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Faculty, staff donors recognized at Shetland Society event

shetland trophy

Chancellor Kelli R. Brown (center) presents the Faculty/Staff Giving Challenge trophy to Department of Athletics representatives Justin Gray (left), head men’s basketball coach, and Lauren Rhyne, assistant director of athletics development.

The more than 350 Western Carolina University faculty and staff members who have made a philanthropic gift to the university in the last 12 months were recognized Monday, Oct. 31, as members of the Shetland Society.

One of four giving societies established by the Division of Advancement in 2020 to celebrate the impact of philanthropy, the Shetland Society acknowledges faculty and staff gifts made on an annual basis. A campaign to increase faculty and staff membership in the society began Sept. 15 and concluded Oct. 31.

Named for the Shetland ponies that then-Chancellor A.C. Reynolds purchased in 1912 to haul supplies by cart back and forth from Sylva to campus, the society celebrates the faculty and staff members who work hard for the university delivering goods in the form of education and services to its students and the greater community.

shetland students

Students pause to admire the ponies at a Shetland Society celebration Oct. 31.

In brief remarks prior to a ceremonial high-noon stroll with a pair of Shetland ponies, Chancellor Kelli R. Brown announced the Division of Athletics as the winner of the “Faculty/Staff Giving Challenge” trophy for having the highest rate of participation of donors, at nearly 91 percent. Each WCU college and department previously identified a volunteer “Giving Champion” to encourage his or her colleagues to make a contribution.

The College of Engineering and Technology had the highest participation rate for college faculty and staff donors and the Division of Advancement, which is not eligible for the title of “Giving Champion,” had the highest participation rate for staff donors.

Brown thanked the members of the Shetland Society for their financial support of WCU, which comes in addition to their day-to-day duties as faculty and staff.

“You have gone above and beyond to set a philanthropic example that highlights your devotion to Western Carolina University, and we want to recognize that. By making a gift to your institution, you also make a difference for our students,” she said to those gathered in the courtyard adjacent to Balsam and Blue Ridge halls. “Whether it’s a smooth ride or rough pony-pulled wagon ride, you keep us moving forward, and you do so with generosity and largeness of spirit.”

A total of 355 faculty and staff members have made philanthropic contributions to WCU this year, and more than 26 percent of that total represents first-time donors to the university, said Rebekah B. Cheney, director of annual giving.

The campaign met its goal of a 5 percent increase in participation, as more than 22 percent of all faculty and staff are donors during the current fiscal year, up from last year’s percentage of 17 percent, Cheney said.

For more information about the Shetland Society, visit

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