There soon will be a little something extra in the year-end award stipends for faculty and staff members in Western Carolina University’s College of Education and Allied Professions who are recognized for their contributions of service to the university and the region.
The change is intended to provide a subtle, yet meaningful, reminder of the importance of service to the mission of institutions of higher education – especially regional comprehensive institutions such as WCU.
Teaching, research and service comprise the iconic three-legged stool of expectations for faculty members in higher education, but the service leg is typically out of balance compared to the overall focus on teaching and research, said Dale Carpenter, professor of special education in the School of Teaching and Learning.
That’s why Carpenter, former College of Education and Allied Professions dean, felt moved to help bring a bit of balance back to that three-legged stool – at least within the college where he has taught and served as an administrator for more than 30 years.
Thanks to gifts and pledges through 2025 totaling $30,500, the stipend accompanying the CEAP’s top awards for faculty and staff service will increase to the same level as the prize awarded to the recipient of its top college-level teaching honor, the Taft Botner Teaching Award – $750.
“I thought it important that our college service award winners receive the same amount as recipients of the teaching award because service is usually unrecognized and unrewarded,” Carpenter said. “Having a ‘named’ award with an equitable monetary compensation may help to better recognize and reward those selected to receive it.”
It was equally important for Carpenter that the CEAP provide the same level of recognition for the service contributions of its staff members that it gives its faculty members, similar to the way the university presents equitable Paul A. Reid Distinguished Service Award stipends to its faculty and staff winners, he said.
There are both institutional and personal factors behind establishment of the new Dale Carpenter College of Education and Allied Professions Service Award Program Endowment, its benefactor said.
“I think the service aspect embraces ‘the Western Way’ of folks going beyond the minimum, often without the expectation of extra compensation or recognition, to help others beyond oneself,” he said. “My own contribution to WCU and the college has been in service probably more than teaching or research.”
Although the new award process in the CEAP will mean faculty research will be rewarded at a lower level of monetary award, other processes already exist for that recognition and compensation through the collegial review and tenure and promotion system for full-time, tenure-track faculty, Carpenter said. “And perhaps this small change will inspire someone else to support an endowment for the research aspect at some point,” he said.
WCU Provost Richard Starnes characterized the new endowment as the latest example of Carpenter’s contributions to the College of Education and Allied Professions and to the larger university community.
“For more than a generation, Dr. Dale Carpenter has served as a focused, innovative leader in the College of Education and Allied Professions. In his time as associate dean and dean, he worked to make a difference by focusing on supporting, mentoring and providing opportunities for students, faculty and staff alike,” Starnes said.
“This endowment is so in character for Dale. It will serve to support his colleagues he loves in their excellent work in service to our students, our region and our public schools with the same energy and empathy that have been the hallmarks of Dale’s career,” he said.
Carpenter has exhibited “passionate empathy and commitment to all of his work” in a multitude of roles during his time at WCU, said Kim Winter, dean of the College of Education and Allied Professions.
“What better way to encourage others than by example? Dale has been an outstanding contributor to our college and this university for decades,” Winter said. “I have learned a great deal from Dale and consider him to be a mentor and the best kind of university collaborator and citizen. He embodies the very criteria for the Exemplary Service Award as someone who goes above and beyond and believes in the important work we do.”
And, in typical Carpenter fashion, the donor begrudgingly agreed to allow his gifts to be publicized only in the hopes that it might inspire others to follow suit.
“I know I probably don’t want complete anonymity because I’d like to encourage others to do similar things, but at this state in my career and life I don’t want or need much recognition. I have had more than my share and am enjoying my professor role supporting students and colleagues out of the limelight,” he said.
“This endowment is a very small thing, and the focus, in my view, should be on those individuals who willingly engage in service. Raising the monetary level of the award a bit to make it equitable with teaching and including staff members is a minor gesture that I am fortunate to be able to do.”
For more information on how to support faculty, contact the WCU Division of Advancement at 828-227-7124 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also explore additional philanthropic opportunities at give.wcu.edu.