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Couple’s blended gift of $367,500 will support WCU athletics facilities improvements, student-athletes

fortner gifts

Vikki and Terry Fortner

By Bill Studenc

Western Carolina University’s comprehensive fundraising campaign titled “Fill the Western Sky” recently received a big boost in the form of gifts and pledges totaling $367,500 to benefit the Catamount athletics program and WCU student-athletes.

The gifts and commitments are from WCU alumni Terry and Vikki Fortner.

The Fortners currently own Fortner Advisory and Development LLC,  a land development company focused in Western North Carolina and an international consulting firm. Vikki Richards Fortner was previously the owner of By Vikki Accessories and Natural Path Wellness Center. Terry Fortner was previously an executive at Nationwide Insurance and LKQ Corporation.

“The Fortners’ gift for the ‘Fill the Western Sky’ campaign is an ideal one that we refer to as a blended gift consisting of a major gift, a planned gift and an annual gift,” said Jamie T. Raynor, WCU’s vice chancellor for advancement. “Terry and Vikki will be able to see the impact of their current philanthropy right away while they also are creating a legacy of support for WCU that will have a positive impact for generations to come.”

An effort to raise a minimum of $75 million in philanthropic support for the university’s academic, student engagement and athletics programs, the “Fill the Western Sky” campaign has a major focus on securing philanthropic gifts to support long-needed upgrades to athletics facilities.

Residents of Dahlonega, Georgia, the Fortners have made a $100,000 cash commitment to the campaign designated for athletics facilities priorities. In addition to their cash gift, they have made arrangements in their estate for a $250,000 gift to go toward athletics facilities renovations. These gifts are on top of their multiyear commitment to the Catamount Club in direct scholarship support for WCU’s student-athletes.

A 1977 graduate of WCU with a bachelor’s degree in business management, Terry Fortner is a member of the Western Carolina University Foundation Board of Directors. A longtime supporter of the university’s athletics program, he previously served on the Board of Visitors, Catamount Club Board of Directors and Alumni Association Board of Directors.

Born in Cherokee and a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians who grew up in the North Carolina town of Murphy, Vikki Fortner earned her bachelor’s degree in education in 1979 at WCU, where she was a member of Zeta Tau Alpha sorority.

The couple trace their long history of support for Catamount athletics, especially football and basketball, to their time as students at WCU.

“I played high school sports at Swain County High School,” he said. “While attending WCU, even though I did not play, I attended a lot of the football and basketball games. After graduation, my passion continued to grow and I joined the Big Cat Club (the forerunner to today’s Catamount Club). That was the beginning and continues to be a passion today.”

“My support of WCU athletics began when I became a WCU band student as a flag corps member while in school. This was mainly for football,” she said. “Being a member of Zeta Tau Alpha sorority also encouraged supporting college athletics.”

After they were married, they continued to follow WCU athletics from afar even though they lived in other states.

Although they have provided financial assistance to Catamount athletics program for 41 years, the Fortners said they viewed the “Fill the Western Sky” campaign as an opportunity to increase their support at a critical time in the university’s history.

“Paying it forward and the bequest are both important to both of us as we care about the future of WCU,” he said. “Western Carolina University is such a wonderful and beautiful campus. The strength, though, are the people. The campaign is needed to bring our facilities up to par or better. Further, funding scholarships is a must to be competitive in the Southern Conference. Hopefully, our gift will encourage others that have the same passion that we do. “

Vikki Fortner agreed. “We support WCU as a way to give back to others and to help young people as they pursue their goals,” she said. “We hope that our contribution will assist a student’s education and does so in a manner that ultimately gives them a fulfilling and successful life.”

While their enthusiasm for Catamount athletics began with football and basketball, the Fortners said they now support all of WCU’s teams and frequently attend sporting events beyond football and basketball games.

“We both play golf and have a passion for the sport, and we truly enjoy many others such as softball, baseball, tennis and others. The band is always a highlight for both of us. We even attended the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade when the band marched in New York City a few years ago,” she said.

Terry Fortner said that he hopes other WCU alumni will join in the “Fill the Western Sky” campaign to help the university reach – and surpass – its $75 million goal.

“We are humbled and honored to participate in this campaign and make other gifts,” he said. “Western Carolina University is a wonderful place, and we feel right at home each time we enter campus. It is always great to see so many fellow classmates, friends, students and staff.”

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

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