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$75k gift from alumna will create endowment for WCU’s interior design program

kathy greeley scholarship showcase

Kathy Greeley (third from left), attending this year's Scholarship Showcase, recently created an endowment to support the interior design program in perpetuity.

By Bill Studenc

Students in Western Carolina University’s interior design program soon will have access to new experiential learning opportunities thanks to a $75,000 gift from a woman whose 40-year career in the profession got its start at WCU.

Swain County High School graduate Kathryn Crisp Greeley, owner of the Waynesville-based firm Kathryn Greeley Designs, recently created an endowment to support the interior design program in perpetuity. Currently chair of the WCU Board of Trustees, Greeley is a two-time graduate of WCU, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in 1973 and master’s degree in 1983.

The creation of an endowment for the interior design program represents Greeley’s leadership gift to WCU’s “Fill the Western Sky” comprehensive fundraising campaign, an effort to raise a minimum of $75 million for the university’s academic, student engagement and athletics programs. The new endowment is the latest example of her long history of support for WCU, said Chancellor Kelli R. Brown.

“Kathy Greeley has been extremely generous to Western Carolina University over the years with gifts of her time, talent and treasure,” Brown said. “Her latest financial contributions to a program that is near and dear to her heart will provide a legacy of support to our interior design program for generations to come. I look forward to continuing to work with her in her role as the chair of the WCU Board of Trustees to further the mission of the university and to 'Fill the Western Sky' with hope, promise and prosperity.”

Greeley has been involved in supporting WCU’s Friends of the Arts organization and the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band. She previously established a scholarship fund in memory of her parents, French Orion and Margaret Colville Crisp. The $50,000 fund provides scholarships to students from Western North Carolina counties with special consideration for active-duty military and veterans, as Greeley’s father was a decorated World War II veteran.

She resides in Waynesville with her husband, J. Wells Greeley, the past owner and president of Wells Funeral Homes and Events Center who now enjoys the title of “funeral director emeritus.”

Greeley said she selected the interior design program in the Belcher College of Fine and Performing Arts for her “Fill the Western Sky” campaign gift because it set her on the road to a rewarding career spanning more than 40 years in the interior design profession and in recognition of the importance of the arts in society.

“Western Carolina has been very impactful in both my professional and personal life. I often say that ‘WCU changes lives,’ and it has certainly changed my life. My hope is that our gift will inspire others to establish endowments in areas of their personal passions. I am so grateful for what WCU has done for my career in interior design,” she said.

“It is our hope that this gift will be used solely to provide students with opportunities to study abroad, attend programs, conferences and seminars, and do research in the field of interior design. I hope that, as a result of these opportunities, students will be able to fulfill their passions, follow their dreams and enjoy a successful and joyous design career. As travel abroad has fueled my design passion and greatly informed my design aesthetic, it is my hope that our students will be influenced by their exposure to the wealth of history and design from around the world.”

kathy greeley

Kathy Greeley

Greeley said she believes that participating in those kinds of extracurricular activities and experiential learning opportunities, which are a priority of the fundraising campaign, will help develop students’ confidence and leadership skills.

Creating an endowment for the interior design program is also a way to pay homage to the WCU faculty members who helped Greeley along her educational and professional paths, she said.

“I can’t begin to stress how much several WCU faculty members have had a positive impact on my career and how they have shaped my life, both personally and professionally. As an undergraduate student in crisis due to the unexpected death of my father only weeks before classes started, Jane Hyatt, who was on the interior design faculty, took me under her wing and mentored me for my four years as I completed my bachelor’s degree,” Greeley said.

While working on her master’s degree at WCU, she studied under interior design faculty members Michele Lee and his wife, Cherie.

“Both of these individuals pushed me beyond my comfort level and made me keenly aware of the importance of interior design qualification through the National Council for Interior Design Qualification exam, as well as the importance of participation in professional organizations,” she said. “While working on my master’s thesis, Dr. Judy Dowell guided me to successfully write my thesis when I thought that was completely impossible, and she has been a source of encouragement to this day.”

In addition to owning and operating her full-service interior design firm in Waynesville, Greeley has served as an adjunct faculty member in WCU’s interior design program, teaching classes in “The History of Furniture” and “Professional Practice for Interior Design.” Her firm has provided internship opportunities for numerous students from WCU, including several who were hired by the company at the end of their internships and have gone on to work collectively for more than 20 years at Kathryn Greeley Designs.

She is a professional member of the American Society of Interior Designers and is NCIDQ-qualified and registered to practice interior design by the N.C. Board of Architecture and Registered Interior Designers. She is a past president of the North and South Carolina Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers and is the author of two books, “The Collected Tabletop” and “The Collected Cottage.” Her design work and books have been featured in publications including Southern Home, Victoria, Traditional Home, Country Home, Carolina Home + Garden, Southern Living and At Home in Arkansas.

Erin Adams, program coordinator and professor of interior design, said the program’s faculty, staff, students and graduates are proud of the accomplishments of Greeley as an alumna and appreciative of her ongoing contributions to the program.

“We are sincerely grateful for Kathy Greeley’s continued support of the interior design program,” Adams said. “Her gift is a generous investment in a brighter future for our students, and it will assist in supporting the sustained growth and evolution of the interior design program.”

For more information about the “Fill the Western Sky” campaign or to make a contribution, visit, call 828-227-7124 or email

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