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Starnes, Welch receive awards during Homecoming ceremony

A Western Carolina University dean and a former member of the Chancellor’s Office staff were honored Saturday (Oct. 29) during the annual Chancellor’s Brunch and Alumni Awards Ceremony, part of festivities associated with WCU’s Homecoming.

Richard D. Starnes, dean of WCU’s College of Arts and Sciences since 2012, received the WCU Alumni Association’s Academic Achievement Award, while Terry L. Welch, former assistant to the chancellor, was recipient of the university’s Distinguished Service Award.

Award recipients meeting with WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher (center) are (from left) Richard D. Starnes, Terry L. Welch, Alan G. Parham and Mitchell Hutchings.

Award recipients meeting with WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher (center) are (from left) Richard D. Starnes, Terry L. Welch, Alan G. Parham and Mitchell Hutchings.

Starnes received his bachelor’s degree in history at WCU in 1992 and his master’s degree in American history at the university in 1994. He continued his education at Auburn University, receiving his doctorate in 1999 and joining the WCU faculty the following year. His service to the university has included serving five years as head of the Department of History.

In addition to leading WCU’s largest academic unit, with more than 3,000 students and 200 faculty and staff members, Starnes has served in leadership roles for numerous regional and state historical groups and has written books, articles, essays and reviews focusing on 19th- and early 20th-century North Carolina and Appalachia. In the classroom, “he has a reputation as an excellent teacher who is much in demand and highly respected by students,” said Robin Parton Pate, president of the Alumni Association, as she presented the award.

“Richard has left his mark on Western Carolina since he enrolled at the university as a freshman 28 years ago,” Pate said. “The professors who had him as a student still remember his enthusiasm for history and his maturity in dealing with the subject. His intelligence, congeniality and ability to work with students, faculty, staff and the local community have often won him praise from all sides and many opportunities to lead. One former WCU professor who was Richard’s academic adviser put it perfectly when he said that Richard is a model of a combination teacher, scholar and campus leader.”

As he accepted the award, Starnes thanked his wife, Barbara, and other family members and his former professors for their support. “If I deserve an award like this – and I’m not sure I do – I can tell you that I didn’t get here alone,” he said.

“I never planned to spend my career in Cullowhee, but I’m very happy that fate and circumstance allowed me to do so,” he said. “I am honored to spend my career here because it allows me to walk daily among wonderful colleagues who put students first – who every day seek to bring positive change to the mountains we call home.

“I offer my heartfelt thanks to the Alumni Association for this great honor. It means a great deal to me.”

WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher presented the university’s Distinguished Service Award to Welch, a native of Salisbury who earned her undergraduate degree in English and theater at Pfeiffer College.

Welch joined the staff of WCU’s business affairs office in 1982, and after three years in that office, she joined the Ramsey Center staff and was ticket and house manager for 11 years before moving to the Chancellor’s Office staff in 1996. She served as assistant to former WCU Chancellor John W. Bardo before taking on that role for Belcher when he and wife, Susan Belcher, came to Cullowhee in 2011.

Belcher said Welch retired in August with a total of 34 years of service at WCU, including 20 years in the Chancellor’s Office. For the past five years, she was responsible for managing his calendar – a task that prompted him to give her the nickname “The Schedulator.”

Belcher explained to the audience that Welch’s duties for the past two decades also included serving as assistant secretary to the Board of Trustees, a task that involved the “care, handling and organization” of a total of 66 trustees over the years. In appreciation for her work, the current trustees presented Welch with one of the university’s highest honors, the Trustees’ Award, in June.

“What can I say about what Terry has meant to me as chancellor of our great university,” Belcher said. “In a nutshell, I could not have done it without her. Her competence, multi-tasking, know-how, poise, patience and wicked sense of humor have been such a blessing for me, for Susan, for the Chancellor’s Office staff, and for our university. Her unwavering support of, and dedication to, this institution have been indispensable for the entire university community and integral to Western Carolina’s success.”

As she accepted the award, Welch thanked her husband, Tom Wilson, and other family members and her colleagues in the Chancellor’s Office for their love and support. She related to the audience that she moved to Cullowhee as a young newlywed, “kicking and screaming,” with her husband.

“I was a city girl from the huge metropolis of Salisbury,” she said. “I was a bit apprehensive, to say the least. All these years later, I’m still here. What I realized after a while was that Cullowhee, and Western Carolina University, were exactly where I was supposed to be.

“When I first moved up here, there were bumper stickers everywhere that said, ‘Cullo-Where?’ Well, now everybody knows exactly where Cullowhee is, and that is thanks to all of you – the alumni, students, faculty, staff, the administration. I’d like to thank you for this amazing honor, and for your unwavering commitment to this institution.”

Two other WCU alumni also were honored with Alumni Association awards during the ceremony held at A.K. Hinds University Center. Pate presented the Young Alumnus Award to Mitchell Hutchings, a 2007 graduate of WCU’s School of Music who has traveled around the world as an academician and performer of opera, musical theater and art song, and the Professional Achievement Award to Alan G. Parham, a two-time WCU graduate who has served in numerous leadership roles in his 25-year career as an environmental health officer for the U.S. Public Health Service.

Editor’s Note: Visit this website to see more photos from WCU’s Homecoming festivities.

By Randall Holcombe

Categories | The Reporter

Photos | WCU News Services

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