New distinguished professor brings energy, enthusiasm

Western Carolina University a new catamount. WCU has welcomed Joseph P. Lakatos as the Wesley R. Elingburg Distinguished Professor of Business Innovation and as the director of Western Carolina’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

A native of Queens, N.Y., Lakatos comes to WCU with a full appreciation of all that the area has to offer. He said he is excited to explore the area’s creeks and rivers as well as kayak. In his free time, he enjoys working out, cycling, surfing and spoiling his dog.

“The best sound I’ve heard so far is the [Pride of the Mountains Marching] band practicing. The dedication they have and that feeling of collegiality, when you hear that in the music that they’re practicing, it’s pretty awesome,” said Lakatos.

Lakatos came down south and lived in Wilmington for six years. He met WCU Chancellor David Belcher at the University of North Carolina-Pembroke and connected after speaking with him for two hours, said Lakatos. He described Belcher as taking his position as a vocation and not just a job-an ideal that Lakatos shares.

“The chancellor is vibrant. He’s got great energy and a great vision,” said Lakatos.

Throughout his career, Lakatos has worn many hats. He started out in the financial field, though he said he always wanted to be a teacher. While working at Fidelity Investments as the director of risk management and corporate counsel, he was asked to teach a course. Lakatos said he instantly fell in love.

Along with teaching, he has worked with various New York firms, is a certified public accountant and certified fraud examiner, to name a few of his many experiences. Lakatos said he aims to teach students how multiple disciplines can be tied together. He comes to the university with experience in multiple inter-related fields and brings, “a heck of a lot of energy,” to the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

“We are excited to have Joe on faculty. He has already had initial meetings with the college advisory board, and we expect the visibility of this program to continue to increase,” said Dean of the WCU College of Business Darrell F. Parker in an interview with The Reporter.

But getting to where he is now has not been easy. In 2004, Lakatos was diagnosed with cancer. The cancer was systematic and had stemmed from a blood transfusion, he said. Lakatos was given four months to live. After stem cell transplants, maintenance chemo therapy, seven years of treatment and a strong dedication to his faith, Lakatos has lived almost 10 years longer than expected. And now, he is living his dream of teaching.

“I like Cullowhee. I like that it’s a small town surrounding the university, and I look forward to things I can help do with the Center. One of the things I see around here is great opportunity,” said Lakatos.

The Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation is under WCU’s College of Business. For more information on the College of Business and the programs housed within, visit