Western Carolina University’s Facilities Management unit is a family, as far as members of its leadership team are concerned, so they decided to help take care of their own by establishing the WCU Facilities Management Annual Scholarship in honor of “I Love WCU” month.
Two $500 scholarships — one for each semester — will be awarded to dependents or grandchildren of WCU Facilities Management employees, retirees and deceased employees starting with the fall 2020 semester. The idea was borne out of an appreciation and respect for a group of dedicated employees by four members of the Facilities Management leadership team. “People work hard in Facilities Management, day in and day out, and are not the most-compensated group on campus,” said Chris Moore, WCU’s fire marshal and one of the four who helped create the scholarship. “They give a lot above and beyond what they do in their pay scales.”
Moore shared the idea with Joe Walker, associate vice chancellor of facilities management, after several of Moore’s co-workers approached him about keeping the money they donated to “I Love WCU” closer to their department, Moore said. Walker, who has worked at WCU for 23 years, then floated the idea at a leadership retreat with Roger Turk, grounds superintendent, and Jon Maddy, director of safety and risk management. The idea made sense, the men said, because it helped their employees find a satisfying way to give back to the university and in turn help their co-workers. “We have people giving to ‘I Love WCU’,” said Walker, who earned his master’s degree at WCU in 2016. “But, a lot of times people would say, ‘If I knew my dollar, my 10 dollars, was going to something closer to me, I’d be more willing to give.’”
Walker said the group is committed to funding the scholarship for four years with the goal of reaching the endowment level. “But how fast we get to that endowment depends on what others in the university community and specifically Facilities Management do,” Walker said.
"People work hard in Facilities Management, day in and day out, and are not the most-compensated group on campus. They give a lot above and beyond what they do in their pay scales."
Maddy, who graduated from WCU in 2002 and has worked at the university for 17 years, became emotional when talking about the impact a $500 scholarship can have on a student. He was a first-generation college student with little funds who still sees himself in many of today’s students. “I came to college here with no vehicle, two suitcases and a worn-out typewriter,” said Maddy, who considers WCU his home. “Everybody else was on computers and I was clicking away.”
Once he heard about the scholarship plan, he was sold, he said, because it provided him a “path” to follow. “I did want to make sure there was something in place that will be set in stone, because eventually we’re all going to retire,” he said. “This is a golden opportunity to put something in place, to build a foundation.”
Moore, too, felt an obligation to help future generations of students who came from “blue-collar” and single-parent families as he did. Moore graduated from WCU in 2001 and started working at WCU just under two years ago. “Dollars and cents add up. Especially when you’re in that tier of the socioeconomic strata. I can only imagine how happy my dad would have been if someone had awarded me $500,” he said.
Turk, who has worked at WCU for 30 years, said it was a joy to create something that would reward those employees whose work often goes under the radar. “We are considered essential personnel, so we’re here in the good and the bad. You can pick up the phone at 2 o’clock in the morning and they’re going to be in here at 2:15. Or, they’ll look outside, because we take care of snow, and see it snowing, and they’ll already start coming to work,” Turk said. “There is just that community, that sense of belonging, that sense of being a critical part of this environment that you’re providing for these students. When they know they’re needed, they’re here and they don’t complain about it.”
In the end, Walker said, the decision to create a scholarship was all about supporting his employees. “We are the working class,” he said. “The majority of our workforce in Facilities Management are the lowest paid individuals. I would much rather see those dollars go to the Facilities Management family and their needs than somewhere else.”
This year’s I Love WCU Month in February urges all WCU faculty and staff to donate their time and talent as well as their treasure. WCU’s Center of Community Engagement and Service Learning and Division of Advancement hope 100 percent of WCU’s faculty and staff will participate.