A veteran state legislator who previously served five years as a Western Carolina University trustee is now a recipient of one of the institution’s highest honors. N.C. Sen. Tom Apodaca ’80 (R-Henderson) was presented with WCU’s Trustees’ Award on Sept. 12 as members of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, the policy-making body for the entire UNC system, convened in Cullowhee for their regular monthly meeting. Apodaca is only the 11th person in WCU history selected to receive the Trustees’ Award.
In presenting the award, Teresa Williams, chair of the WCU Board of Trustees, described Apodaca’s days as a WCU student and his “highly successful career as an entrepreneur involved in bond insurance, real estate investment and a travel agency.” Apodaca returned to WCU to serve on the Board of Trustees in 1997, stepping down from the board, as required by state law, after his election to the state Senate representing District 48 in 2002.
Apodaca’s departure from the Board of Trustees “was lamented by all who knew of the quality of his service,” Williams said. “But, the record shows that Western Carolina’s loss was a tremendous gain for Western North Carolina and the entire state. Sen. Apodaca, who has been re-elected to five additional terms of office, has earned a reputation as a highly effective legislator who is unwavering in his determination to stand up for the interests of his constituents and all of Western North Carolina.”
Apodaca, who was re-elected again in November, is chair of the Senate’s Ways and Means Committee and Rules Committee. He was instrumental in WCU receiving $1.4 million in 2013 to expand its engineering program to the Asheville-Hendersonville area, and he also sponsored or supported legislation that aided all levels of the state’s educational system, Williams said.
“Western Carolina University’s Trustees’ Award recognizes those who have provided exemplary service or support to the university,” she said. “Sen. Thomas M. Apodaca has delivered far beyond the award criteria and his positive influence extends well beyond the boundaries of the WCU campus and across all areas of the state.”
After accepting the award from Williams, Apodaca received a standing ovation from the audience. “I’m truly honored by this (award),” he said. “I will continue to fight for the university system and all education in North Carolina because that is my passion.”