eople are going to want to make comparisons.

Here’s an idea: How about let’s not?

Kelli Brown has been named as the 12th leader of Western Carolina University after a long and rocky process. Many in the community will be eager to see how she fills the mold left by the late David Belcher.

It’s an unfair comparison. Belcher was a one-of-a-kind leader, exhibiting the kind of energy and enthusiasm that can’t be faked. You have to be born with it.

Belcher left a fine legacy. Let’s give Brown a chance to build her own unique legacy.

Brown was selected by UNC System Interim President Bill Roper for approval by the Board of Governors from among three final candidates for the position following an exhaustive search process. The finalists were chosen by a 21-person search committee made up of members from the WCU Board of Trustees along with various stakeholders from WCU, the community and the region.

The exhaustive process was a lot more exhaustive than Catamount faithful thought it would be, as the whole thing went off the rails last summer. We won’t rehash that debacle, but include a mention of it to note the hard work put in by the search committee.


Our hats are off to those folks.

As to Brown, her story as WCU’s leader has yet to be written. She brings an impressive resume to the table. She holds a doctorate in education from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, a masters of science and education in public health degree and bachelor of science degree, both from the University of Toledo, and an associate in applied sciences degree in dental hygiene from Michael J. Owens Technical College in Toledo, Ohio.

Brown hit the correct notes right off the bat when she said, “I am inspired by WCU’s efforts to prepare students for life through experiential education and career preparation – especially students from the western region that this university was founded to serve.”

That’s cutting to the chase. People in this county and across the western reaches of the state think of WCU as “our’’ university – part of the UNC system, yes, but specifically belonging to this region.

Our university should help lift that region up. Our university should pave the way for a better future for those who live here.

In some of his final words, David Belcher laid out the crucial role of the institution:

“Do we have the resolve to inspire and serve all those from Western North Carolina who wish to help themselves and their families, imbuing them with hope and ambition, supporting their hard work for their own futures?

“Or have we already determined that this is just too hard, that our Western North Carolina will always lag behind, and that most of its people will never thrive?

“Who are we to limit our people’s abilities, their successes, their hope and their futures?...

 “It’s hard work, but it is the right thing to do.”

It’s our university. We welcome its new leader, Kelli Brown.

We eagerly await the building of a legacy.