WCU honors alumni achievement, service
Western Carolina University honored three alumni who are excelling in areas of the legal profession, academics and health and physical education, as well as an alumnus who developed the university’s marching band into a competitive, world-class marching ensemble.
“These awards recognize and honor four of WCU’s most distinguished and successful alumni, and they have all made us so very proud,” said Marty Ramsey, director of alumni affairs.
During an award ceremony held Oct. 6, in the A.K. Hinds University Center as part of homecoming activities, the Distinguished Service Award was presented to Bob Buckner, who retired as director of athletic bands at WCU in 2011 after 20 years, during which he brought the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band into the national spotlight.
Buckner, a Waynesville resident and a member of the class of 1967, arrived at WCU in 1991 and helped grow marching band membership from fewer than 90 to nearly 400 students, turning the ensemble into a “funk-rock band” known for dynamic performances that incorporate nontraditional elements such as guitars, vocalists and dancers. Nearly 15 percent of the university’s freshman class participates in marching band, and the annual Tournament of Champions invitational started by Buckner is the single-largest recurring recruitment event on campus. In 2009, the Pride of the Mountains received the Sudler Trophy from the John Philip Sousa Foundation, the nation’s highest and most coveted award for college and university marching bands. Capping Buckner’s career was the marching band’s 2011 New Year’s Day appearance in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif. Buckner, of Waynesville, remains active with the WCU marching band program and continues to design its shows.
In addition, Gaither M. Keener, chief legal officer of Lowe’s Companies Inc., received the Professional Achievement Award; Ronald G. Morrow, chief executive officer of the nonprofit North Carolina In-School Prevention of Obesity and Disease Inc., received the Academic Achievement Award; and Wade G. Livingston, an assistant professor in the department of leadership, counselor education, and human and organizational development at Clemson University, received the Young Alumnus Award.