admonitions from a family member not to forget his mountain roots, Carden told
the Ramsey Center audience that he "couldn't get out of Appalachia quick
enough" after his 1958 graduation from what was then known as Western Carolina
"I wanted to be near theaters, book stores and nice restaurants. I wanted some
culture," he said.
For 15 years, Carden worked as a teacher in the metropolitan areas of Atlanta,
Charlotte and Raleigh, but as the years passed he said he became less and less
happy. "I was definitely homesick," he said.
Carden came back to Sylva for a visit and stopped at WCU's Mountain Heritage Center
to hear a program by Southern Appalachian poet Jim Wayne Miller. Through the poems
in his collection, "The Mountains Have Come Closer," Miller exhorts his readers
to "come home," and Carden decided to move back to Sylva and live in his grandfather's
"I took him literally, and I came home," Carden said. "I moved in my grandfather's
house in Rhodes Cove, and for the past 40 years I've been trying - striving -
to remember where I came from."
regard to his new title, Carden told The Herald Tuesday that he's "tickled to
death" and is grateful for the honor WCU officials have bestowed on him.
alarmed me was when I heard why I was getting it and what other people think of
me," he said. "They see me as some sort of icon and a representative of local
culture and Appalachian tradition. Now I'll have to live up to that."
credited Jim Manning of WCU's theater department with helping him achieve Friday's
recognition. Manning has staged several of Carden's plays at Mountain Heritage
"I always wanted some sort of recognition for my plays," Carden said. "I've written
six, and they've done real well."
said he appreciates the honor and the opportunities his new doctorate will bring.
going to enable me to do things related to mountain culture I couldn't do before,"
commencement audience also heard stories about the strength of family ties from
commencement speaker Will Peebles, a WCU professor of music who was honored as
one of the University of North Carolina system's best teachers earlier this year
when he was named one of 17 recipients of the UNC Board of Governors Awards for
Excellence in Teaching.
said his great-grandfather, who was born in 1873 and taught mathematics at an
Illinois college, "knew how to care for a horse, and later, how to hold a Model
T Ford together with baling wire." Peebles said his great-grandfather liked to
impress him and his identical-twin brother by calling out "whoa" to stop his red
Corvair car just short of the garage wall. "We were 6; he was 90," Peebles said.
"We thought he was nothing at all like us.
know now that my great-grandfather and I are not really all that different,"
Peebles said. "When I first met some shirt-tail cousins in Tennessee, 30 years
after my great-grandfather had visited them, they surprised me by saying, 'You
have his laugh.' We are more like our ancestors than we think."
said the "most serious problem any of us face is really the same one our ancestors
faced, and that is to see ourselves in others - our friends, our neighbors, and
even our enemies - and to do unto them as we would have them do unto us.
"It's an old and familiar rule, but let's see what might happen if we were to
treat it not as a rule, but as an opportunity," he said.
his charge to the graduating students, Bardo thanked them for what they contributed
"to what this university is becoming."
you leave Western, remember what you learned here," he said. "Remember the lessons
of what it means to be human, and remember the real value of being forever a Catamount.
of us who will stay here in Cullowhee look forward to keeping in touch with you.
Whatever it is you do, remember that you have a home in Cullowhee, and we care
a great deal about you and your future. Congratulations, graduates, and best wishes."
class of summer 2008 includes 31 Jamaican teachers who have earned graduate degrees
in education through the university, and another 33 Jamaicans who are receiving
their undergraduate degrees in education.
than 5,000 teachers from that Caribbean island nation have earned teaching degrees
complete list of graduates will be announced following the posting of grades from