The University of North Carolina Board of Governors’ three-day visit on the Western Carolina University campus came to a close Friday (Sept. 12) as the board held its regular monthly meeting and heard remarks from District 11 U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows and N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory.
The Board of Governors, the policy-making body for the entire UNC system, joined UNC President Tom Ross and numerous chancellors from WCU’s sister institutions for the gathering in Cullowhee that included board committee meetings on Thursday (Sept. 11) and the meeting of the full board Friday at WCU’s A.K. Hinds University Center.
Congressman Meadows, a resident of the Glenville community in Jackson County, noted in his comments to the Board of Governors that the ambassadors he meets with from around the world are often familiar with the state’s university system.
“North Carolina is known for a lot of things – a lot of great things,” he said. “The one thing that continues to come back when I mention that I’m from North Carolina is our university system. It is something we must protect. It is an asset that we must continue to tout. It transcends everything else.”
McCrory spoke to the Board of Governors about a wide range of issues involving the state budget and the North Carolina economy. He also expressed concern about an issue he said has not been addressed adequately by North Carolina leaders – the long-term maintenance costs of state-owned buildings.
In one of the meeting’s lighter moments, McCrory announced that he is an alumnus of Catawba College, the WCU football team’s opponent for its Saturday (Sept. 13) game. McCrory provided the coin toss during the gridiron matchup at WCU’s E.J. Whitmire Stadium. He thanked WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher for providing a warm welcome to campus and said, despite the fact that he graduated from Catawba College, “I wore my purple tie just for you.”
Ross delivered his report concerning the UNC system to the Board of Governors during the meeting, and he also expressed appreciation to Belcher and his staff for their work in preparing for the board’s visit. The Board of Governors scheduled its meeting on the WCU campus in honor of the 125th anniversary of the founding of the institution.
“We could not have been treated better this week, during this 125th-year celebration of Western Carolina, and we thank all of you for your warm welcome and hospitality,” he said.
During his presentation, Ross introduced WCU engineering technology major Ben Strawn, who spoke about his experiences as an intern this summer with the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. The WCU senior from Peachland said the primary project he worked on during his internship, an electronic explosive initiator, is expected to be produced by the Army and used in the field.
In his comments, John Fennebresque, chairman of the Board of Governors, joined Ross in thanking the WCU community for its hospitality.
“I have noticed for the past three days – there is something about this place,” Fennebresque said. “Everybody seems to have a smile on their face. It’s unbelievable. So if there’s special water or something like that, I want some.”
Belcher’s time before the Board of Governors included the screening of a video produced by Joseph Hader, a WCU alumnus and member of the staff of the university’s Office of Communications and Public Relations. The video focuses on WCU’s service to Western North Carolina.
“It has truly been a pleasure and a privilege for us at Western Carolina University to host the Board of Governors, President Ross, staff of UNC General Administration and chancellors and staff from our sister institutions across North Carolina,” Belcher said. “I hope during your brief visit here you caught a glimpse of who we are and why this little slice of paradise we call Cullowhee is so special.
“We love Western Carolina University, and I think it shows,” Belcher said. “For 125 years, WCU has been in the business of changing lives. I assure you, the best is yet to come.”