Western Carolina University is nearing the midpoint of its yearlong observance of the 125th anniversary of the founding of the institution. Throughout 2014, we are honoring Western Carolina’s rich legacy and history, celebrating how far this university has progressed since its genesis in 1889 as a one-room schoolhouse with 18 students and one faculty member, and fixing our sights forward on the future of WCU. Our quasquicentennial year is about the past, the present – and the future.
It was great to see such a large number of alumni and friends, some from several hours away, who were able to join students, faculty and staff for our 125th anniversary celebration kickoff event in January. For those of you who were able to attend, you know what a grand event it was, and I thank you for gracing us with your presence. For those of you who were unable to attend, please rest assured that you will have many other opportunities throughout the year to help us celebrate, whether by joining us for regularly scheduled activities such as Mountain Heritage Day and Homecoming or by accepting our invitation to August’s “Big Birthday Bash,” with a picnic on the lawn of the A.K. Hinds University Center, old-fashioned games, music, dance and fun for everyone. You can keep up with all of the 125th activities at our website celebrate125.wcu.edu.
While there is a natural tendency to reminisce and wax nostalgic during commemorations of significant moments in the lives of institutions, we dare not dwell exclusively on our past and our history. To be sure, our past and history are vitally important to the university. After all, it is upon the shoulders of those who came before us that we find ourselves standing today, working to continue building on the solid foundation laid by Robert Lee Madison and the Noble Nine, and shaped by countless others who have nurtured the “Cullowhee Idea” of serving the region through education and transformed that idea into a model emulated across North Carolina and beyond.
If we stare too long in the rearview mirror, however, we risk losing sight of where we are headed. It is important that, even as we celebrate our history, we maintain forward momentum in pursuit of our vision for our university. My personal focus for Western Carolina’s 125th year remains on the future of WCU and on the strategic thinking that is required to get us where we want to go. With the completion of the “2020 Vision: Focusing Our Future” strategic plan, we have our road map in place. Several major initiatives – including academic program prioritization, organizational structure review and the recently approved campus master plan – all are helping to guide our university’s direction and development, ensuring the quality of our academic mission, the effectiveness and efficiencies of our business processes, and the appropriateness of the next wave of development and growth on our campus.
I hope that you share my sense of urgency to achieve our goals, and that you recognize and feel that you have real ownership in your university. All members of the Western Carolina community have important roles to play in helping the university make progress on its ambitious agenda. This is an amazing time at Western Carolina University, full of momentum and promise, and we remain constant in our pursuit of the excellence that defines and will continue to define our institution. Those of us who are WCU employees cannot accomplish the vision alone; rather, it will require the commitment, support, advocacy and energy of the entire Catamount Nation. And with that commitment, support, advocacy and energy, there is just no telling what we will do!
You are part of the Western Carolina family, and I trust that you share my pride and belief in the future of our university.
David O. Belcher