The University: History

Appalachian State University: A History of Service to Students

The Desire to Educate

When Blanford B. Dougherty and his brother Dauphin D. Dougherty founded Watauga Academy in 1899 with just 53 students enrolled in three grades, they were motivated by a driving desire to educate teachers for the mountains of Northwest North Carolina. Rural mountain communities had not had access to or really much use for education beyond grade school. Many parents were indifferent about educating their children, and farming left little time for school. But the growth of a national public education movement influenced the success of Watauga Academy. At the turn of the century, modernizing America needed educated citizens and trained teachers. The demand for secondary school teachers had burgeoned since the civil war as the number of high schools and students increased.

Being astute, D.D. Dougherty was convinced that the state would fund institutions established to train teachers needed by the state. So in 1903, he drafted a bill for the N.C. Legislature funding a state teachers' training school in Boone. He traveled to Raleigh by horse and by train in January 1903, and with determination and skilled persuasion, won over the state legislature by one vote. Watauga Academy became Appalachian Training School for Teachers and opened its doors on October 5th with $2,000 available from the state. At that time 325 students were registered.

B.B. Dougherty continued to recruit students, to solicit funds from local sources and the state, and to build facilities needed to accommodate the students. In 1929, the school became a four-year, degree granting institution named Appalachian State Teachers' College. Over 1,300 students were enrolled in the Bachelor of Science degree programs for primary grades education, physical education, math, English, science, and history.

Appalachian attained national standards by becoming accredited by the American Association for Teacher Education in 1939, and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1942. Qualified, dedicated faculty were attracted to teaching at Appalachian and helped build its reputation as an excellent institution for the preparation of teachers.

Enrollments dropped during World War II, as men enlisted and were drafted but dramatically increased when returning veterans were supported by funds to return to school (the G.I. Bill). Older, more experienced students changed the character of the student body and campus life.

Growing Into a University

Dr. Dougherty retired, and leadership between 1955 and 1969 came from Dr. William H. Plemmons who did much to shape Appalachian's growth. He provided respected academic leadership and a new vision of what Appalachian could be. He focused on building new facilities, as the major structures on campus were out of date, in disrepair, and inadequate for an enrollment of 1,500 students. During his administration, 24 buildings were added, and enrollment grew to nearly 5,000 resident students. A master plan was created for rebuilding and expanding the campus.

Appalachian was transformed from a single-purpose teacher's college into a multipurpose regional university. Appalachian State Teacher's College became Appalachian State University in 1967 along with other state institutions like Western Carolina University and East Carolina University. This phenomenon occurred all over the country as the demand for higher education among the "baby-boomers" exploded and states rushed to establish new colleges and universities or to expand existing institutions.

Appalachian experienced a doubling of enrollments during the 1970's to about 9,500 and a growth in faculty to 550, two-thirds of whom held the Ph.D. degree. This was possible because of increased federal funding for numerous programs, federal support for student loans, and generous financial support from the State of North Carolina. The idea of every qualified high school graduate attending college seemed within reach, and this changed the landscape of Appalachian and American higher education.

National Recognition

Dr. Herbert Wey succeeded Dr. Plemmons in 1969, first as president, and then in 1971 as chancellor. Chancellor Wey's ten years as the head of Appalachian brought phenomenal growth, marked by innovation and change. Wey took advantage of the favorable conditions he encountered to significantly change the direction and character of Appalachian. He could do this because outside funding for experimental programs amounted to millions of dollars and also because the lines of authority in the new University of North Carolina system were not yet clear, giving him a freedom of movement.

Dr. Wey used this window of opportunity to introduce innovations that won Appalachian its first national recognition as an institution of change. He started the student teacher program that continues today. He founded the College of Business which grew so rapidly, its development had to be curtailed. He reduced the number of required courses so that students could experiment with more elective courses. During this time, Appalachian acquired the Loft in New York City and the Appalachian House in Washington, D.C. for faculty and students to use. Watauga College was born. Wey also approved the active recruitment of minority students recommended by a number of concerned faculty. And the Bachelor of Arts degree was added to those offered by the University. Campus during this time was characterized by outstanding young teachers and exceptionally well qualified students.

Quality and Diversity

Dr. John E. Thomas, the next chancellor, was an engineer, a lawyer, and a manager. He was interested in quality control at Appalachian, and he supported high quality changes and a broadening of influence and scope. Committed to the master plan of controlled growth to a maximum resident enrollment of 10,000 students, Chancellor Thomas focused on recruiting a first-rate faculty, most of whom had either the Ph.D. or the terminal degree in their field. Dr. Thomas strengthened attention to undergraduate education and supported review of required courses. Cultural life on campus broadened, marked by well-known, dynamic performers, concerts, theatre, recitals, and speakers. Dr. Thomas was interested in technology and focused on strengthening the University's communications infrastructure. He supported international studies and education, and during this time, exchange programs were set up with campuses in countries including China, Germany, and Costa Rica.

The results of these progressive changes have been regular recognition of Appalachian State University in national publications, e.g., U.S. News and World Report, as one of the outstanding comprehensive universities in the Southeast and nation.

Dr. Francis T. Borkowski succeeded Dr. Thomas in 1993. Chancellor Borkowski, whose tenure was marked by still greater emphasis on campus cultural life, met with remarkable success in attracting private support for his efforts on behalf of arts programs and facilities. In addition to emphasizing the goal of diversifying Appalachian's student body and faculty, he presided over the creation of ground-breaking partnerships with two-year colleges in the region, strengthened Appalachian's affiliations with other universities around the globe, and, like his predecessors, practiced a decidedly student-centered administrative philosophy. During this period, Appalachian not only maintained its customary place on the list of outstanding comprehensive universities annually identified by such publications as U.S. News and World Report but was named Time Magazine's College of the Year in 2001.

A New Century

Upon Chancellor Borkowski's return to the faculty, Provost Harvey R. Durham served as Interim Chancellor for 2003-2004. Given his 38 years of experience on the campus and the universal respect with which he was regarded, Dr. Durham was the ideal figure to keep Appalachian on its upward trajectory while a new Chancellor was sought.

The search concluded close to home, with the appointment of Dr. Kenneth E. Peacock, Acting Provost and former Dean of the Walker College of Business, as the sixth Chief Executive of Appalachian State University. Under the leadership of Dr. Kenneth E. Peacock, who served from 2004 to 2014, Appalachian became a destination of choice for high-achieving, intellectually curious students wanting to be engaged in the community.

In addition to small classes and challenging academics, Appalachian became known for its undergraduate research, internationalized curriculum, service-learning and sustainability, both in academic programs and campus practices. The university grew significantly in the areas of healthcare and the nexus of energy, the environment and economics. It received increased national attention for its academics, as well as its three national NCAA football championships in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

At the time Dr. Sheri N. Everts joined Appalachian in July 2014, enrollment had topped 17,800 and the university was attracting international attention with its entry in the Solar Decathlon Europe 2014 competition in Versailles, France, and students' exhibition of designs in the Milan Furniture Fair. Appalachian was also preparing to host its third annual Appalachian Energy Summit, at which leaders from North Carolina's public and private universities convene to share best practices.

History of the University of North Carolina

In North Carolina, all the public educational institutions that grant baccalaureate degrees are part of the University of North Carolina. The multi-campus state university encompasses 16 such institutions, as well as the NC School of Science and Mathematics, the nation's first public residential high school for gifted students. Chartered by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1789, the University of North Carolina was the first public university in the United States to open its doors and the only one to graduate students in the eighteenth century. The first class was admitted in Chapel Hill in 1795. For the next 136 years, the only campus of the University of North Carolina was at Chapel Hill.

Additional institutions of higher education, diverse in origin and purpose, began to win sponsorship from the General Assembly beginning as early as 1877. Five were historically black institutions, and another was founded to educate American Indians. Some began as high schools. Several were created to prepare teachers for the public schools. Others had a technological emphasis. One is a training school for performing artists.

The 1931 session of the General Assembly redefined the University of North Carolina to include three state-supported institutions: the campus at Chapel Hill (now the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), North Carolina State College (now North Carolina State University at Raleigh), and Woman's College (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro). The new multi-campus University operated with one board of trustees and one president. By 1969, three additional campuses had joined the University through legislative action: the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the University of North Carolina at Asheville, and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

In 1971 legislation was passed bringing into the University of North Carolina the state's ten remaining public senior institutions, each of which had until then been legally separate: Appalachian State University, East Carolina University, Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, North Carolina Central University, the North Carolina School of the Arts (now the University of North Carolina School of the Arts), Pembroke State University (now the University of North Carolina at Pembroke), Western Carolina University, and Winston-Salem State University. In 1985 the NC School of Science and Mathematics was declared an affiliated school of the University; in July 2007 NCSSM by legislative action became a constituent institution of the University of North Carolina. All the schools and universities welcome students of both sexes and all races.

The UNC Board of Governors is the policy-making body legally charged with "the general determination, control, supervision, management, and governance of all affairs of the constituent institutions." It elects the president, who administers the University. The 32 voting members of the Board of Governors are elected by the General Assembly for four-year terms. Former board chairmen and board members who are former governors of North Carolina may continue to serve limited periods as non-voting members emeriti. The president of the UNC Association of Student Governments or that student's designee is also a non-voting member.

Each of the UNC campuses is headed by a chancellor who is chosen by the Board of Governors on the president's nomination and is responsible to the president. Each university has a board of trustees consisting of eight members elected by the Board of Governors, four appointed by the governor, and the president of the student body, who serves ex officio. (The UNC School of the Arts has two additional ex officio members; and the NC School of Science and Mathematics has a 27-member board as required by law.) Each board of trustees holds extensive powers over academic and other operations of its institution on delegation from the Board of Governors.

  • Appalachian State University
  • East Carolina University
  • Elizabeth City State University
  • Fayetteville State University
  • North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
  • North Carolina Central University
  • North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics
  • North Carolina State University
  • University of North Carolina at Asheville
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • University of North Carolina at Charlotte
  • University of North Carolina at Greensboro
  • University of North Carolina at Pembroke
  • University of North Carolina at Wilmington
  • University of North Carolina School of the Arts
  • Western Carolina University
  • Winston-Salem State University

In addition to its teaching role, the University of North Carolina has a long-standing commitment to public service. The UNC Center for Public Television, the UNC Health Care System, the cooperative extension and research services, nine area health education centers, and myriad other University programs and facilities reap social and economic benefits for the state and its people.