Seraphina Press of Minneapolis, Minnesota, has published “The Antioch Testament,” a novel by Donald Joiner MAEd. The book is a work of fiction based on early church traditions. Joiner is a retired school superintendent with a lifelong interest in history.


By the time he reached his 50s, Steve Zimmerman of Hayesville was a world-class powerlifting weight champion traveling around the country for competitions. At the age of 52, Zimmerman achieved a world record with a dead lift of 510 pounds in the drug-free senior division of the U.S. Nationals Powerlifting Championships. He set another world record and achieved best lifter honors in the masters division of the American Powerlifting Association U.S. championships when he was 58. Zimmerman serves as a volunteer coach for the Hayesville Yellow Jackets, the football team he played for when he was growing up in Clay County.


The football field at West Caldwell High School in Lenoir has been named for former coach Mike Biggerstaff. Known as “Coach Big,” Biggerstaff served the school from 1979 until 1987. Under his leadership, the football team won conference championships six times.


Forsyth County government offices had only one computer when Rob Robinson went to work there as a computer operator and programmer in 1974. When Robinson retired in August after 41 years on the job, the system had 2,000 computers and he was chief information officer.


Kay Perkins Mitchell Thomas received the 2015 community service award presented by Chowan University. Thomas, who serves as director of alumni relations and senior development director at Chowan, is well known for her civic involvement, including developing the annual candlelight Christmas tour in Murfreesboro and the North Carolina Watermelon Festival. She also serves as a heritage tourism officer for North Carolina, providing leadership in event planning and volunteer organization.


Andrea Zaher Cassell is living in Wichita, Kansas, where she has a busy schedule singing for a local band, hosting a weekly television segment, teaching cooking classes and painting in acrylics and oils. Cassell, who taught special education for more than 30 years, is the author of two books, “Kibby the Space Dog” and “Nahima’s Hands Unique Mediterranean Cuisine Cookbook.”

Susan Postell Guffey, who purchases season tickets for the University of Tennessee’s football games every year, was in Neyland Stadium for September’s game versus WCU. The Volunteers beat the Cats 55-10, but Guffey says she enjoyed seeing fellow alumni, supporting her alma mater and wearing purple once again. She and husband Steve Guffey ’78 are long-time residents of Knoxville.

Brenda Kay Ledford MAEd received the 2015 Paul Green Multimedia Award from the North Carolina Society of Historians for her book of poetry, “Crepe Roses,” published by Aldrich Press in 2014.

Acclaimed banjo player Steve Sutton returned to his WCU roots in September to perform for Mountain Heritage Day. Sutton has won multiple awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association and is a three-time Grammy Award nominee. After decades of working with major stars, he now devotes his time to Whitewater Bluegrass Company, a band with several members from Western North Carolina.

W. Steve Wilborn retired last June after a career spanning 35 years in higher education. Wilborn worked at the University of Richmond in Virginia for the past 25 years and was senior associate director of admission at the time of his retirement.


Wilmington native Todd Vasos was elected chief executive officer of Dollar General by the retailer’s board of governors last May. Vasos, formerly chief operating officer, joined Dollar General in 2008 after holding positions at Phar-Mor, Eckerd Corp. and Longs Drug Stores, now owned by CVS Pharmacy. Dollar General, headquartered in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, has nearly 12,000 stores in 43 states.


Asheville native Robbie Adell MSA ’98 is the new superintendent of Hickory Public Schools. Adell’s career in public education spans more than three decades at virtually every level, including teacher, assistant principal and principal in Buncombe and Henderson counties. He previously was assistant superintendent of Buncombe County Schools.


Rob Hosack retired in September as director of the Cobb County (Georgia) Community Development Agency. Hosack began his career in Tennessee and joined Cobb County’s planning and zoning division in 1986.


Kimeron Hardin MA serves as president of the Northern California Association of Pain Psychologists. Hardin is the co-founder of the organization, which is devoted to the advancement of psychology in pain management.

Teresa Whipple of Palm Springs, California, received a 2015 Women in Business Award from Palm Springs Life Magazine.  Whipple, who attended WCU after serving in the U.S. Army in Germany, is the executive director for the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, which serves more than 12,000 patients in procedures spanning from screening to treatment.


Gene C. Couch Jr. MAEd EDS ’95 (above, at right, with Glenn Dubois, chancellor of the Virginia Community College System) was installed in October as the sixth president of Virginia Highlands Community College in Abingdon, Virginia. Couch previously was executive vice president of Alamance Community College in Graham and is a former member of the faculty of Southwestern Community College in Sylva.


Sonja Marston MBA ’08 has returned to her hometown of Morganton to accept a position as assistant city manager. Marston comes to her new job from Southwestern Community College in Sylva, where she served as dean of workforce innovations and economic development and as director of advancement.


Jim Fatic is the new executive director of Northshore Disaster Recovery Inc., a nonprofit organization based in Slidell, Louisiana, that assists in long-term disaster recovery. Northshore was created in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans to help with recovery efforts and now addresses other needs, including home repairs and upkeep for low-income families and senior citizens.


The new principal at Northview International Baccalaureate School in Statesville is Sheila Jenkins, former director of accountability and technology for Alexander County Schools. Jenkins also has served as a principal in schools in Rowan and Alexander counties.


Tony Bolick is the new multimedia editor and copy editor at the Asheboro Courier-Tribune. A journalist with more than 27 years experience in both print and broadcast media, Bolick will focus on entertainment videos and the newspaper’s digital platform in his new position.

Jeff Reece has been named interim CEO of Venice (Florida) Regional Bayfront Health. The 312-bed system provides health care services to the greater Venice area and beyond. Reece formerly was interim CEO at North Okaloosa Medical Center in Crestview, Florida.


After more than 20 years in film and television, Sylva native Sean Bridgers continues to win wide acclaim and major roles in his work as an actor, writer, director and producer. Bridgers was in the 2015 movie “Room,” winner of the coveted People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. He returns to the big screen this year in “The Free State of Jones,” a Civil War drama starring Matthew McConaughey. Additionally, the Sundance TV website is streaming Bridgers’ short film “The Birthday Present,” made by his production company, Travelin’ Productions. Sundance TV invited him to exhibit the film as part of a promotion for the upcoming season of “Rectify,” in which Bridgers plays the part of Trey Willis. He also is widely known for his performance as Johnny Burns in HBO’s “Deadwood.” Bridgers and his wife, Rachel York MA ’97, live in Sylva with their three children, Jackson, Kathryn and Anna Bett.

Samaya Consulting of Boston, Massachusetts, experimental marketing company owned by Stephanie Goodell, received national recognition from Goldman Sachs as a small business.


Melissa Jenkins McKinnon, language arts teacher at Grandview Middle School, was selected as the 2015-16 Teacher of the Year for Hickory Public Schools. As a benefit of the honor, McKinnon has the use of a new car from a local car dealership during her award year.


The county council of Pickens County, South Carolina, named David Allen Neill MPA ’01 as its new county administrator in November 2015. Neill was formerly county operations manager of Transylvania County. During his career of 27 years in public service, he also held positions in Montgomery, Guilford and Moore counties in North Carolina.

The board of directors of Hospice of Stanly and the Uwharrie appointed Lori Thayer of Troy as executive director of the nonprofit organization. Thayer has been the quality assessment and performance improvement coordinator and compliance officer there since 2012. The hospice serves Stanly, Montgomery and neighboring counties.


Darby Harris ’01 MS ’05, a lecturer in WCU’s biology department, successfully completed a one-day 142-mile bike ride in September that raised $710 for the WCU Biology Club. A Durham native, Harris has been racing road bikes since he was in high school. The fundraising ride took him from Cullowhee to Sylva, Balsam and north on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Harris achieved the “Category 1” road racing designation, USA Cycling’s highest ability level for amateurs, from 2002 through 2007.

WCU Alumni Association president-elect Robin Parton Pate has accepted a position as communications director for the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation of Knoxville, Tennessee. The institute, a national initiative sponsored by the Department of Energy, has offices in six states.

A passion for photography and love for the Western North Carolina mountains inspired Stacy Redmon of Fairview to start his own business, Red Rock Photo. Redmon sells his photographs at farmer’s markets, galleries and gift shops in the region.


Franklin High School’s football coach Josh Brooks represented Western North Carolina in the North Carolina Coaches Association’s East-West All-Star football game held last July in Greensboro. Brooks is the winningest coach Franklin High history. He served as an assistant coach for the all-star event, featuring the state’s best high school players.

Stacy Morris is the new business development executive for mid-Atlantic states of IWS Acquisition Corporation, headquartered in Itasca, Illinois. Morris, former captain of the Catamounts football team, will be based in the North Carolina Triangle region. IWS Acquisition serves credit unions nationwide as a provider of vehicle service and protection agreements.

Brandy Reeder MSA ’14 is the new assistant principal of Ledford High School in Davidson County. A former elementary school teacher, Reeder was instructional program specialist for the Davidson County school system.


Nicol Nixon Auguste MA has been awarded the 2016 Savannah College of Art and Design Affiliated Fellowship at the American Academy in Rome. Auguste’s work will focus on Jewish-Christian women’s narrative studies at the academy, Roman regional sites and the Vatican Library. She is a member of the general education faculty at SCAD.

Texas A&M University Press published “Pedaling the Sacrifice Zone: Teaching, Writing and Living above the Marcellus Shale” by Jimmy Guignard MA. The book explores the changes in the rural landscape during Pennsylvania’s shale drilling boom. Guignard is an associate professor at Mansfield University in Pennsylvania, where he teaches rhetoric, composition and nature writing.


Roger David Harwell Jr. of Jackson, Mississippi, has been named first vice president and privacy officer at the corporate main office of Trustmark Corporation. A financial services company, Trustmark has more than 200 offices in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas.


Bryson City native Cory Causby MS EdD ’10 is WCU’s new associate vice chancellor for human resources. Causby, a 16-year veteran of the university’s human resources and payroll offices, has served as associate director for human resources and payroll for the past three years.

Travis Nestlerode MPT ’04 has opened a new practice, Nestlerode Orthopedic Rehabilitation, in Elizabeth City. Nestlerode, who previously worked in the outpatient orthopedics unit of Lake Norman Regional Medical Center, specializes in helping patients mobilize joints and regain normal motion. He also treats persons who have suffered strokes or have Parkinson’s disease.

After 19 years of classroom teaching, Michelle Cox Wall MAEd accepted a new position as assistant principal at James W. Smith Elementary School in Cove City in Craven County.

Josh Ward has been named town manager of Bryson City. Ward joins Bryson City’s municipal government after working for eight years in the planning and zoning department of the town of Highlands, including two years as director. He began his local government career in 2001 working in the environmental health unit of the Macon County Health Department.

Charles Dodd White MA ’04 of Knoxville, Tennessee, received the Thomas and Lillie D. Chaffin Award for Achievement in Appalachian Writing from Morehead State University. White’s work includes the novels “A Shelter of Others” and “Lambs of Men” and a short story collection, “Sinners of Sanction County.” The Chaffin Award includes a cash prize of $1,000. Ron Rash, WCU’s Parris Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Culture, is a past recipient.


Steven Anderson has been selected as one of “Sixty-Seven Influential Educators Who Are Changing the Way We Learn” by Noodle Education Inc. of New York, an online resource for students who are choosing schools and colleges and for their parents. Anderson is the author of three books. His work focuses on classroom technology and the use of social media for learning. A former classroom teacher in Winston-Salem schools, Anderson and his wife, Melissa Throckmorton Anderson ’03, have two daughters.

Kimberly Arrowood Cashwell and her husband, William, welcomed a new daughter, Quinn Mae Cashwell, born Sept. 9.


Michelle Gorton Dill, former standout volleyball player for the Catamounts, is the head volleyball coach at Charlotte High School in Punta Gorda, Florida. Dill’s varsity team recorded its 100th win in 2015. She has been a member of the school’s coaching staff for seven years.

Daniel Frezza is serving as assistant vice president for lifetime philanthropic engagement and annual giving at the College of William and Mary of Williamsburg, Virginia. The college raised a record-breaking $105.8 million last year and is included among public universities with the highest percentages of undergraduate alumni who give back to their alma mater. Frezza lives with his wife, Emily, and 1-year-old daughter Madalyn in Williamsburg.

The Asheville Brewers Alliance named Kendra Penland MPA ’06 as its full-time director in November 2015. Penland, who has 20 years of experience in communications and public relations in private, government and corporate worlds, will represent local breweries and hard cider makers. Asheville is home to more than 20 breweries.

Dustin Wilson MPA ’06, who completed his doctoral degree at Clemson University in parks, recreation and tourism management, is working as an outdoor recreation planner with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, D.C.


Mandi Faye Deitz has earned her doctorate in philosophy at East Tennessee State University. Deitz is a staff psychologist at the Boise (Idaho) Veterans Affairs Medical Center, where she completed her doctoral internship in psychology. Her research and clinical interests include post-traumatic stress disorder and psychological trauma.


Heather Honeycutt Jones ’09, who earned bachelor’s degrees at WCU in social work and in nursing, recently completed her master’s degree in adult gerontology nurse practitioner at East Carolina University. Jones and her husband, Joel Thomas Jones ’08, celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary in 2015.

A father and daughter who began their academic careers at WCU went on to achieve doctoral degrees at other universities. Lauren Rogers Sastre, a graduate of the Honors College, earned her master’s degree in nutrition science at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and is completing work there toward her doctorate. She plans to continue teaching and research and to pursue service and research opportunities supporting nutrition services and training in developing countries. Sastre’s father, Patrick R. Rogers ’82 MBA ’89, is an associate professor at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro. He earned his bachelor’s degree and MBA at WCU, and his doctorate at the University of Tennessee


Zach Colburn, sports editor at the Wilkes Journal-Patriot in North Wilkesboro, has won two North Carolina Press Association awards since joining the newspaper in 2011. His sports columns and reporting have received third-place honors in the annual competition.

Laura Hensley studied the ecosystems, desert plants and diverse life at Bahia de los Angeles, a world heritage site of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization located on the Sea of Cortez, in the summer of 2015. Hensley enrolled in the graduate course as part of a master’s program at Miami (Ohio) University. She is the operations manager at Friends of the Jesse Lee Home in Seward, Alaska.

The North Carolina Arts Council awarded a $10,000 fellowship to David Joy MA ’09 of Webster. A Charlotte native, Joy was one of 13 North Carolina writers to win the fellowships. His debut novel, “Where All Light Tends to Go,” earned rave reviews, and his second novel, “The Weight of This World,” is due out in 2017. The fellowship will allow him to finish his third novel, “The Line That Held Us.”

Kyle McCurry MBA ’11 has been named director of media relations at Warren Wilson College near Asheville. McCurry previously was a digital journalist for Fox Television Stations in Charlotte, covering breaking news and feature stories in eight counties. His specialty area was NASCAR auto racing. In 2014, the Motorsports Press Association presented him with the Charlie Harville Award as best overall television broadcaster.

International Fasteners Inc. has promoted Alan Stayton to the position of regional manager for the Northeast region, which includes Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and northern Virginia. Stayton, who had been working in the Charlotte office, will be based in Philadelphia.


Whitney Byrd has been appointed to the executive team of Oregon State Hospital in Junction City, Oregon. Byrd serves as rehabilitation services department representative. Her work focuses on providing effective treatment and services for adult psychiatric patients.

Karen Dodson MA, assistant professor of English at the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus, has been recognized as one of the highest-rated university professors on the online website RateMyProfessors.com.

Former Catamount coaching staff member Eric Wilson has joined the basketball program of North Carolina Central University as an assistant coach. A four-year player at WCU, Wilson served as director of basketball operations, assistant coach and recruiting coordinator during his six years on the Catamount basketball staff.


Actress Kaley McCormack plays the role of Mindy in the independent film “Once I Was a Beehive,” released by Main Dog Productions. The film was shot in Utah and is the story of a teenage girl attending a camp of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. McCormack lived in Chicago after graduating and moved to Los Angeles several years ago.


Tommy Norris plays the mandolin for an up-and-coming Nashville-based band. The website CMT Edge describes The Barefoot Movement as “one of the most promising bands on the bluegrass scene.” Norris’ group has served as showcase artists for the International Bluegrass Music Association and the Americana Festival.

Gov. Pat McCrory has appointed Sharon West MHS to a four-year term on the N.C. Commission for Public Health. West is the director of women veterans’ programs at the Charles George Veterans Administration Medical Center in Asheville. The 13-member commission is the public health rule-making body for North Carolina. While in the MHS program at WCU, West, a past recipient of the MHS alumni award, successfully co-authored her research project in the peer-reviewed journal Death and Dying.

David Young and his wife, Amanda Graham Young MS ’12, are co-owners with Cameron Corley of Mad Anthony’s Bottle Shop and Beer Garden in Waynesville.


Jennifer Abshire MAEd has been selected as Buncombe County’s high school counselor of the year for 2015-16. Abshire is a member of the faculty at Owen High School. She also has served as counselor at Buncombe County Middle College and Roberson High School.

The Hickory Police Department’s new police officer is Seth Burns. A Burke County native, Burns previously served for three years on the Gaston County Police Department.

Annie Jonas EdD, professor and chair of the education department at Warren Wilson College, has been named an inaugural Engaged Faculty Scholar by North Carolina Campus Compact. Jonas is one of only two people selected in 2015 for the distinguished national program to promote and encourage student involvement in communities.

Allison Mueller Kretschmer is attending graduate school at the University of Colorado in Denver, where she is studying for a master’s degree in educational psychology. Kretschmer married Markus Kretschmer, a native of Austria, in March 2015. The couple met in Vail, Colorado, while both were employed at the Sonnenalp Hotel.

Adam Orr has returned to the Jefferson Post in West Jefferson to serve as an editor for the newspaper. Orr previously was a business reporter at the Gaston Gazette. He started his journalism career at the Post in 2011 as a staff writer, covering county government, crime, education, courts and business beats.


Lauren Gray is employed as a communications coordinator in the global headquarters of PepsiCo Inc. in Purchase, New York. Gray previously worked for public relations and creative agencies in New York and Connecticut. While at WCU, she was elected national president of the Public Relations Student Society of America and continues to serve the organization in a liaison role between the new PR professionals section and the national committee.

Dustin Norris MA ’14 has been hired as the curator of the Anderson County Museum in South Carolina. Norris was formerly a graduate assistant at WCU’s Mountain Heritage Center.

Czech-born artist Tom Pazderka and his work are featured in the 2015 MFA annual issue of “New American Paintings.” Pazderka is attending graduate school at the University of California at Santa Barbara. He is an interdisciplinary installation artist, painter, sculptor, musician and writer.


Michael Dempsey EdD is serving as dean and director of Lenoir-Rhyne University’s Center for Graduate Studies in Asheville.

“Five Reasons to Get Kids in Kayaks,” an article by Annabell Plush, was published in the December 2015 issue of Canoe & Kayak, a paddle sports magazine resource for canoeing, kayaking and whitewater rafting. Plush teaches kayaking at the Nantahala Outdoor Center near Bryson City and enjoys traveling during the winter months. She plans trips to Ecuador, Costa Rica and the Grand Canyon this year.

Rebecca Scott MPA is the new director of WCU’s Local Government Training Program, which provides assistance and leadership instruction to public officials and staff. Scott also serves as assistant director of the university’s Public Policy Institute, which aims to create effective regional policies and empower local communities. She was most recently a community planner with the Southwestern Planning and Economic Development Center.


Peter Balthrop Jr. completed the Asheville Police Department’s law enforcement training course and was sworn in as an officer in August.

Andy Obermann MSA is the new assistant principal at South Davie Middle School in Mocksville. Obermann was formerly a social studies teacher at East Forsyth High School and Hanes Magnet Middle School in Winston-Salem, where he also served as the interim assistant principal and curriculum coordinator.

Robert K. Rambo MA draws from his own heritage in visits to museums and schools as a re-enactor performing Cherokee history, culture and language. In October, Rambo was special guest for opening ceremonies at Fort Ligonier, Pennsylvania, which was a British fortification during the French and Indian War. He portrayed Cherokee Peace Chief Attakullakulla, a leader among the Cherokees for 50 years, who fought with the English against the French troops.

Mary Catherine Tate earned her master of social work degree at the University of South Carolina last May.

Biltmore Farms Hotels has named Melissa Harmon Warwick MBA as revenue manager. Warwick will oversee all of Biltmore Farms Hotels in Asheville, which includes, the Doubletree, Quality Inn and Suites, Sleep Inn, Residence Inn and Hilton. She joined Biltmore Farms Hotels in 2007 as general manager of the Quality Inn and Suites. She currently serves on the board of advisers for the MBA program at WCU.


Amy M. Anderson MFA of Greensboro was one of 40 artists selected for the 2015 summer program of Chautauqua Institution’s School of Art in southwestern New York. The studio art program attracts artists from around the world in painting, sculpture, ceramics, drawing and printmaking.

A few weeks after finishing graduate school last May, Jordan Atkinson MAEd was on her way to Africa. Atkinson is serving as counselor at the American International School of Nouakchott in Mauritania. The school, located on Africa’s northwestern coast, enrolls about 77 students in kindergarten through grade 12.

Cara Elyea lives in Phoenix, Arizona, where she is a fire claim specialist for State Farm Insurance, a company that is a longstanding career tradition in her family. Elyea’s grandfather joined State Farm in the late 1950s and was employed for 50 years. Her parents also are long-time employees. Their career moves with State Farm took the family to Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Florida and Texas.

Certified registered nurse anesthetists Carolyn MacIntyre MS and Christina Trost MS have joined AllCare Clinical Associates of Asheville. MacIntyre previously was employed by Mission Hospital as a registered nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit. Trost was a registered nurse in the medical/surgical intensive care unit of St. John Providence Hospital in Southfield, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit.

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