In recognition that more than 20 percent of Entegra Bank's workforce in Western North Carolina graduated from Western Carolina University, the financial institution's board of directors recently announced a $250,000 contribution to provide scholarship assistance to students from the region who want to study in WCU's College of Business.
The creation of the Entegra Bank Endowed Scholarship Fund comes after an employee survey earlier this year found that, of the bank's 205 employees across WNC, 42 received degrees from WCU, said Roger Plemens, president and CEO of Entegra Bank. In addition, 15 spouses, 22 children, five parents and 17 siblings of the bank's employees received degrees from WCU, said Plemens, who earned his bachelor's degree in business administration at WCU in 1977.
"Western Carolina University has such an impact on Western North Carolina, and Western Carolina University has had a major influence on Entegra Bank," said Plemens. "We think it is very important for businesses to provide scholarship support for students, and we hope other businesses will make that financial commitment."
The contribution, made earlier this spring, will provide scholarship assistance to students from Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Polk, Swain and Transylvania counties. Recipients of the Entegra Bank Endowed Scholarship must be full-time students majoring in accounting, business administration and law, computer information systems, entrepreneurship, finance, management or sales and marketing. Scholarships are renewable for up to four years for recipients maintaining a GPA of 3.0 or higher.
The Entegra gift is the latest as part of WCU's "Lead the Way," a comprehensive fundraising campaign inspired by the leadership of Chancellor David O. Belcher, who went on medical leave Dec. 31, 2017 after battling brain cancer since April 2016. He passed away June 17, 2018.
Belcher and wife Susan announced last October their pledge of $1.23 million in financial support for the "Lead the Way" effort, an announcement that has spawned several other significant contributions, including the recent gift from Entegra.
"I have had the good fortune to serve on the WCU Foundation Board during the 'Belcher years.' I have seen first-hand the great success WCU has experienced under Chancellor Belcher's leadership," said Plemens. "By giving to the 'Lead the Way' campaign, we want to keep that momentum going."
The "Lead the Way" campaign held its public launch on March 1, with a goal of raising a minimum of $60 million in contributions by the spring of 2019. Belcher announced at his 2012 installation address that increasing the number of endowed scholarships would be the No. 1 philanthropic priority of his administration. More than 200 new endowed scholarship funds have been established at WCU since then.
In addition to increasing the financial support available to WCU students through endowed scholarships, the fundraising effort also will seek support for experiential learning opportunities such as travel grants, paid internships, undergraduate and graduate research activities, and attendance at meetings of professional organizations. A third prong of the campaign will emphasize programmatic support to bolster the work of WCU's colleges, schools, departments and programs.
Entegra Bank, formerly Macon Bank, began in 1922 with one small building in Macon County. Today, the financial institution operates 18 full-service branches and three loan production offices in Brevard, Cashiers, Columbus, Hendersonville, Highlands, Franklin, Saluda, Sylva, Murphy and Waynesville in WNC; in Anderson, Chesnee and Greenville in Upstate South Carolina; and in Duluth, Gainesville and Jasper in northern Georgia.
The gift to the "Lead the Way" campaign is not Entegra's first financial contribution to WCU. When it was called Macon Bank, the financial institution, under Plemens' leadership, created the Michael Morgan Memorial Scholarship Fund in 2007 through contributions totaling $44,000. A 1984 finance graduate of WCU, Michael Morgan served as the first vice president and chief lending officer of Macon Bank. The fund provides scholarships to juniors and senior from WCU who are majoring in business finance.
In addition to Plemens, members of the Entegra Bank Board of Directors are Jim Garner, agent with Wayah Insurance who earned his bachelor's degree in 1974 and master's degree in 1976, both from WCU; Fred Jones, attorney with the firm of Jones, Key, Melvin & Patton; Ronald Beale, general contractor with Beale Construction Inc.; Beverly Mason, owner/broker of Lamplighter Realty; Adam Burrell, physician with Burrell Family and Obstetrical Care; Louis Buck, former WCU College of Business faculty member and administrator; Chuck Edwards, owner and operator of McDonald's restaurants; Matt Dunbar, managing director of the Upstate Carolina Angel Network; Craig Fowler, WCU chief information officer; and Doug Kroske, retiree.