Question.) When did you graduate from WCU and in what subject area?
Answer.) Graduated in December, 1985 with Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degrees in Accounting and Computer Information Systems.
Q.) What are some of your fondest memories of your days at WCU?
A.) There are many fond memories of my time at WCU. The ones that stand out are the fun times that I had while being in the Alpha Kappa Psi fraternity. I met many friends there including current Alumni Director, Marty Ramsey ‘85. One of the fondest memories involved Marty and I along with a couple of our fraternity brothers, Eddie Lindsey ‘85 and the late John Fort ‘79 traveling to Boston College to watch the Catamounts take on Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie and the Eagles. After classes on a Friday we jumped in the car, drove non-stop to Boston to watch the game, and then immediately after the game drove all the way back to Cullowhee for classes on Monday. A trip I am certain we would not be able to handle today.
However, the most important event while at Western was meeting a couple of guys, Skip Corbett ’83 and James Hornsby ‘88 that teamed up with me to form the Tuckasegee String Bluegrass Band. We played at the Mountain Heritage Festival for several years and had the honor of representing Jackson County at the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee. We played for several years and established a friendship that remains. I greatly feel that having this opportunity to play my banjo with these guys changed my life and established my love for entertaining that has proven extremely useful within my career.
Q.) Who were your favorite professors at Western Carolina and why?
A.) Dr. Deanne Winiarski – One of the great things about Western is the class sizes were not too large. The professors and students had the opportunity to get to know each other. Dr. Winiarski took the time to get to know us and took a genuine interest in our studies and life. We stayed in touch for many years after I graduated. She was truly a friend.
Dr. Jim Carland – He was a professor that helped shape my career. He was always challenging us to apply the course material in real-life situations. This helped me develop analytical thinking that has proven invaluable throughout my career.
Q.) Terry, you’ve had a very successful career as an IT and financial consultant within the hospitality industry. Tell us a little about your career path and how you got there.
A.) My career started during my senior year at WCU. I worked for a local CPA firm in Sylva, Crisp & Hughes (currently Dixon, Hughes & Goodman). This is when all the classes began to take shape in real-world situations. After graduation, I took a job with Reese & Lasher CPA firm in Asheville. For the next two and a half years, I learned many facets of accounting including taxes, auditing, bookkeeping and financial planning while earning my Certified Public Account (CPA) license. These skills and experiences allowed me to move into the next phase of my career as Finance Officer for Madison County Schools. Managing Federal, State and Local funds was a new experience, but once again proved to be a career building opportunity. My amazing ride in the hospitality industry began when I accepted the position as Controller at The Grove Park Inn Resort. During my 21-year tenure, I was the Controller and the Chief Information Officer (CIO). While at the Grove Park, I became involved with a global association called Hospitality Finance and Technology Professionals (HFTP). Within HFTP, I met many amazing professionals from around the world and had the privilege of serving as the Global President. This experience allowed me to tour the country and the world representing the association. In 2012, the Grove Park was sold and my position as CIO was eliminated. This was a major change in my and my family’s life. The uncertainty of finding a new job and the possibility of having to relocate out of Western North Carolina was a bit troubling. Fortunately, I was able to get a job as the VP of Product Management for a hospitality software company based in Oslo, Norway. This job allowed me to work from home, although I did become a Million Miler with Delta Airlines from the many trips across the country and over to Norway. The four years of experience working with this company completed my professional toolbox that allowed me to branch out and open my own consulting business. For the past four years, I have been able to assist companies in analyzing their operations and find software solutions helping them achieve their goals.
Q.) Terry, you are currently on the WCU Alumni Association Board of Directors, and also President of the Greater Asheville Western Alumni Club. Why do you feel it’s important for alumni to stay connected and involved with their university?
A.) To be honest, I was not heavily involved with WCU until recent years. I had to travel building my career and any extra time was spent with my wife and four children. Once the children were grown, my wife and I joined the Catamount Club and began going to football games. There we met more of the alumni group and developed a desire to give back. Once involved, I realized what I had missed in the years past. WCU was the foundation that made me what I am today, and I should have been involved all along. It is very important for alumni to be part of what WCU becomes tomorrow and not just remember what it was before. The Greater Asheville Alumni Club has the greatest number of alumni and my goal is to establish activities that will remind everyone what our great university has done and will be doing.
Q.) The Greater Asheville Alumni Club in partnership with the WCU Office of Alumni Engagement, has established the WCU Today series with the kickoff event being held at the Hilton-Biltmore Park on Thursday April 11, 2019. Tell us a little about this special initiative.
A.) The WCU Today series is a prime example of a vision to get the Greater Asheville Alumni Club more active, informed, and engaged. It is the relaunching of the Deans Luncheon Series that was held several years ago here in Asheville. The WCU Today series will highlight one of the many amazing programs that WCU offers. The Dean of that school, along with other faculty members, will give an update on what is happening within their program. This will give the alumni an opportunity to see the latest happenings at WCU. To extend this, we are not just giving an update but trying to encourage the future by extending an invitation to all area high school counselors, parents, and friends of the university. Our goal is to excite and engage both the current and future alumni.
Q.) Terry, your wife Arlene is with you at all the WCU games. How did the two of you meet?
A.) Meeting my life partner, Arlene, is directly related to my playing in the bluegrass band. The lead singer and guitar player graduated a couple of years ahead of me. We did not get to play as much, so I began playing guitar and banjo with a local gospel group. The group was based at a church in Asheville, so I spent most weekends back in Asheville attending their church. In the congregation, there was a beautiful brown-eyed girl that caught my eye. Fortunately for me, there was a group going to see the Cathedral Quartet in Greenville, S.C. Arlene came and asked me if I would like to go with them. So, my version of the story is that she asked me out first. That fact has been heavily debated over the years, but because it’s me being interviewed, that’s the truth! That was our first of many dates which included her coming to watch me graduate in the Ramsey Center. I still remember her standing there in a smoking, white suit waiting for me. I thank God every day that she had questionable taste in men. Now after thirty-two years of marriage, four children and four grandchildren, I would not change a thing. I tell people that she’s a lucky woman, but that is farthest from the truth. I am the lucky one in this relationship. Just don’t tell her I said that!
Q.) Now tell us something unique and interesting about yourself that few people may know.
A.) Being a finance and technology professional, the norm is to be an introvert. That is not the case with me. I thoroughly enjoy getting up in front of a crowd speaking, telling jokes, giving presentations and being the master of ceremonies for an event. One of my goals is to complete my book and retire as a motivational speaker.