Wade Livingston ’04 MEd ’06 proved to be an exception to the familiar adage “you can’t go home again” as he went about his college education. After growing up in Cullowhee, Livingston tried other universities and other places, but he came back to WCU to earn two degrees. Now, as he advances through the early stages of his career in university teaching, he finds himself once again apart from Cullowhee, but with a lifestyle that has a familiar ring.
Livingston, recipient of the WCU Alumni Association’s 2012 Young Alumnus Award, was 3 years old when his parents, longtime WCU political science and public affairs professor Don Livingston and Shirley Livingston MAEd ’91, moved their family from Oklahoma to Cullowhee. “I literally grew up at WCU, walking across campus after school and playing basketball in Reid Gym with my buddies,” Wade Livingston said. “Our dads worked on campus, and we would hang around after school waiting for them to get off work. As for growing up in Cullowhee, what better place could you ask for to be a kid and do all the things that kids do? The people were friendly, the community was laid back – it was just a great place to grow up.”
While he was living that Norman Rockwell-esque boyhood, Livingston also was observing as his father, whom he calls “a role model in terms of being a steward of an institution of higher learning,” went about his business of teaching and mentoring students. “I knew Wade was watching me because he shared my love of learning even at a very early age,” Don Livingston said. “He especially loved learning about and discussing history and politics with me. Wade was exposed to a lot of bright and interesting people here on campus and in the community growing up, and he made it his business to learn from them.”
After the younger Livingston graduated from Smoky Mountain High School in 2000, he became a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for a short time. “I figured out it wasn’t for me. I wasn’t ready for college at the time,” he said. He came back home and later enrolled at WCU, and wound up taking two classes taught by his father. “I would have had a 4.0 in political science if it hadn’t been for Dr. Livingston’s ‘Congress’ class,” he said. He graduated with a double major in history and political science. Facing another educational fork in the road, Wade Livingston decided to pursue a career as a history professor and enrolled as a graduate student at Auburn University in Alabama. But his interest waned, and after a semester he was back in Cullowhee. A friend suggested that he try WCU’s master’s degree program in college student personnel. “Without a whole lot of insight or planning, that’s what I did,” he said.
It worked. Two years later, with master’s in hand, Livingston left Cullowhee again to pursue his doctorate in educational leadership and work in residential living at Clemson University. In 2008, he became associate director of Clemson’s Office of Community and Ethical Standards, and soon after receiving his doctorate in 2009 was hired as an assistant professor. Working in the higher education and student affairs graduate program unit, Livingston now teaches about 70 students who plan on careers in higher education administration. He also is a faculty co-adviser for the Clemson Student Veteran Association and advocates for that segment of the student body on the Clemson campus.
Although he is living a couple of hours from Cullowhee, Livingston said he is enjoying the rural lifestyle in the rolling hills of Upstate South Carolina with his wife, Melissa Perry Livingston ’07, who works at Erskine College, and the couple’s Boykin spaniel, Chevy. The three live in Due West (population 1,200), which is not too far from the equally peaceful hamlets of Honea Path and Level Land. “You can’t help but love these funny-named little communities,” he said. “They’re full of beautiful scenery and good folks, just like Cullowhee.”