The Naylor family of Mocksville has a tradition of WCU attendance that spans 40 years. Two generations – seven family members – have lived in residence halls, sung in choirs, held student jobs and internships, gotten involved in clubs and organizations and watched more Naylors follow in their footsteps. “We came, but we never left,” Michael Naylor ’82 MBA ’88 said of his family’s ties to the campus.
Rudolph and Betty Naylor, parents and grandparents of the multiple alumni in their close-knit family, have three sons, a daughter-in-law and two granddaughters with WCU degrees. Another grandchild is a current student. Three more likely will enroll when they graduate from high school.
Now in their 80s, Rudolph and Betty provided support for 12 continuous years of college costs as one son after another was enrolled. “They never told us that college was what we had to do, but once we realized that was an option, they did everything they could to make sure it happened,” Michael said. The Naylor brothers honored their parents by having their names engraved on a plaque affixed to the Alumni Tower.
The family’s connection to WCU began in the late 1970s with Michael, who was working in a Mocksville grocery store with no plans for college. A visit to Cullowhee to see cousin Harold Wilson Jr. ’78, a residence hall leader, coupled with watching his peers complete college applications, changed his mind. A caravan of family members drove him to WCU a few months later. “I was the first in the family to go to a four-year school, and the hopes and dreams of a lot of people were riding on me,” he said.
Michael became involved with the Student Government Association, Western Gold, Phi Beta Lambda and the Organization of Ebony Students. He participated in the university’s Cooperative Education Program and completed an internship with NASA at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. He met wife Shaun Berry Naylor ’86 while attending WCU.
Michael had graduated and was working in WCU’s Counseling, Advisement and Placement Center when Larry Naylor ’86 arrived. Michael looked out for his younger brother and introduced him around. “That was a big confidence boost for me,” Larry said. He became director of the Inspirational Choir and played the piano for the group during his years at WCU. He was awarded a ROTC scholarship, attended the U.S. Army’s airborne school, and received an officer’s commission, graduating from the ROTC program with distinction. He also was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, SGA, OES and Last Minute Productions at WCU.
Campus tours started for Eric Naylor ’91 when he was 9, traveling to Cullowhee with his parents to visit Michael and Larry. “With two brothers who had earned WCU degrees, not going to college was never an option. I always followed in their footsteps, and they never led me astray,” he said. WCU was the only college to which Eric applied. He was a member of the baseball team and active in intramural sports, Alpha Phi Alpha and Last Minute Productions. In a criminal justice class, he heard a talk by a state trooper that inspired him to join the N.C. Highway Patrol when he graduated.
Michael, living in Raleigh and pursing his career while his brothers were in school, enjoyed seeing their growth from a distance. “They were coming into their own and found their path at WCU,” he said.
Michael, now director of human resources and operational services for the N.C. League of Municipalities, previously held roles throughout North America for Nortel Networks for more than 20 years. He also served for 10 years as executive director of Life Community Services and as elder and associate pastor at Life International in Research Triangle Park. Daughter Kaileigh is currently a WCU student.
During his military career of 20 years, Larry was assigned to the U.S. Department of State and served on a team that performed search and recovery missions in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. He was in three combat tours and received a Bronze Star for service in Afghanistan. After retiring from the military, he was employed by L3 Technologies in Arlington, Virginia, for 13 years. He and his wife, Leatrice, have two WCU alumnae daughters, Brittany Naylor ’16 and Lexie Naylor ’17. Daughter Chelsea, now in high school, plans to enroll at WCU.
Eric, a sergeant, is in his 26th year as a state trooper. He has received a variety of special assignments, including honor guard, driving and physical training instructor, and providing executive protection for governors and presidents and their families. He and his wife, Nanette, have two sons, Adam and Alex, who also have WCU plans.
The Naylor brothers served as keynote speakers during a Family Weekend legacy event hosted by the Office of Alumni Engagement in September 2017 to celebrate families in which parents, children and other relatives share the bond of being WCU alumni. In addition to their immediate family, they have eight cousins and many friends who followed them to WCU.