CULLOWHEE – Friends, family members and county and state officials gathered Wednesday (April 23) to pay tribute to the late H.F. “Cotton” Robinson, chancellor of Western Carolina University from 1974 through 1984, as a section of N.C. 107 that runs by the Cullowhee campus was dedicated as the “Dr. H.F. ‘Cotton’ Robinson Memorial Highway.”
Tippett presents plaque to Robinson family
The memorial designation includes the portion of N.C. 107 from the dual bridges over the Tuckaseigee River near Webster to the bridge at East LaPorte.

Speakers noted Robinson’s positive influence on Western’s growth and on the economic development of Western North Carolina, including his work in gaining funding from the state for the construction of the four-lane highway that now bears his name.

Western Chancellor John W. Bardo told the crowd at the dedication ceremony that Robinson sought funding for the road because he realized the importance of having a “good front door” for the campus.

Robinson put a lot of emphasis on creating a top-notch physical plant, improving the university’s fiscal situation, and expanding enrollment and academic programs during his tenure as chancellor, Bardo said. “His notes, letters and memos show a man who was planning for a future that was bright and planning a university that was going to exceed anything anyone had conceptualized until that time,” he said.

“What he cared about more than anything else was the future of the people of this region and of this state, and the actions he took were actions for the people. That is the history of this university, and that is also its future,” Bardo said.

Robinson directed many campus resources toward sciences and technology, Bardo said. “A lot of what we’re accomplishing today is based on the positioning that Dr. Robinson was able to make at this university. He was about 20 years ahead of his time.

“I’m so excited that the state has determined to name this section of highway in Dr. Robinson’s honor,” Bardo said. “He deserves it, his family deserves it, and this university needs to continue to recognize the legacy of Dr. Robinson as we move forward into a very, very bright future.”

N.C. Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippett said Robinson’s influence as an educator, scientist and plant geneticist “was felt far beyond the mountains of North Carolina.” Robinson guided the university’s initiatives in third-world countries and served on committees for Presidents Jimmy Carter and Lyndon Johnson to improve food production in those countries, Tippett said.

“Dr. Robinson’s compassion for other people and strong work ethic took him down a path that touched the lives of many people and made the world a much better place,” he said.

Josie Robinson Bewsey of Cullowhee, daughter of H.F. Robinson, said her father loved Western, but also loved Western North Carolina and its people. “Not only did he work hard to improve this university, but he also worked hard, if not harder, to promote and encourage economic opportunities for the people,” she said.

“I know that my father, if he could be with us today, would be really honored and humbled to have this road named in his honor.”

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Last modified: Friday, April 25, 2003
Copyright 2003 by Western Carolina University