Top 10 Most Memorable Moments of 2019

Join us as we look back at our favorite memories of the year

If one thing is for certain, 2019 was jam-packed! Before we head into the new decade (2020 here we come!), let’s look back at the incredible accomplishments and exciting events that happened across campus. 

Campus unveils the Frankie Ramsey Needham Alumni House

On July 12, campus community members and alumni visiting for Frolic weekend celebrated the legacy of Frankie Ramsey Needham ’55H and unveiled the Frankie Ramsey Needham Alumni House in her honor. Having retired a few weeks prior, Needham’s tenure of 47 years marked the longest-ever service in the history of the institution.

“We get the opportunity today to celebrate and honor her as she enters her retirement,” President Lee King said during the dedication ceremony. “Frankie, you have meant so much to this incredible institution, and the people here today can certainly testify to that. The love that we have for you is endless, and I hope that we can show you today the impact you have not only had on us, but also the college.”

246 members of the Class of 2019 receive their diplomas during Commencement

It’s the event we all wait for! On May 11, 246 members of the Class of 2019 gathered to receive their diplomas. Prior to the ceremony, faculty and staff lined the hallways cheering as soon-to-be graduates processed into Williams Gymnasium. Once their names were called, students crossed the stage, shook hands with President Lee King, and became graduates of Lees-McRae College. During the ceremony, Blake DeMaso, owner and president of Summit Publishing and Mountain High Media, shared his address titled, “Find Your Adventure.”

Read more about Commencement 2019

Students travel to incredible locations like Costa Rica and U.S. national parks

Earlier in the year, students from various programs traveled for an unforgettable spring break trip to Costa Rica. There, they learned how to make authentic Costa Rican cuisine, explored Toucan Rescue Ranch, and planted trees along the Playa Hermosa coastline.

Students from the Expedition into the Wild: National Parks in the American West course stayed a little closer to home, but still completed a trip the first of its kind at Lees-McRae. A collaboration between the English, History, and Outdoor Recreation Management programs, students and faculty explored several U.S. national parks where they journaled and recited poetry in between hikes, mountain bike rides, rafting, and camping.

Read more about the Costa Rica trip
Read more about the Expedition into the Wild trip

Softball team wins the Conference Carolinas Championship and Veronica Laughton takes first place at the USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championship

How can we not talk about the softball team winning their first-ever Conference Carolinas Championship? Even more, ten of the players went on to be recognized for their work in the classroom during the year by being named 2019 Easton/NFCA All-America Scholar-Athletes.

However, softball wasn’t the only one to see the top step in 2019. Senior Veronica Laughton captured her second consecutive and third overall national championship in the dual slalom at the USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championship.

We went On the Road

This year was just as much about bringing the High Country together as it was bringing the mountains to alumni, families, and friends in the southeast. Over the course of two tours, President Lee King and some fellow Bobcats hit the road for receptions welcoming friends, current and future. It was an exciting way to celebrate the mountains that inspire us all—whether it was in Asheville, Raleigh, Charlotte, Greenville, and many others!

Check out the photo albums

College reveals new Makerspace, Whitesell renovation, and May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center expansion

It has been exciting to watch the unveiling of a few different learning spaces across campus throughout the year. At the Shelton Learning Commons, students now enjoy the new makerspace that features everything from sewing equipment, to a podcast station, and even a 3D printer. Across campus, the Whitesell Art Building received top to bottom renovations for students in the arts. The space now boasts classrooms, a pottery room, and even a gallery so students can display their work. Just across the river, the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center completed renovations on an expansion project that doubled the size of the center. The building now houses a new x-ray room, larger surgery suite, recovery rooms, and additional office spaces.

Campus earns top 15 spot in AORE Campus Challenge and lands second in Blue Ridge Outdoor Magazine “Top Adventure College” tournament

We really showed the world this year why Lees-McRae is one of the best colleges for outdoor and adventure lovers! In October, we earned a top 15 spot in the AORE Campus Challenge, and earlier in the year we went head-to-head against Western Carolina University in the final round of Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine’s annual “Top Adventure College” tournament.

Lees-McRae Summer Theatre debuts From the Mountaintop: The Edgar Tufts Story and Artistic Director Janet Barton Speer awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine

This summer, Lees-McRae Summer Theatre debuted a performance that truly hit home. From the Mountaintop: The Edgar Tufts Story brought together the High Country community as part of the Celebration of Banner Elk’s Heritage of Service. On the opening night of the performance, Artistic Director Janet Barton Speer was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine—the highest civilian honor given by the governor of North Carolina.

Academic offerings expanded with all-new Ski Industry Business and Instruction minor, Wilderness Medicine minor, and Theatre Arts Administration major.

Another year, another exciting lineup of new academic programs across campus. This year, we began offering the Ski Industry Business and Instruction minor, the Wilderness Medicine minor, and the Theatre Arts Administration major.

Ski Industry Business and Instruction
Wilderness Medicine
Theatre Arts Administration

Traditions old and new celebrated during Homecoming 2019

Homecoming 2019 was all about celebrating old traditions and establishing some new ones–some of which were the Spirit Package (that funded student scholarships!) and its limited-edition design for 2019, the block party Friday night, and the exciting fireworks display following the men’s and women’s soccer games Saturday. Homecoming also ushered in another year of alumni awards—an exciting way to honor outstanding alumni for their service to the college. The Captain’s Class Agent Award was presented to the Class of 1959, the Alumni Service Award to Frankie R. Needham ’55H, and the Distinguished Alumni Award to Amy Beane ’96.


So there you have it—our top moments of 2019! We hope you enjoyed this past year as much as we did, and we look forward to the unforgettable memories to come in the New Year.

By Nina MastandreaDecember 27, 2019
CommunityOnline LearningAcademicsAthleticsAlumniCampus LifeFamilies