Wiley Harris, director of facilities planning design and construction, has been an integral part of Western Carolina University longer than most students have been alive, spending a total of 24 years with the University.
Harris became a member of the Catamount family when he began serving as the University Architect back in 1989. Prior to his arrival at WCU, he worked as an architect for private businesses in Louisiana and locally in Waynesville.
Harris remained in the architect position until 2003, when he applied for and received the position as director of Facilities Planning Design and Construction. When he learned of the job opening, he said that work would not only be closer to his home, but that the job itself would be a good fit.
“The Lord blessed me with the University Architect position for 14 years, which provided me insight of campus facilitates and goals of the university. Working for an institution like WCU, it gives me a feeling of ownership, therefore becomes a personal interest to give my all to help make a difference,” said Harris.
In his current position, Harris is responsible for management in the planning, designing and construction of all campus facilities, site development and infrastructure. He is also responsible for records and data, noting the financial aspect of his projects, and any and all participation with Historically Underutilized Business and Minority Business Enterprise.
Harris’s job also includes conducting various needs assessments, initial cost estimates and project justification statements, just to name a few of his responsibilities. He also inspects buildings, researches new design techniques, evaluates sites and assesses equipment needs.
On a typical day for Harris, he is busy tracking financial data for active projects. He also spends time coordinating projects with Facilities Management and troubleshooting problems that may occur throughout the day as well as reviewing the status of various projects.
Harris has been involved with a wide array of projects, including the construction of the sidewalk that leads to the Health and Human Sciences building.
“Because of the nature of our work that includes physical structures, infrastructure and site development, we have the opportunity to provide a positive experience for those who live and work on campus along with visitors to campus. It is sort of like leaving a legacy for future generations to experience,” said Harris.
Despite insufficient time and resources to accomplish every campus and community need, Harris gets the job done.
Joe Walker, associate vice chancellor of facilities management, said of Harris, “He is great to work with and he is very driven, so much so that I have had to tell him to take vacation or not to worry about time-off. When Wiley retires, it will be very difficult to replace his knowledge of WCU and his wonderful work ethic.”
Though he is not well known on campus, Harris is definitely an important part of the University. This man behind the scenes is responsible for helping to create and maintain the WCU campus we all have grown to know and love.