Update from Appalachian State University

Friday, February 9, 2024

I begin this week’s message on a somber note. North Carolina lost a great friend to public education, the UNC System and the App State Community earlier in the week — Graham “Leroy” Lail Jr. Leroy’s influence in education and economic development is present throughout the state, and especially in the Hickory area. Leroy was a Catawba County businessman, who, along with his wife, Lynn, was instrumental in establishing the iconic Hickory Furniture Mart — just one of the many ways he was influential in the economic development of the area. A member of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors for more than a decade, Leroy was a champion for education in our state. He was a visionary and advocate for App State’s Hickory campus, and I am proud he was able to see that vision realized. His legacy will carry on for many generations. Our hearts and thoughts are with Lynn and the entire Lail family during this difficult time.

With a three-year, $1 million grant from the Public Health AmeriCorps program, Jennifer Schroeder Tyson, a lecturer in App State’s Department of Public Health and Exercise Science, is leading the establishment of the Appalachian Medical Reserve Corps to serve Western North Carolina. The initiative — made possible through a partnership between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and AmeriCorps — will allow the university to establish programs in 25 counties in Western North Carolina that:

  • recruit, train and develop public health leaders and Medical Reserve Corps members to respond to public health needs in North Carolina’s rural Appalachian communities;

  • provide pathways to public health-related careers through on-site experience and training, including psychological first aid training; and

  • provide public health support to organizations, including local health departments, long-term care facilities and hospitals.

App State is proud to be a part of this program as we continue to find ways that our university can help strengthen the communities of Western North Carolina.

A recent $100,000 donation from the Mebane Charitable Foundation will support expansion of reading assistance services for K–3 students in Watauga and Catawba counties. In addition to offering reading assistance to children in local communities, the network of literacy support services will provide opportunities for hands-on instructional experience for Reich College of Education undergraduate and graduate students. As a nationwide leader in teacher education, we recognize that literacy is the foundation of learning and a key indicator of lifelong success, and we understand the utmost urgency to improve child literacy in North Carolina. Literacy education is one of App State’s founding goals, and this program will allow educators to improve performance in literacy for more local children.

Last night, I hosted several key university leaders at the Appalachian House for conversations about leadership, professional development and building a supportive organizational culture. Thank you to Provost Norris, Vice Chancellor Barghothi and the academic leaders who joined me for an excellent discussion and opportunity to further professional connections outside the office.

As the spring semester progresses, I am filled with pride for the exceptional achievements of our students, faculty and staff. App State shines as a beacon of educational excellence across North Carolina and beyond. Our collective efforts across multiple disciplines are a testament to our unwavering commitment to educational access, service and innovation.

Sheri Everts