The History of Western Carolina University

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Campus History  



Academic Growth

Administrative Creep

Bond Boom

Works Cited

Cullowhee Moves Into the Future…Western Carolina 1955 to Present

by:  Johnnie Mickel

Most of what is the current Western Carolina University campus was built between 1955 and the present. Buildings from every category, academic, administrative, recreational and social were constructed as the campus center moved.  Over thirty buildings were constructed after 1955 and all are still in operation.

Academic Growth

Academic buildings were a necessity as the campus grew not only in size but reputation.  In 1967, the same year that Western became a university, Killian Education and Psychology was built.  A year later, in 1968, Killian Annex was completed to accommodate the need for administrative space.  At the same time plans for a business building began and in 1970 Forsyth Business Building was erected.  That year work on the Belk Arts Building was nearing completion and was finished in early 1971.  The Natural Sciences Building was completed in 1977 after Whitmire Stadium was completed in 1974.  One of the last academic buildings built on campus was the Coulter English and Music Building which was completed in 1978.

While academic buildings were popping up all over campus to accommodate new students, residence halls were also being constructed to house those students.  In 1959 Buchanan was completed right below Reynolds Hall, one of the original buildings on campus.  In 1962 Albright-Benton Hall was completed; it was and still is an all male building.  In 1960’s the need for residence halls in the center of campus became an issue.  In response Helder Hall and Leatherwood Hall were built in 1966.  The two identical, but separate buildings filled a need for a male and female only building.  The largest building on campus, Scott Hall was completed in 1969 and would allow another 800 students to live on campus.  Two more halls were built, Harrill Hall, which at the time was all male, was finished in 1971.  Walker Hall, identical but built on the opposite side of campus, was completed in 1972.

Administrative Creep?

Administrative buildings were also being constructed during this time, the first administrative building, Bird Building, was completed in 1960.  In 1979 the second administrative building was completed, the HF Robinson Building named in honor of a former chancellor.

Some of the recreational facilities on campus are much older than students think. Ask most students when the Hinds University Center was completed and they’ll probably tell you “the 1980’s” when actually the building was completed in 1968 and renovated several times.  Reid Health, which is an academic and recreational building, was completed in 1956.  Brown Cafeteria was finished in 1960 to feed all of the hungry students when Madison cafeteria grew too small.  Dodson cafeteria was built on the lower end of campus in 1966, the same time that Leatherwood and Helder Halls were finishing completion.  Hunter Library went through an extensive renovation in 1983, but the fire that burned much of the library’s special collection caused another renovation in 1989.  During the library’s closure many students complained because most professors refused to drop their research paper requirements.  In 1983 the campus bookstore opened providing students with a place to purchase supplies, books and other necessities that they needed that weren’t available in Sylva.  Finally the Alumni Tower, which has become the icon of the Western campus, was completed during WCU’s centennial celebration.

Bond Boom

The current boom in construction, thanks to the North Carolina General Educational Bond, has allowed for the construction of many new buildings.  With the general enrollment, thought to reach 10,000 by 2010, WCU wants to be ready.  Currently there are six major projects on campus.  These include: the new performing arts center, a new residence hall, the UC addition, the renovation of McKee, the renovation of Bird and a Job Center.  Reid Gym is the next in line and plans for its renovation have already been proposed to the general population.  In the next five years, Western plans to renovate other buildings to meet today’s standards, build more residence halls, and construct new academic buildings.  This amount of change is unprecedented at WCU, what a great time to be a student.

Works Cited

Information for this article was gathered from The Illustrated History of Western Carolina University  by Curtis W. Wood and H. Tyler Blethen.