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Western Carolina University (2014)

Brief Description:

Western Carolina - Founding Celebrations home

Western Carolina University was founded in 1889 to educate the citizenry of western North Carolina. Nestled in a scenic valley within 20 minutes’ drive of the Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway, we focus on quality education and preparation for responsible citizenship in a rapidly diverse and changing world. A member of the University of North Carolina system, more than 10,000 students hail from 48 states and 35 countries. Our 120 academic programs include nationally ranked entrepreneurship, project management, and teacher education programs, and the nation’s first accredited four-year emergency medical care program. Our distinguished faculty includes winners of Emmy, O. Henry, and NEA awards—to name a few.


Mission Statement:

Western Carolina 125 logoWestern Carolina University is a public regional institution of higher education whose mission is to create learning opportunities that incorporate teaching, research, service, and engagement through on-campus, off-campus, online, and international experiences. The university focuses its undergraduate and graduate academic programs, educational outreach, research, creative, and cultural activities to sustain and improve individual lives and enhance economic and community development in Western North Carolina and beyond.

President's Quote:

"It is my great privilege to serve as chancellor of this excellent university. The majestic mountains that surround our beautiful campus are a metaphor for this ambitious institution, which is soaring ever higher. WCU’s academic reputation is rising steadily as entering students come to campus increasingly well-prepared to meet the rigorous standards of our superb faculty who, in turn, commit themselves to their students’ success. In 2014, Western Carolina University celebrated its founding 125 years before as an institution to bring education and career opportunities to Western North Carolina. Since our humble beginnings as a one-room schoolhouse serving 18 students, Western Carolina has grown in size and scope, today providing higher education to more than 10,000 students and inspiring them–and the region we serve–to reach new heights. Join us as we celebrate our legacy and look toward new horizons." -- Chancellor David O. Belcher

Major Accomplishments:

  • WCU's Pride of the Mountains 500+ member Marching Band was selected to lead the 2014 Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC.
  • The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching recognized Western Carolina University’s emphasis on community engagement and its link to engaged teaching, research and service by selecting the university to receive its 2015 Community Engagement Classification.
  • WCU’s College of Business for several years has been included on the Princeton Review’s list of the best schools in the nation at which to earn a master’s degree in business administration.
  • Results from an outdoor magazine’s online poll were tallied, and WCU was been announced as the No. 1 college for outdoor adventure in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic (2014).
  • WCU’s John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center was recently included on a list of “The 25 Most Amazing University Performing Arts Centers” by
  • Western Carolina University’s Pride of the Mountains Marching Band was the 2009 recipient of the prestigious Sudler Trophy, the nation’s highest and most-coveted award for college and university marching bands.
  • WCU’s online bachelor’s degree program in criminal justice has received a top national ranking in affordability from the distance education information website
  • WCU’s online bachelor’s degree programs have been listed among the nation’s best options for veterans in a set of rankings released recently by U.S. News & World Report.
  • For the fourth consecutive year, Western Carolina University has been listed by The Princeton Review as one of the most environmentally responsible colleges in North America.
  • Think College, a program of the Institute for Community Inclusion in Boston, profiled the University Participant Program at WCU in a recent publication titled “Profiles and Promising Practices in Higher Education for Students with Intellectual Disability.”
  • Hunter Library, along with the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual Inc., were honored by the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums.


Fun Facts:

  • Teaching both journalism and drama, Josefina Niggli was a memorable writer/actor/voice talent who inspired and prepared a generation of students to pursue careers in these fields. Ms. Niggli’s legacy lives on in her films and books, including Mexican Village and Sombrero.
  • Among the first African-Americans to be admitted to any of North Carolina's all-white state institutions of higher learning, Levern Hamlin Allen capitalized on the opportunity to learn, earning master’s degrees at the University of Maryland and George Washington University, and eventually serving on the WCU Board of Trustees for eight years.
  • In 1914, the first summer session at WCU was so popular that students were encouraged to “bring tents and provisions and ‘keep house’” on the “many charming tent sites on the campus and neighboring knolls.”
  • Home of the first three-point shot in collegiate basketball history, WCU’s Reid Gymnasium opened in 1956 and now is mainly used for academic purposes and intramural sports. Here, on Nov. 29, 1980, Western Carolina's Ronnie Carr made the first intercollegiate three-point field goal.



"Western Carolina University is a place where students find their own place and their own path. An institution deeply connected to the unique region it serves, WCU is a growing campus where faculty, staff and students reach beyond the expected to the extraordinary. I have three degrees from WCU, and am proud beyond words of our band! Serving as editor-in-chief of The Western Carolinian was one of the best experiences of my four wonderful years in Cullowhee." -- Alumnus, '84 


  • Kellee Edmonds
    Vice President of Communications and Public Relations
    (202) 478-4662