One hundred and twenty-five years of history, heritage and pride are connected to Western Carolina University. This year, WCU hosts its quasquicentennial celebration.
The yearlong celebration is headed by a Steering Committee whose co- chairs are Melissa Wargo, chief of staff and Kellie Monteith, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs.
Wargo stated, “It’s not just planning a party, but how to get students, how to get alumni involved. How to get the community involved. It really is a group effort. We needed to have people who could focus on each aspect of those. We are very fortunate to be co-chairing, but we are only two pieces in a very large group effort.”
According to Wargo and Monteith, there are several committees that work together to make the celebration possible. The committees range from historical to event planning to communications. These committees are composed of students, alumni, community members, faculty, and staff.
Carol Burton, associate provost for undergraduate studies, said, “I am chair of the historical sub committee. I have been at Western for 30 years. I started as an international student here in 1983. Having that a broad base of people on the steering committee is reason for us to get the word out. We have people like Ryan Hermance from the Student Government Association, and the hope would be that he would talk about it in his meetings. There are essentially six sub-committees of the steering. Those committees are made up of the members of the steering committee as well as additional folks.”
Ryan Hermance, SGA president, said, “We have a few ideas to celebrate the 125 anniversary. We are thinking about t-shirts. Another idea we have floating around is revitalizing the garden that is across from the library where a plaque is. We are hoping to revitalize the area and make it more enjoyable for students and staff. “
According to Hermance, he and SGA Vice President, Jack Stewart serve on the 125 Steering Committee.
When asked how the SGA became involved, he stated, “Melissa Wargo reached out to us, and we started planning right at the beginning of the year. We’ve assisted in planning events like the kick-off event on Thursday, Jan. 23. We also worked with Kellie Monteith in designing some of the clothing options that are offered for the anniversary.”
The celebration is not limited to staff and students. Marty Ramsey, the alumni affairs director, said they are working hard to get the alumni clubs involved with the celebration.
“We have about 28 clubs that are located throughout the southeast. Bo Busby, the assistant director for alumni chapter relations, is helping organize these clubs to have birthday parties. We have around 20 birthday parties scheduled throughout the southeast,” said Ramsey
According to Ramsey, the birthday parties are ways for alumni to celebrate the university and its 125 years.
“We are also challenging each of the clubs to help raise money to support this year long celebration. It is a self-supporting celebration, so we are always looking for funds to support it. Each of the clubs will be challenging one another to see who can raise the most money to help cover expenses,” said Ramsey.
The 125 anniversary is celebrated by current and past Catamounts as well as the community.
Monteith stated, “There are so many things to celebrate this year in addition to WCU’s anniversary. Dillsboro and Sylva are turning 125 as well. Mountain Heritage is turning 40. There are many things to be celebrating that it is important the community is involved.”
Paige Roberson, town manager of Sylva, sits on the community sub-committee. She stated, “Sylva and WCU do have plans to participate in each other’s events. The Community Subcommittee is planning a promotion with WCU and businesses in Sylva and Dillsboro.”
In addition to having members of the community help plan WCU’s 125 celebration, there will be representatives from WCU working with the Sylva committee to plan their events.
Roberson said, “In Sylva, our two biggest annual events are the Christmas Parade and the Greening up the Mountains festival. We are really looking forward to Western’s participation.”
When asked why a year long event Monteith replied, “I think the one thing, coming from a student affairs perspective, we want to ensure is that these experiences the students have outside of the classroom that one thing to have a great kick off event but it is important to sustain that momentum throughout the year. We have a decided to do a yearlong celebration so that folks coming in whether they are a graduating senior or if they are coming in the fall of 2014 as freshmen they can experience the full 125 celebration. It is important to us as a steering committee and as a campus to keep the celebration alive.”
When asked why the 125 anniversary was important to students, Wargo said, “One of the things we want the students to know about the 125 anniversary is the rich history and heritage of the university. Often students come in and the experience Western anew, but the university is really grounded in 125 years of rich history, heritage, and a commitment to public out reach to western North Carolina. We want students to be a part of that community, not just now while they are here. We want them recognize that what they contribute to the institute will live on. And at some point we will be displaying their historical artifacts.”
For more information or a list of events check out celebrate125.wcu.edu.