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WCU Stories

Opening Assembly 'Fills the Western Sky'

fall opening assembly

Chancellor Brown announces the theme for the next comprehensive campaign: Fill The Western Sky.

By Benny Smith

People like to hear compelling stories that inspire them to engage and answer a call to action.

Western Carolina University Chancellor Kelli Brown provided numerous stories to inspire and motivate on Wednesday to announce 2023-24 university priorities to hundreds of faculty and staff.

She identified the first “big priority” for the upcoming year by revealing and explaining the name of the new $75 million comprehensive fundraising campaign which includes funds to update athletics facilities and allow more students to experience academic activities beyond the classroom.

“The campaign name comes from a line familiar to those of you who know our beloved fight song. Fill the Western Sky: A Campaign for Western Carolina University,” Brown enthusiastically told the crowd from the Performance Hall stage of Bardo Arts Center. “The campaign is the vehicle through which we will endeavor to share the wonderful stories that together shape the narrative of this wonderful place.”

Fall opening assembly 127

Chancellor Brown welcomes faculty and staff to the start of the 2023-24 academic year.

Leaders across campus have been working diligently to prepare for this effort and the university is now more than halfway toward reaching the $75 million as adopted by the WCU Board of Trustees and the WCU Foundation Board of Directors. Counting towards this campaign began with Brown’s tenure in July 2019. After much planning, and recruitment of the Steering Committee, the campaign entered its "leadership phase" in July 2022 seeking transformational, leadership gifts towards the top priorities. The public phase of the campaign is slated to launch in Fall 2024 with wide engagement across Catamount Nation.

“The Fill the Western Sky Campaign priorities will seek to secure philanthropic support for the promises that the university has made to our students and to the region we were founded to serve, doing so through three specific areas: academics, engagement, and athletics,” she stated.

In the academic arena, WCU is seeking support for undergraduate and faculty research, state-of-the-art classroom and laboratory facilities, outdoor classroom space, study-abroad and study-away opportunities, and departmental and college initiatives. Campaign priorities regarding engagement are designed to provide additional resources for student internships, mental health and counseling, service-learning opportunities, clinical experiences, and student life programs including emergency funds to assist students at times of crisis.

The Fill the Western Sky campaign will also raise funds necessary for critical and essential upgrades to WCU's athletics infrastructure. The long-overdue improvements to the Jordan-Phillips Field House, EJ Whitmire Stadium, and Camp Gym are necessary and essential to providing facilities consistent with a Division I program that allows a first-class student experience.

“Athletics plays an important role in the total student experience as well as helps support admissions and enrollment,” Brown said. “Our student athletes deserve facilities that meet their needs, and our students and Catamount Community deserve places where they are proud to cheer on our Catamounts.”

WCU will celebrate the successful conclusion of the campaign in 2026.

In addition to talking about the campaign importance Brown mentioned the following:

  • 45 Year-plus Service Awards: Chancellor Brown recognized WCU Staff Sheila Frizzell, Sharon Painter and Carolyn Wiggins who have worked at the university since the 1970s. They each received the Richard Caswell Award which was established to honor noteworthy, loyal, efficient and dedicated employees with 45 or more years of service.
  • Campus Theme: Community and belongingness is our campus theme this year and “I can’t think of a more perfect topic to guide us through the months ahead,” said Brown, who added that this theme is a campus priority.


service award 1

Sheila Frizzell (center) receives her service award from Chancellor Brown and Staff Senate chair Zachary Williams.






service award 2

Sharon Painter (center) receives her service award from Chancellor Brown and Staff Senate chair Zachary Williams.






service award 3

Carolyn Wiggins (center) receives her service award from Chancellor Brown and Staff Senate chair Zachary Williams.







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