for Cullowhee.

• Invest in the university’s human resources by advocating for improved compensation packages for faculty and staff, increasing opportunities for professional development, improving the work-life balance for WCU employees and fostering an inclusive university community.

• Invest in the university’s core resources, including implementation of sustainable funding models, development of a comprehensive master plan, improvement of the effectiveness and efficiency of campus business practices, increasing information technology capabilities and capacity, and upgrading campus safety systems.

• Garner support for the vision spelled out by the plan through enhanced communications and marketing to internal and external audiences, and through a balanced mix of financial resources including funding from enrollment growth, summer programming, grants and technology transfer, and a comprehensive fundraising campaign focused on scholarships.

“This really is an impressive piece of work, one that maps the future of Western Carolina in a very thoughtful and ambitious way,” said Joan MacNeill, chair of the Board of Trustees.

Chaired by Melissa Canady Wargo, assistant vice chancellor for institutional planning and effectiveness, the 2020 Commission includes representatives from the university community – faculty, staff and students – and from the broader external community – alumni, donors, friends, and business and community leaders. In addition to on-campus meetings with students, faculty and staff, the commission solicited input from WNC residents through a series of public hearings in Franklin, Sylva, Hendersonville, Asheville, Waynesville, Cherokee and Murphy.

– By Bill Studenc MPA ’10

For more information, click here.

SGA president recognized

WCU’s new student body president, Alecia Lorann Page, was elected senior vice president of the University of North Carolina Association of Student Governments and chosen to receive its Eve Marie Carson Servant Leader Award. Named in honor of a UNC-Chapel Hill student body president who was killed in 2008, the award is bestowed annually on a UNC system student who exemplifies the characteristics of a servant leader and serves as a role model for aspiring student leaders. The award recognized Page, a senior from Shelby who is majoring in English, for her leadership with “Cuts Hurt,” a student-led campaign to communicate with state legislators about the detrimental effects of state budget cuts on students in the UNC system.

Entrepreneurship center gets new director

A corporate executive with more than 27 years in leadership roles with multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries is the new director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the College of Business. Zahed Subhan, whose career includes senior roles in research and development, marketing, sales and strategic planning, brings vast expertise in company formation and development, biotechnology and pharmaceutical innovation. Subhan’s experience also includes fundraising and new company start-ups, corporate development and successful exits by initial public offering and by merger and acquisition.

University wins funding for its rapid center

Western Carolina won a competitive five-year Investment Award totaling $642,960 from the Economic Development Administration for continued support of the EDA University Center for Rapid Product Realization. The center links businesses and emerging entrepreneurs to a range of services, including three-dimensional design and scanning, reverse engineering, rapid prototyping and mechanical and electrical testing at the Rapid Center; business assistance from the Small Business and Technology Development Center; and consulting and entrepreneurial mentoring from the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “These projects also provide superb learning experiences for students, imbuing them with the culture of innovation, a critical need for the region,” said James Zhang, interim dean of WCU’s Kimmel School of Construction Management and Technology.