Appalachian State University Chancellor Ken Peacock, along with members of his faculty, addressed an assembly of Ashe County officials and community leaders at the Eighth Annual Ashe County Economic Development Listening Tour at Jefferson Landing Tuesday.
Peacock was joined in the program by ASU’s Vice Chancellor for University Advancement Susan Pettyjohn, Director of Writing in the Field and N.C. Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti, and Athletic Director Charlie Cobb.
Introducing Peacock, Skyline Membership Corporation Public Relations Administrator Karen Powell said The Economic Development Tour program in Ashe began eight years ago, when the county expressed a desire to develop a closer working relationship with ASU.
“This was your idea…that we have an event like this, to really from hear and for you to hear what’s going on at Appalachian. We are your University,” Peacock said.
“We hope you can buy into (our) goals and objectives with us, and be proud of Appalachian, and the direction in which it’s moving,” he said.
An $82 million health sciences college project has made headway, Peacock said, with “a good start” of $2 million in state funding secured by Rep. Jonathon Jordan. Pettyjohn said ASU hopes to have a “shovel in the ground” for the new facility next year.
As the health sciences college develops, Peacock announced ASU is also forming a partnership with Wake Forest University’s Physician Assistant program. “It’ll be a great relationship collaborating with Wake Forest, and will strengthen what we’re doing,” he said.
Pettyjohn gave an update on the Campaign for Appalachian, a $200 million fundraising initiative launched in October 2011. With the tagline “Making a difference in the world one student at a time,” the campaign has a goal of ensuring the best possible education experience for all ASU students, he said.
“We’re very grateful for all the support we’ve received. To date, we have raised $160 million,” he said.
Appalachian has recently made strides in sustainability research and education, Peacock said. The school’s Solar Decathlon project won the People’s Choice award in competition last year.
“Not the top award, but it shows that we’ve developed something,” he said. “We don’t have an architecture school or an engineering school, but it shows the commitment of faculty and staff…to get in there and be creative and get the job done.”
ASU has been invited to participate at the Solar Decathlon in France next year. “I’m so proud of the faculty and staff that have supported this program,”said Peacock.
Of his recently-announced retirement, Peacock said, “I’m not retiring, I’m just moving to the next chapter of life. I’ve been at Appalachian State for the past 31 years. That’s a long time, almost half my life.”
Athletic Director Charlie Cobb said ASU has agreed to play University of Michigan in August of next year. “Some people say it’s the dumbest thing they’ve ever heard,” Cobb said.
In a storied upset, the Mountaineers in 2007 defeated the Wolverines, the number five team in the nation that year.
Defending his decision, Cobb invoked Team USA’s 1980 “Miracle on Ice” Olympic victory over the Russians. “Does anyone know what Team USA’s record against the Russians has been since? They’re 9-23 since then,” he said.
“Does that diminish what happened? In 2007, we shocked the world. What happens in 2014 can’t diminish what happened in 2007,” he said.
Poet Laureate Jospeh Bathaniti offered the program’s best anecdote, recounting how, as a young graduate student fresh out of Pittsburgh, Pa., he sat next to a young lady in the ballroom room of Atlanta’s Georgia Terrace Hotel who coached him through his first ever bowl of grits. She later became his wife.
Since then, he as eaten “bathtubs full of grits,” he said.
Sponsored by Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation and Skyline Membership Corporation, the event was attended by representatives from the Ashe County Board of Commissioners, the towns of Jefferson and West Jefferson, the Chamber of Commerce, Ashe County Schools, the Ashe County Arts Council, Ashe Memorial Hospital, Wilkes Community College, the Workforce Development Board, the High Country Council of Governments, the Appalachian Regional Library, the N.C. Department of Commerce, N.C. State Rep. Jonathan Jordan and staffers from the offices of U.S. Senators Kay Hagan and Richard Burr