Remarks from the Aug. 21, 2023, opening of the App State Hickory campus

Monday, August 21, 2023

Remarks by Sheri Everts, Chancellor

Good morning and welcome to the first day of classes on the Hickory campus of Appalachian State University!

I am App State’s chancellor, Sheri Everts. What an exciting day! I am absolutely thrilled to be here with you today as we open this beautiful campus to its very first students for the first time — you only get to do this once, folks! And I’m so glad you are all here!

I would like to begin by acknowledging the support from two very important people who paved the way for today to happen:

  • Leroy Lail is known for his ongoing advocacy of educational expansion in Hickory, particularly during his time on the University of North Carolina Board of Governors. When I arrived at App State in 2014, Leroy immediately initiated conversations with me about the possibilities for App State in Hickory, and he and I have been working together to bring an App State campus here ever since.
  • Former App State Trustee Don Beaver has also been a steadfast champion of this project, and his sage advice has been invaluable.

I’d also like to acknowledge the tremendous support we have received for this building from the state legislature. Many of you know I purchased this building for $1 million, but it was an allocation from the state that has allowed us to open a beautiful building with modern technology and spaces designed for collaborative teaching and learning.

Today we are joined by some very important people who have helped champion this project and make sure we were ready for today:

  • Representing the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, Mr. Philip Byers. Thank you, sir, for all you do to make sure that all students across the state are able to achieve their dreams and goals of earning a quality education.
  • Representing App State’s Board of Trustees, Chair Kim Shepherd, Board
    Secretary Tommy Sofield, Trustee Jeff Chesson and Trustee J.P. Neri, our student body president. Thank you for your vision and support in working toward this day. Your steady guidance has helped shape App State into the premier public undergraduate institution it is today.

Good morning to City of Hickory Mayor Hank Guess. Thank you, mayor, for bringing greetings today. Mayor Guess is joined by:

  • Scott Millar, president of the Catawba County Economic Development Corporation;
  • Hickory City Manager Warren Wood;
  • Deputy City Manager Rodney Miller; and
  • Assistant City Manager Rick Beasley.

Thank you for welcoming App State into this community and the countless hours and advice you have provided to help ensure this campus will provide maximum benefit to the Hickory area.

We have several members of the App State Hickory Campus Advisory Council in attendance this morning. Your guidance has assisted us, among other things, in ensuring the Hickory campus course offerings will have a direct impact on workforce development within the Hickory area. Thank you for your continued leadership.

My leadership team is here today:

  • Dr. Heather Norris, provost and executive vice chancellor;
  • Hank Foreman, vice chancellor of external affairs and strategic initiatives, and chief of staff;
  • Dr. Dan Layzell, vice chancellor of finance and operations;
  • Dr. Troy Johnson, vice chancellor of enrollment management;
  • J.J. Brown, vice chancellor of student affairs;
  • Jane Barghothi, vice chancellor of university advancement; and
  • Megan Hayes, chief communications officer.

Members of my cabinet are also in attendance. Would you please raise your hands so you can be identified?

Thank you to these leadership teams for working diligently to prepare the Hickory campus for today and the many years ahead. You have set the foundation for generations of Mountaineers.

I want to welcome the faculty and staff of the App State Hickory campus.

Without your commitment to educational excellence, this campus would simply be a building. You supply the knowledge and light the spark of intellectual curiosity that will lead our students toward achieving their goals.

To the students who begin classes today and lead the way for future Mountaineers to grow and develop at the App State Hickory campus — welcome to App State! And thank you for being the very first students to join us on this fun and exciting adventure!

We also have a group here today who are among the first high school students in America to visit our new campus. We hope your time here today will both inform and inspire you. You represent the future of higher education in North Carolina and our bright future at App State. Welcome!

One hundred and twenty-four years ago, App State’s founders, B.B., D.D. and Lillie Shull Dougherty, had an ambitious vision, to increase access to higher education in the most rural mountain areas of Western North Carolina.

I often wonder, what would our founders think, if they could see the App State of today, with more than 20,000 students, top graduation rates and a national reputation for innovation and undergraduate teaching excellence.

Today, we honor their vision and continue our trajectory of excellence by opening the App State Hickory campus, solidifying our commitment to the Greater Hickory area.

As the university plans for the future and to meet the needs of the area, we are aligning with the vision for the City of Hickory, set forth by its leaders.

Over the last several years, the city has been planning various economic development opportunities around the Hickory Regional Airport, L.P. Frans Stadium, the new Hickory Aviation Museum, the Catawba Valley Community College Workforce Innovation Center and the Hickory Trail System.

App State’s new Hickory campus is in the heart of this area, and we are pleased to join an already strong partnership with the city, as the planning for an Innovation District in Hickory begins.

While it is still early in the planning process, we are excited about our contributions to the opportunities for the entire Hickory Metro region as App State grows and development thrives.

With the opening of this campus, App State provides the people of Western North Carolina the opportunity to earn a degree in more than 100 programs that are aligned with the workforce needs of the Hickory area, and that are both flexible and affordable.

All of us here understand the power of higher education to change lives — this is what my colleagues and I sometime refer to as the “strong arm of higher education.” We know the statistics that show how much more earning power college graduates have. But those of us who are first-generation graduates have lived it — we are the people that make up those numbers. We have experienced, firsthand, the difference a college degree makes, not only for ourselves, but for each subsequent generation. This experience makes us even more determined to use our influence to help others, especially students who are from rural areas, low-income families or who must work harder to access educational resources.

We are so incredibly proud to expand access to the tradition of excellence for which App State is known — including high-quality faculty interaction and undergraduate research opportunities — to the newest Mountaineers at our Hickory campus. With this new App State location, we’re able to offer these opportunities to even more people for whom an App State education would not have been an option.

In 1899, the Doughertys called students to classes with the ringing of a bell that was housed in the steeple of what was then the Watauga Academy. An iconic symbol of App State’s history, the bell plays a prominent role in our institutional traditions. Students now ring the bell to symbolize the beginning of the academic year, and again upon graduation. Today, we honor our founders’ vision with a new Founders Bell that Hickory Mountaineers will ring as they take their place in App State’s history.

As we prepare to ring the bell today, I’d like to say add an additional thank you to the faculty and staff who will be teaching and supporting our Hickory Mountaineers.

To the inaugural Hickory campus class, today, you are making history.

Your success will not only benefit you but will also benefit the generations of students who live within the surrounding communities. These students will look up to you for accepting the challenge of higher education to reach new heights and achieve your dreams. As each of you begins your App State Experience, know that you will be backed by the strength of an App State network that includes expert faculty, supportive staff and more than 146,000 alumni worldwide.

Thank you again for joining us on this historic day.