Lovin was right man for leadership at critical time


Monday, Aug. 17, brought more than the start of a new academic year. It also brought news that Western Carolina University had lost an important leader who served at critical periods of the institution’s history. The night before, Clifford Ramsey Lovin lost his fight with cancer.

Although many current faculty and staff may not remember Lovin, he left an impressive mark on campus, both personally and professionally. He arrived in Cullowhee in 1966 after a brief stint at Central Wesleyan College, and soon emerged as a popular member of the Department of History faculty.

The next year, the North Carolina General Assembly changed the institution’s name to Western Carolina University and directed it to become a comprehensive regional university. Lovin would play a recurring role in the institution’s evolution.

He punctuated his career with a number of important firsts. He led the development of WCU’s first internship programs, served as the first director of the Mountain Heritage Center, led early engagement activities with the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Tennessee Valley Authority, established the institutional research office, and helped pioneer international programs and study-abroad opportunities, just to name a few.

He chaired WCU’s Southern Association of Colleges and School self-study in 1972-74 and later served on a number of SACS review committees at other institutions. He also played leadership roles with WCU’s Wesley Foundation that stretched several decades, and he was instrumental to the transition of philosophy from a special studies degree option to a bachelor’s degree program.

He moved back and forth between faculty and administrative roles, serving as assistant dean of the School of Arts and Sciences for four years early in his career and as its dean from 1987 to 1993. Between his stints in administration, he was elected to two terms in the Faculty Senate, serving as chair of the faculty in 1975-76. All the while and up to his retirement in June 1999, he remained an active scholar of German history and a teacher dedicated to providing students with opportunities that could change their lives. Few leaders today could enjoy this breadth of experiences, and few could boast a record so dedicated to students, to the university and to the region.

Cliff Lovin held degrees from Davidson College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is survived by Barbara Keelor Lovin, professor emeritus of health sciences at WCU; his four children C. Ramsey Lovin Jr., April Lovin-Cain ’84, Mary Beth Lovin and Sarah Lovin Fitzgerald; and six grandchildren. Distinguished by a quick, deep laugh, by a love of politics and by quiet acts of charity, he was both a strong ally and a formidable opponent. He loved WCU and its students.   

Richard Starnes ’92 MA’94 is dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.