CULLOWHEE – Hendersonville businessman Thomas Apodaca, elected in November to represent North Carolina’s 48th Senate District, has resigned his position as secretary of the Western Carolina University board of trustees.
State law requires that Apodaca step down from Western’s board of trustees prior to the convening of the N.C. General Assembly later this month. He was appointed to serve as a trustee at Western by The University of North Carolina Board of Governors in July 1997, and was reappointed in July 2001 to a term scheduled to expire in June 2005.
A 1980 graduate of Western Carolina with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, Apodaca is president of Southeastern Sureties Group Inc. and president of Fifth Avenue Travel Inc.
During Apodaca’s tenure as a trustee, Western has embarked upon a building boom unprecedented in the university’s history, with more than $130 million in renovation and construction work now under way or in the planning stages. That includes nearly $100 million in projects funded by the higher education bond approved by N.C. voters in November 2000.
Since 1997, Western has seen its average freshman Scholastic Assessment Test score increase from 981 to 1012 for the freshman class that entered in August 2002. During that same time, Western also has enjoyed steady growth in its student population, with this past fall’s enrollment of 7,034 marking the first time in Western’s history that the university surpassed the 7,000-student mark.
Other highlights of Apodaca’s time on the Western board include:
- The establishment of a residential Honors College for high-achieving students, with the college growing from a concept in 1997 to more than 675 students last fall.
- The university’s designation as an official college sponsor of National Merit Scholars. Only four other institutions in the state have received that prestigious designation.
- The adoption of the first computer admissions requirement in The University of North Carolina system. Western was among the first public institutions in the nation requiring students to report to campus with networkable computers.
- Western’s designation by Yahoo! Internet Life magazine for two consecutive years among the 100 “most-wired campuses” in the nation, and Cullowhee’s designation by the magazine in 1998 as “most wired small town in North Carolina.”
- Expanded academic program offerings, including a new master of fine arts degree, a minor in dance, and new undergraduate degree programs in entrepreneurship, environmental sciences, telecommunications and construction management.
Before Apodaca officially stepped down as a trustee earlier this month, Western Chancellor John W. Bardo presented him with an engraved clock in appreciation of his service to the university.
“Tom Apodaca has played an important role in guiding Western Carolina University at a time of extraordinary change and expansion,” Chancellor John W. Bardo said. “We will miss him as a member of our board, but we take comfort in knowing that he will continue to serve this region and this state well in his new role in the legislature.”