REAL GOAL-GETTERS

The Catamount Club reaches its target and sets its sights on increasing membership and contributions

By DANIEL HOOKER ’01

Thanks to a strong second half of the 2011-12 fiscal year, Western Carolina’s Catamount Club – the fundraising arm of the WCU Department of Athletics – was able to reach and surpass its annual fundraising goal of $500,000.

At the end of the 2011-12 year, Catamount Club members had contributed a combined $545,927, the most ever for the organization. The donations represented a 20 percent increase in support from the membership over the previous year, with all contributions going toward the Catamount Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarships for WCU student-athletes. Overall, all contributions in support of the WCU athletics program for the 2011-2012 fiscal year totaled just under $1 million, at $999,071.

Gorham Bradley

Gorham Bradley ’04 (center), Catamount Club director, entertains club members Kevin Stanberry ’94 and Lynn Stanberry ’99.

“I would like to thank everyone for their sincere dedication to the student-athletes at Western Carolina University,” said Gorham Bradley ’04, associate athletic director for development and director of the Catamount Club. “During the past year, we have seen significant increases in support from new members as well as upgrades from current members, which made reaching our goal possible.”

The Catamount Club and its staff does not have the chance to revel in success, however, as Bradley and the WCU athletics department have set ambitious goals of $650,000 and 1,400 members for the 2012-13 campaign year. “Our primary mission is to increase scholarship opportunities for our student-athletes while also enhancing their experiences as Catamounts each year,” said Bradley. “The life lessons and leadership skills learned as student-athletes are so important to their transitions into their professional lives after achieving their college degree at WCU. We are extremely grateful for the support of our alumni and friends, who provide us the resources to recruit the best of the best in our future Catamounts.”

With the 2012-13 membership year now under way, the Catamount Club board of directors has new leadership with Dave Thompson ’75 of Charlotte elected president. Thompson succeeds Norman West ’68, who served two years as club president and helped lead the charge in the recruitment of more than 350 new members. Thompson and his wife, Bonnie Thompson ’76, have been Catamount Club members for more than 30 years. He joined the board of directors in 2008 and has been instrumental in increasing membership through new initiatives and chairing the tournament committee for the annual WCU/Charlotte Golf Classic.

“Clearly, we are seeing evidence from our supporters that we all are excited about the new leadership we have in place at WCU – both in the Office of the Chancellor as well as within the Department of Athletics,” he said. “We are confident of the continuing success of our athletic programs. The future of WCU athletics is absolutely looking up, and we need the support of our alumni more than ever as we are continually faced with financial challenges to be competitive within the Southern Conference.”

Under Thompson’s direction, the Catamount Club board of directors is making a concerted effort to reach out to not only the general WCU alumni base, but also to specific geographic groups of alumni and fans. The club is working with the Office of Alumni Affairs in a joint effort to better coordinate activities using the existing alumni chapter structure in specific locations, with leadership from both the Catamount Club and Alumni Affairs, he said.

“Working with the Alumni Association in hopes of combining supporters from similar locations will help reconnect all of us as Catamounts,” Thompson said. “This initiative is creating even more opportunities to reach out to the WCU alumni base and keep them informed and up-to-date on Catamount athletics as well as other university activities.”

In addition, the Catamount Club is working to increase its membership on campus with the formation of the student level of the organization. Current WCU students are invited to join at a reduced rate, in the hope that giving will become a tradition they will continue once they’ve graduated and moved into their careers, Bradley said.

For the year ahead, Catamount Club leaders are renewing several initiatives that played a role in the success of the club in 2011-12. Athletics department staff led by Randy Eaton, director of athletics, and joined by many head coaches will hit the road this spring for the second year of the Catamounts Unite Tour. In its first year, the tour visited 10 cities during the months of February and March, an effort that was instrumental in bringing more than 200 new members to the Catamount Club, Bradley said.

The Catamount Club also will continue to host “Purple Zone” events at home and road events to provide a benefit to members as well as a way for prospective members to get involved by attending as guests. In addition, the Catamount Golf Tour, concluding its fifth year this fall, gives WCU alumni and friends a chance to gather while also raising funds to support
Catamount athletics.

“The Catamount Club is committed to reaching new levels of success as we work to support the student-athletes of WCU,” Bradley said. “Western Carolina has entered a new era, with new leadership for the university and for our athletics program. It’s an exciting time to be a Catamount.”

For more information on Catamount Club events, visit www.catamountsports.com.