This summer, UNC Asheville announced the creation of the Charles T. McCullough Jr. Institute for Conservation, Land Use and Environmental Resiliency, which will be a national model for blending environmental study with business and sustainable growth in urban and rural landscapes. Strategically aligned with UNC Asheville's National Environmental Modeling & Analysis Center (NEMAC), the groundbreaking institute will help research and solve some of the nation's most challenging environmental issues, while providing UNC Asheville students with the skills and experience they need to succeed in the future.
The institute is named for Charles T. McCullough Jr., a renowned Asheville physician, lifelong champion of environmental issues and proud father of Leslie Casse, a UNC Asheville alumna and member of the UNC Asheville Foundation Board of Directors. Charles and his wife, Mrs. Shirley Anne McCullough, generously gifted $1 million to create an endowment for this visionary institute.
“My dad worked really hard as a physician, but also worked very hard to support his community," Leslie says. "He loved his patients and he has always loved Asheville. My parents taught me to appreciate and cherish the envrionment. My experience on campus is one of the reasons I feel so strongly about creating this institute at UNC Asheville. It will enable us to have students trained for future jobs in one of the most important economies to communities all over the country, while not diluting their liberal arts background.”
The McCullough Institute has many goals. It will leverage NEMAC's existing work, partnerships and applied research to develop stronger collaborations and create present-day solutions for future resiliency in our community. It will create greater opportunities for undergraduate research and scholarships for student including institute fellowships and new certifications in Land Use and Resource Conservation, Urban Planning/Renewal and Sustainable Agriculture.
"Building resilience happens on a local scale," says Jim Fox, Executive Director of NEMAC and The McCullough Institute. "We have the best chance of making a difference in our own backyard here in Western North Carolina, which is full of natural beauty and also provides great benefits for our citizens and the economy.”
Casse agrees. “We have resources here that other areas do not have, including one of the top conservation trusts – the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC), which has protected a staggering 60,000 acres and watershed. We also have NOAA here, with the National Climatic Data Center.”
“I’m humbled and I appreciate having my name associated with something that is going to be so dynamic," says Dr. McCullough. "If we get this many people working for the environment, teaching others to be responsible and be good stewards, it’s worth it.”