Chancellor Belcher is a busy man, for sure. So who keeps him and his schedule in line?
Although the chancellor has a host of helpers, Terry Welch is his official assistant. She manages his schedule, messages and any other sort of paperwork imaginable.
Welch has been with Western Carolina University for 31 years. In 1982, she worked with administration and finance in Auxiliary Services, and in 1985, she helped plan the Liston B. Ramsey Regional Activity Center. After its opening in 1986, she worked as a ticket and house manager until she became the assistant to the chancellor in 1996.
But, that’s not all. She is secretary to the Board of Trustees, a wife and a talented actress.
“Since third grade, theatre has always been my passion,” said Welch.
In a school production of “Why the Chimes Rang,” a short middle school student was cast as one of the boys. The director needed a girl even shorter to play his sister.
“And, that is how I got into my first play. Just because I was short enough,” Welch joked. “But, that was the applause that started it all.”
Welch has been in several WCU productions. She played Aunt Eller in “Oklahoma!” and Mrs. Paroo in “The Music Man.” Recently, she sang four numbers during the “Belcher and Friends” show on Sept. 3. She also appeared in the Chancellor’s Installation Gala back in 2012.
Perhaps her biggest theatre memory is the time she traveled to New York City for the Fringe Festival.
She was part of the musical comedy “Mother Divine,” which was written by former faculty member Dr. Laurel Vartabedian. The musical was based loosely off the life of Father Divine, a famous Depression-era evangelist. In the musical, he is haunted by his first wife, Mother Divine, after he remarries.
It was during August of 2003 at the exact time of the big New York City blackout.
“We walked up Fifth Avenue, and the Plaza hotel was completely black,” said Welch. “It was so strange.”
She and the rest of the cast were in their hotel when the power turned off. With no air-conditioning on a boiling August day, everyone in the hotel flooded onto the first floor where the lobby restaurant was.
“We all went down there to get some air,” said Welch, “and before we knew it, we were singing songs from the show and entertaining everyone. It seems weird to say, but it’s a really good memory.
“Out in the streets,” continued Welch, “people were helping other people. It was amazing.”
Today, Welch is not in the middle of any historic blackouts, but she remains as busy as ever.
About her job as the chancellor’s assistant, Welch said, “The dynamics are very exciting. The Chancellor is a very positive, outgoing person, who has really embraced the community.
“And, I always love working in plays with the students,” she added. “It’s exhausting but exhilarating at the same time. It’s a lot of work, but I have such a special love for the theatre students.”
Senior musical theater major and office assistant Brian Gay remarked, “We were all so excited when we found out that she was going to be in ‘Belcher and Friends.’ I know that when I was offered this job, I jumped at the opportunity. I love working with her.”
In her free time, Welch likes to read crime dramas and catch up on shows like “Breaking Bad” and “Dexter.” She also enjoys spending time with her two dogs and her husband, Tom Wilson, a cabinet-maker who owns Cabinets Etc. in Sylva.
She actually met her husband while she was casting for the part of Dracula at a community theater in Hayesville.
“In walked this 6’4” man, and well, he was exactly what I was looking for,” she said with a smile.
“Remember to keep your eyes open,” Welch concluded. “You just never know how it will all turn out.”