John Bardo and Manuel Hooper.
Western Carolina University Chancellor John Bardo (left) accepts a check in the amount of $300,000 from executor Manuel Hooper on behalf of the estate of Catherine Brewer Smith.

CULLOWHEE - A $300,000 gift from the estate of Catherine Brewer Smith, a Franklin resident who died in January 2001 and whose father attended Western Carolina University during the 1920s, will enable Western to create an endowed professorship in communication disorders.

Western will use $250,000 of the gift, along with state matching funds, to create the $500,000 Catherine Brewer Smith Distinguished Professorship in Communication Disorders. It will be the ninth distinguished professorship established at Western since 1996. The remaining $50,000 from the Smith estate will endow a new scholarship fund for students majoring in communication disorders, also to be named in Smith’s honor.

Smith’s desire to play a role in the advancement of knowledge and services in communication disorders stemmed from personal experiences in which service professionals in the field of communication disorders assisted members of her family, especially in the area of hearing disorders.

The professorship will be designed to assist with the delivery of a high-caliber communication disorders program at Western and to help serve the speech language pathology needs of the Western North Carolina region, where above-average poverty levels and lengthy driving distances to service providers combine to hamper delivery of treatment services to adults and children. The professorship will be housed in the department of human services, part of the College of Education and Allied Professions at Western.

The professor, when selected, will be expected to help train students majoring in communication disorders at Western to provide assessment and treatment outreach services to residents of WNC, said Michael Dougherty, dean of the College of Education and Allied Professions.

“The Smith Professor will facilitate regional economic development by nurturing school age and adolescent children who are at-risk for academic and social failure, and will provide opportunities to Western students to educate the state and serve the region,” Dougherty said. The professor also will seek grant funds to assist schools and agencies that work with people with communication disorders.

The Smith Professorship will be the first endowed professorship established at Western since the funding formula for state matching funds changed in July. Previously, a program initiated by the General Assembly to encourage private support of public institutions of higher education would match up to 50 percent of a private contribution. Under the new formula, universities that have been identified by The University of North Carolina system as focused-growth institutions - that is, those expected to grow at a faster rate than other schools in the system - now are eligible for a dollar-to-dollar match.

Smith’s estate gift to Western is the latest in a series of family contributions to the university made to honor the memory of her father, Albert Dudley Brewer. A former Western student who lived in Franklin during the later years of his life, Brewer had a hearing impairment.

The Albert D. Brewer Scholarship Fund at Western was established in 1984 by Smith’s brother, Dudley E. Brewer of Knoxville, Tenn., and his wife, to provide annual awards of $500 to assist students with impaired hearing. A sister, Adelaide Louise Brewer, made additional contributions to the fund in 1988, ensuring its endowment in perpetuity.

A native of Marion, Ind., Catherine Brewer Smith owned and managed a motel in Madeira Beach, Fla., for 26 years. She maintained residences in Franklin and in Yankeetown, Fla.

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Last modified: Friday, December 19, 2003
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