By all accounts, the third annual “I Love WCU” month was a huge success, with more than 1,400 people making financial contributions or pledges to Western Carolina University between Feb. 1 and Feb. 28.
The large number of donors during the month means that fundraising efforts met a special giving challenge issued by four WCU alumni: Brad Bradshaw, Wes Elingburg, Ken Hughes and Dale Sims. The four pledged a combined donation of $100,000 if at least 1,000 people made a gift during the monthlong effort. Elingburg is the current chair of the WCU Foundation Board, and Bradshaw, Hughes and Sims are all past chairs.
“Together as a family, as a Catamount Nation, we’ve done something that we have never done before,” WCU Interim Chancellor Alison Morrison-Shetlar told faculty and staff who gathered Friday, March 1, at the A.K. Hinds University Center Grandroom to celebrate the end of “I Love WCU” month.
“Students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends — 1,471 to be exact — have come together and shown their love for WCU by making a gift during the month of February. And because of that, I can wrest $100,000 from the hands of our four generous alumni who issued a challenge to us. We not only accepted their challenge, but in true Catamount fashion, we surpassed it.”
Morrison-Shetlar praised WCU’s faculty and staff for reaching a 52.3 percent participation rate in giving this fiscal year through Feb. 28, surpassing their own challenge of 50 percent. “That’s huge,” she said. “The national giving rate average of public university faculty and staff is 32 percent.”
The trophy for the division or college with the highest participation rate will be shared by the Department of Athletics and the Chancellor’s Division, with both units registering 100 percent participation. Each division will host the trophy for six months.
Other awards given during the ceremony were:
Morrison-Shetlar thanked the five divisions and colleges that exceeded 50 percent in their participation rate. “I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it for our students, for our faculty and staff, and for our university,” she said.
Natalie Broom, Staff Senate chair, attributed much of the success of the 2019 “I Love WCU” month to each of the Giving Champion volunteers who encouraged their co-workers in their respective college or division to participate.
WCU Fire Marshal Chris Moore, Giving Champion for the Division of Facilities Management, said his leadership role during “I Love WCU” month gave him a chance to learn what was on the minds of his co-workers: their future. Moore also praised them for having “givers’ hearts.” “I’m proud of the representation my division gave during this event and I’m proud to be a part of this university,” he said.
Kim Winter, dean of the College of Education and Allied Professions, said she was inspired to give during “I Love WCU” month by the endless possibilities for greatness at WCU. “My institutional commitment to Western Carolina runs deep,” Winter said. “I love this university, this place we’ve created together. The Western way is not a metaphor to me, but something real. And investing — not just my time, my professional efforts, my work life but also my money — is imperative.”
The annual “I Love WCU” month tradition on campus also helps WCU’s philanthropic campaign “Lead the Way: A Campaign Inspired by The Belcher Years,” which includes a goal of $60 million and will conclude this spring.