Question. ) When did each of you graduate from WCU and in what subject areas?
Charlie: 1966 with a bachelor’s in chemistry.
Mary Jo: 1964 with a bachelor’s in elementary education, and 1966 with a master’s in special education
Q. ) What are some of your fondest memories of your days at WCU?
Charlie: Wesley Foundation, outings, ping pong (my second major), traveling with the band and, as you will read later, having to carry an upper-class girl’s book.
Mary Jo: Wesley Foundation friends and events, early morning fog and crows calling through the valley as I went to play field hockey, ping-pong in Joyner, evening walks around campus, saying good-night in front of Moore Dorm.
Q. ) Mary Jo, tell us how the two of you met.
My shortened version of Charles’ frequently-told story is that we were in a group leaving Wesley Foundation when I realized that there were freshmen (identified by their beanies) behind me and I was an upper classman. I turned to this tall, lanky boy and shoved my books at him, telling him he was obliged to carry them for me. We dated for the next two-and-a-years and married in 1964.
Q. ) Charlie and Mary Jo, who were your favorite professors at Western Carolina and why?
Charlie: Dr. J.Y. Bassett. He was not only a great classroom instructor but added stories from his work in industry. Those stories gave us some insight into what was ahead for us after graduation.
Mary Jo: Dr. Killian, who gave me the honor of taking graduate courses in special education to see if they could be passed by an undergraduate. I passed with flying colors! Dr. Renfro, my chorus and church choir teacher, helped me continue my love of singing.
Q. ) The two of you have had very successful and rewarding careers. Tell us a little about your career path since graduating Western.
Charlie: I like to tell people I taught school for two years ... my first and last in the same year. My first position, for which I used my degree, was with the P. Lorillard Tobacco Co. I served as a chemist in the quality control department, then moved into a production facility as a shift supervisor. Next, I worked for Ciba-Geigy, a large agricultural chemical company, as a contract manufacturing coordinator. I interacted with plants that made our products. This was the best job I ever had! For more than a year, I commuted from Greensboro, North Carolina to Omaha, Nebraska and Des Moines, Iowa – one where some of our raw materials were produced and the other where the finished product was produced. I then found myself in Kinston, North Carolina. You know what’s close to Kinston, don’t you? ECU! I was afraid to wear my purple and gold because they would think I was an ECU fan! I was working in a small agricultural chemical company, Daly-Herring. I went to Daly-Herring as technical service manager, and worked my way to the general manager’s position. When the buy-outs and mergers caught up with me, my position was eliminated. We moved to Rockingham County, where I worked for various companies until I retired on February 29, 2008 -- a date I could remember.
Mary Jo: I used my teaching degrees only six years. I was fortunate to teach in the Camp Lab School. Gee, it seemed odd to be teaching in a classroom beside Mrs. Constance, as I was now a fellow teacher and not her husband’s student! I helped set up the first special education class at Sylva Elementary for severely retarded students and taught there one year. I ended my teaching career in Greensboro, where I had my first child. When there was a need to return to work, I changed directions and spent 19 years working in various medical offices and hospitals as a registration clerk. I retired in 2007.
Q. ) You both have been very involved with your alma mater over the years. Why do you feel it important for alumni to stay connected with their university?
Mary Jo: Western has been growing its campus and its educational programs over the years. No longer do people ask, “Where’s Cullowhee?” The name of Western is heard in sporting events as players from WCU are recognized. Many students have excelled in a variety of areas—not just teaching. I take pride in my alma mater as I hear of friends who have family members attending -- or considering attending -- WCU. To be enthusiastic, you need to be current with visits to this lovely, growing campus and its programs. Yes, football is a draw, but the game should only be a part of the day spent with old friends and memories. The caliber of students involved in the sports is outstanding. We can take pride is giving our financial assistance to any student at WCU.
Charlie: I think the difference between high school and college is the first major event in many students’ life. When I arrived on campus, I knew nine other students -- eight high school classmates and one sophomore. Mama was not there to take care of me anymore. Western kind of grew on me. I developed a love for the school, the area and many friends. By staying in touch with Western and visiting the campus, I have continued to meet new people each time. What could be better than a cool autumn afternoon at a football game in Cullowhee?
Q. ) Now, tell us something unique and interesting about yourselves that few people may know.
Charlie: I belong to an organization that has a project called “Geodetic Survey Recovery.” There are stations all over this country that have been surveyed such that the latitude, longitude and height are known. There is a station just south of Breese gym that tells me it is 2209.28 feet above sea level. Our organization recovers these station and reports to NOAA. This work is on a volunteer basis. We are saving your tax dollars that would be spent if government workers were doing this. I enjoy this work so much that in 2016 I received an award for being the number-one reporter in the country, a goal I have been working on since the 1990s.
Mary Jo: At age 52 I began a brief career as a model and actor. While my acting was only as an extra, I was fortunate that I could be easily identified in some of my roles. My favorite was playing the secretary of a school in “The Ruby Bridges Story.” This movie was shown in our public schools during Black History Month and, as a fifth grader, my granddaughter sat viewing it and shouted out, “That’s my Grandma!” She had no idea she would see me, but the camera was on my face for eight seconds as I stared at Ruby sitting in front of me. I can also be seen in “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” as well as several others. It was exciting to see what goes on to produce a movie. Lately, I have spent a lot of time playing a mountain lap dulcimer and penny whistle and sharing this music with those in retirement homes.