Former Western dean Taft B. Botner
Former Western dean Taft B. Botner

CULLOWHEE - Although former Western Carolina University dean Taft B. Botner died in September 2000, the longtime educator will continue to have an impact on the preparation of tomorrow’s teachers, thanks to a new endowed professorship in teacher education.

The Taft B. Botner Distinguished Professorship in Elementary and Middle Grades Education at Western was made possible through gifts from the Botner estate, combined with matching funds through a state program initiated by the General Assembly to encourage private support of public institutions of higher education.

The Botner Professorship, the eighth distinguished professorship created at Western since 1996, is endowed in the amount of $500,000. It is intended to attract a nationally recognized expert in education with expertise in an area specifically related to the preparation of teachers of children in grades kindergarten through ninth grade.

Chancellor Bardo, Orville Coward and Bud Siler.
With a portrait of the late Taft B. Botner as a backdrop, Chancellor John W. Bardo (left) accepts a check from executors Orville Coward (center) and Bud Siler on behalf of the estate of Botner, former dean of Western’s College of Education and Allied Professions. Gifts from the estate have enabled establishment of the Taft B. Botner Distinguished Professorship in Elementary and Middle Grades Education at Western.

“It is evident that Taft B. Botner intended to facilitate the advancement of knowledge in the field of elementary and middle grades education,” said A. Michael Dougherty, dean of the College of Education and Allied Professions at Western. “Dr. Botner’s career is testimony that he placed immense importance upon well-trained teachers at this level. His previous gifts to support the Botner Teaching Award are additional evidence of the value he placed upon quality instruction. The Botner Professorship will further his devotion to a mission at Western - a mission to prepare the highest caliber teachers.”

The estate gift that led to development of the new professorship represents the culmination of a lifetime of giving to Western by Botner and his wife, Malvery Barker Botner, who died in 1991, said Jim Manring, the university’s director of planned giving.

“During their lifetimes, the Botners contributed $100,000 to the university. Through those gifts, Western established a scholarship fund that annually provides awards to academically talented students in elementary education and reading,” Manring said. “They also established the Taft B. Botner Award for Superior Teaching, which has been presented to an outstanding education professor at Western each year since 1982.”

With the estate gifts, which included a home and property in Cullowhee, the Botners have given more than $600,000 to Western. Matching funds of $167,000 push the total to more than $767,000.

“Taft Botner has left a legacy at Western Carolina University that is both meaningful and appropriate,” said university Chancellor John Bardo. “I can think of no more fitting way to honor the memory of a man who devoted his entire life to education - a man who was actually born in a one-room school house.”

A native of the mountains of Kentucky, Botner began his teaching career at the age of 17. He earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Kentucky, gaining experience in Kentucky public schools as a teacher, principal and assistant superintendent. He served on the faculties of the University of Tennessee and Murray State University before joining the Western faculty in 1950.

In his 25-year tenure at Western, Botner served in the positions of professor, director of student teaching and teacher placement, head of the department of teaching, and dean of what is now the College of Education and Allied Professions before retiring in 1975. Botner received Western’s Distinguished Service Award in 1986 and, in 1988, the university established the Taft B. Botner Conference Room in its education building in his honor. His wife taught public school for 34 years, including 12 years at the Camp Laboratory School in Cullowhee.

Through their lifetimes of giving - including time, service and financial donations - the Botners illustrated the fact that one doesn’t have to be a wealthy business tycoon to make a significant contribution, said Orville Coward Sr., one of the attorneys who handled the Botner estate.

“Taft Botner’s generosity and spirit were unsurpassed by any constituent in the university,” Coward said. “Other people may have given more in dollars and cents to the university, but he was able to give more than others in spirit and service. Teaching was more than a career for him. It was a lifelong ambition, a lifelong love, and a life full of success, which is measured by the thousands of students that he taught, and their successes in life in the teaching profession. The legacy he leaves behind enables others to pass it on to future generations.”

The search for the Botner professor will begin soon, with hiring expected by the summer of 2004.

Maintained by the WCU Office of Public Relations
Last modified: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 | Originally published: Thursday, December 4, 2003
Copyright 2003 by Western Carolina University