Retiring vice chancellor is surprised with ‘lovely parting gifts’ after 22 years of service to the university system

By BILL STUDENC MPA ’10

Clifton B. Metcalf, who recently retired as vice chancellor for advancement and external affairs at Western Carolina University after 11 years, is leaving with something a bit more significant than a year’s supply of Turtle Wax or one of those other “lovely parting gifts” from TV game shows of yesteryear.

Clifton Metcalf

From left, Clifton Metcalf accepts the Order of the Long Leaf Pine award from former Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton and former N.C. Rep. Phil Haire.

Metcalf, whose service to the University of North Carolina system totals more than 22 years, received one of WCU’s highest honors in December when the university’s Board of Trustees surprised him with the Trustees’ Award. He became the ninth person in WCU history selected for the award, presented on rare occasions in recognition of exemplary service to the university.

He also received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine award, presented by former Lt. Gov. Walter H. Dalton and former N.C. Rep. Phil Haire on behalf of former Gov. Beverly Perdue, during a January campus celebration of Metcalf’s 54-year career in journalism and higher education. Created in 1965, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine is among the highest honors the governor can present to North Carolinians. It is designed to recognize individuals who have a proven record of extraordinary service to the state as exhibited by contributions to their communities, extra effort in their careers, and many years of service to their organizations.

Metcalf joined WCU’s senior administrative team in January 2002, coming to the Cullowhee campus after serving as the UNC system’s principle liaison to the N.C. General Assembly from 1998 to 2002. At WCU, he supervised a university division that encompassed public relations, marketing, communications, media relations, alumni affairs, creative and design services, governmental affairs and the Mountain Heritage Center museum, and led development of The Magazine of Western Carolina University.

Among the most notable accomplishments during Metcalf’s career are his leadership role in WCU’s first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign, which netted more than $51 million in contributions and pledges of private support when completed in October 2009, and his efforts in developing the legislation that permits Western Carolina and other UNC institutions to create “millennial campuses,” said Chancellor David O. Belcher. “Clifton has brought to Western Carolina University an extraordinary set of experiences and knowledge that has played out wonderfully for our university,” Belcher said. “He brought passionate advocacy about WCU and, more importantly, he brought passion about what WCU should mean for this region.”

Metcalf previously served as interim vice president for public affairs for the UNC system and as associate vice chancellor for public affairs at Appalachian State from 1996 until 1998. During his career in higher education, he held several positions at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, including federal and state government liaison, associate vice chancellor for university relations, and director of news services.

He began working at UNC after a 30-year career in journalism. He is a former executive editor of The Mountaineer newspaper in Waynesville, where he began working as general assignment reporter in 1961. A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Metcalf earned his bachelor’s degree from UNC-CH in 1959, where he studied journalism as a Morehead Scholar.

Board member Steve Metcalf (no relation) said that Metcalf is deserving of recognition not just because of his service to WCU, but to the entire UNC system. “Through it all, your primary focus has been not just to the university or the institution, but to the wonderful students that we serve, especially these mountain students up here in Western North Carolina,” he said.