A yearlong celebration of Western Carolina University’s 125th anniversary kicked off on Thursday as students, faculty, and community members gathered in the school’s University Center for the first of several such events that will be held throughout the year. WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher began the celebration with some remarks reminding the crowd of the many changes that have occurred at the institution over the years. In 1889, a one room school house with one teacher and eighteen students was the founding of the Cullowhee Academy. Over the past 125 year that school has evolved into the multi campus Western Carolina University with an enrolment of over 10,000.
“In the two-and-a-half years Susan and I have been at Western Carolina, one of the things that has struck me the most is how, despite the remarkable changes this university has witnessed here in Cullowhee over the decades, the fundamental mission of this institution remains the same. Through all of the changes, a strong mission to serve the people of Western North Carolina has been the foundation of this strong institution,” said Chancellor Belcher.
Following his remarks, the celebration continued with a fashion show of clothing from throughout the university’s 125 years of history, along with apparel adorned with WCU’s commemorative 125th anniversary logo. Highlights of the fashion show included Will Peebles, director of WCU’s School of Music, wearing 19th-century vintage overalls; Sylva Town Manager Paige Roberson in an Edwardian bustle dress; Susan Belcher, wife of the WCU chancellor, in a purple 1930s May court dress; and Paws, the Catamount mascot, dressed in a 1940s football uniform with padded pants. Various University musical and dance groups also performed.
The official 125th birthday bash will be held in August, the month in which the school that became WCU was founded in 1889. The event is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 26, with a picnic on the University Center lawn, old-fashioned games and music all in the theme of the late 19th century. The final celebration event is set for Friday, Dec. 5, in the Ramsey Center, with music from the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band (which will have just returned from its appearance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade), refreshments, remarks from the chancellor. Other events will be designed around traditional highlights of WCU’s annual calendar, such as spring commencement ceremonies, Mountain Heritage Day, the Spring Literary Festival, and Homecoming. For more information, about the school’s history or the 125th anniversary events visit the website at celebrate125.wcu.edu.