Q.) What are some of your fondest memories of your days at WCU?
A.) Arriving at Moore Dorm, on a beautiful fall day in 1969, full of excitement about the future and the apprehension about the challenges ahead. Being part of that beautiful piece of the world through the seasons, enjoying the colorful leaves of fall, the cold and snow of winter and the return of warmth and greenery in spring. On my second day in Cullowhee, meeting a couple of fellow freshmen which started a strong four-year friendship that has evolved into a lifetime friendships. Intramural sports, the fabulous food at Brown Cafeteria, the girls at Dodson Cafeteria, dorm life, getting a quality education from personable and knowledgeable professors, football games at Memorial Stadium, walking “up the hill” 3-4 times a day, the UC and Townhouse, the “horny wall”, Coonie; and GRADUATION.
Q.) Who were your favorite professors/staff at Western Carolina and why?
A.) Glenn Arbaugh, Jack Barnett, Alan Riffle, Paul Smith and Rocky Nelson. Each of these gentlemen were able to educate us in their particular field while instilling us with the confidence that we would succeed. That second part was as important as the first.
Q.) Jimmy, you had a very distinguished and successful business career. Tell us a little about your career path and how you got there.
A.) I landed my first job as a traveling auditor for a corporate and personal finance company, covering North and South Carolina. Two years later, I continued my career with a national commercial lending company, being recruited there by a good friend, Stan Moss, who happened to also be a ’73 WCU graduate. That job allowed me to fully utilize the skills and education I picked up at WCU and broaden my intuitive and problem solving skills. After transitioning into loan account management, and staying with that company for over twenty-one years, I retired and went to Mississippi to work for my best corporate loan account, eventually becoming chief financial officer. I retired from that job on 2010 and returned home, to North Carolina.
During those thirty-six years, I was able to meet many business executives, politicians, and people that became close friends, and travel to many places and do things I probably would have never met, seen or done without the great start I got from my education at Western.
Q.) Since your retirement tell us what keeps you busy now days.
A.) Spending time in Wilmington and at the beach with my lovely wife, family and friends. I love the old muscle cars of the sixties and currently own a fully restored ’67 GTO. We like to travel when we can, having just recently returned from a five-week road trip out west visiting fifteen states and our first international trip last fall to Ireland, Scotland and France. My wife and I recently purchased a log cabin in the foothills near Elkin and we love spending time there visiting the many wineries, antique shops, and restaurants. Both at the beach and the foothills, we are “living in paradise”.
Q.) Jimmy, you are currently on the WCU Alumni Association Board of Directors, and an active member of the Wilmington WCU Alumni Club. Why do you feel it’s important for alumni to stay connected and involved with their university?
A.) First of all, my four years at Western were some of the most memorable years of my life. The friendships found at Western still endure to this day and I would have never attained the degree of satisfaction in life and success I enjoy today without the education and personal growth I received at Western. Also, I met my lovely wife while traveling with my first job. Now, forty-four years and two beautiful daughters later, I first thank God, and, second, acknowledge the role Western played in putting me in place to make all these things come together.
All that said, Western has given me much more that I can ever repay. It is a pleasure to give back to WCU, whether it be monetarily or my time. I want to help continue the history of Western in return for preparing me for the great careers and experiences enjoyed during the years since graduation. Writing a check; attending a football, basketball or baseball game; attending a board meeting; or just spending some time around Cullowhee all bring back great memories of those four wonderful years. Western gave me a successful life and career. It is a pleasure to give back to the “one-of-a-kind” university that gave so much to me.
Q.) Now tell us something unique and interesting about yourself that few people may know.
A.) Back in 2008, my great friend and three-year Reynolds dorm suitemate, Rick Barringer and I participated in the Great American Race. This was a modified Cannonball Run, going from Miami to Los Angeles. Rather than pure speed, the objective was to travel the five legs of the journey with an overall average speed of 61 mph. Rick and I drove a Hertz rental Audi A8, competing against a field of US and international drivers who drove Porsches, Corvettes, Mustangs, Mercedes Benz and all sorts of exotic and muscle cars. With the help of our GPS and my laptop, Rick and I finished in fifth place a mere 13 seconds away from a perfect 61 mph.