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‘Fill the Western Sky’ contributions continue Brown family legacy of support for WCU

frank and becky brown

Frank H. Brown III and Becky Brown

By Bill Studenc

A Cary couple with deep family connections to the founders of the institution that would become Western Carolina University is taking steps to ensure that students of the future will continue to have access to enhanced educational, athletic and extracurricular activities.

Frank H. Brown III, a fourth-generation member of a family that is significant in the history of WCU, and spouse Rebecca “Becky” Brown, a 1971 graduate of WCU and current member of the university’s Board of Trustees, recently made gifts totaling nearly $53,000 through the transfer of stock to the Western Carolina University Foundation.

The bulk of the gift is designated to support much-needed renovations to WCU’s athletics facilities through the ongoing “Fill the Western Sky” comprehensive fundraising campaign. The $75 million campaign has a significant focus on raising money to support enhancements to athletics facilities, with a goal of raising at least $30 million in philanthropic gifts to help fund those specific upgrades.

The remainder from the Browns’ recent contribution is allocated to increase the corpus of the existing Frank and Rebecca Revis Brown Endowed Scholarship Fund, which provides financial support to students in WCU’s College of Business.

Six students have received Frank and Rebecca Revis Brown Scholarship since its inception. Among them is Mason Avillion, a May 2024 graduate from Elon majoring in entrepreneurship, who characterized the scholarship as a life raft that helped him traverse some financially choppy waters. Avillion transferred to WCU in 2022 after beginning his higher education journey at Alamance Community College.

“My family has never been well-off. When I was a child, we lived in poverty – having to ration our food and live in the dark when the electrical bills were overdue. So, it did not surprise me when my parents told me I was on my own for college. Currently, both of my parents are out of a job, so this support is greatly appreciated,” said Avillion, who plans to go on to graduate from law school and build a law firm that provides free legal counsel to those in need.

“I am a financially independent student, so any financial help is greatly appreciated. But I do not want to limit my thankfulness to the scope of capital, as this investment in my education has contributed not only to my financial capacity to attend WCU but also re-instilled confidence in myself as well. This generous contribution gives me hope for my idealized future and gives me the means to achieve it. The munificent act of creating a scholarship is one that was selfless and progressive by people who are helping the next generation of the world navigate the financial hardships that many are forced to find their way through.” 

Becky Brown, a Swain County native who graduated from WCU’s College of Business with a degree in business administration, said that she and her husband established the scholarship fund out of a desire to help provide financial support for deserving students majoring in a business discipline.

“As an alumnus of the university, I feel I should support the university, whether it be financially or in other ways. Not only did I receive in my opinion an excellent education, but I also learned many ‘life lessons’ along the way,” said Brown, a retired director of budget and management for the N.C. Department of Labor.

“I hope this will help take some of the financial stresses off students so they can concentrate on their studies and enjoy college life. I have had the opportunity to meet some of the students who received this scholarship, and all were very impressive.”

As members of the Cullowhee Society, the Browns now have a lifetime giving total of more than $110,000 to the university over 46 consecutive years, including previous support for the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band and the Catamount Club. And they agree that they plan to continue to provide financial support to WCU.

“I am extremely proud of the Brown family legacy with Western Carolina University,” said Frank Brown III, whose father served two times as chief executive officer of the institution and whose grandfather is the namesake for WCU’s Brown Hall.

Frank H. Brown Jr. was appointed acting president in 1972 and acting chancellor in 1974. He was the son of Frank H. Brown Sr., associate professor of chemistry at the institution from 1908 to 1950, and grandson of R. Hamilton Brown, one of the trustees from the late 1800s who worked with founder Robert Lee Madison to create the school that evolved into WCU.

Brown Sr. was also among the original 18 students to enroll in the fledgling school, going on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in science at N.C. State University before returning to Cullowhee as a professor of chemistry at WCU.

“Because of my family connections to Western Carolina University, I feel it is very important for me to contribute so students can have the opportunity to realize their full potential while getting an education,” Brown III said. “Educating students is a continuation of the work done by the Brown family to ensure that students receive the tools necessary for them to make the world a better place.” He is retired comptroller for the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.

The Browns’ recent gift to help fund renovations to WCU’s athletics facilities comes after a behind-the-scenes visit to spaces currently used by Catamount student-athletes.

“I was fortunate enough to tour the facilities and truthfully had no idea they were in such poor condition,” Becky Brown said. “There is no way anyone can see the conditions and not understand the need for repairs and upgrades to the facilities. And, as longtime supporters of Catamount athletics, Frank and I want to be ‘part of the solution’ to improve the facilities.”

Brown III said he remembers growing up in Cullowhee, where he attended football games in Memorial Stadium and basketball games in Reid Gymnasium.

“I would run from McKee Building to the baseball field after school to watch a baseball game – occasionally as a bat boy for the visiting team. Unforgettable memories were made at those locations,” he said. “Many things have changed since those days, and current improvements are necessary to upgrade the athletic facilities so memories for current and future student athletes and fans will continue to be made in the best venues possible.”

The Browns said that the upgrades to WCU’s athletics facilities are needed to keep up with competitors in the Southern Conference, recruit and retain top-notch student-athletes, improve safety for the participants and attendees, enhance the game-day experience for fans and increase pride among students, alumni and community members.

And, for both Frank and Becky Brown, providing financial support to WCU celebrates a lengthy family relationship with the institution and its past while helping set up the university for future progress.

“Since its founding, Western Carolina has served Western North Carolina, but Western’s impact is now felt worldwide,” Brown III said. “Becky and I hope to be able to do what we can to ensure Western Carolina University continues to fulfill its mission in serving Western North Carolina and the world.”

Currently secretary of the WCU Board of Trustees, Becky Brown previously served on the Catamount Club, Alumni Association and Foundation boards of directors. Brown III served on the Foundation Board for more than 20 years before rolling off in 2018. Both are members of the “Fill the Western Sky” campaign steering committee.

For more information or to make a contribution to the campaign for the university’s academic, student engagement and athletics programs, visit, call 828-227-7124 or email

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