Top 10 Most Memorable Moments of 2021

A non-comprehensive list of some of our favorite moments of the year

This year brought many positive changes to campus and witnessed many student accomplishments. We're proud of the hard work of everyone in our campus community. There are great things in the works for Lees-McRae and we're excited to see what the future holds.



INEXPRO 2030 is officially launched

The adoption of INEXPRO 2030 marked the start of a new chapter for Lees-McRae. This new strategic plan will direct college operations over the next decade. The plan’s five core strategies—financial vitality, student experience, distinctiveness, responsible community, and excellence—will allow the college to lean into its strengths and continue to excel.  

Learn about the priority initiatives

The Summit upgrades the campus dining experience

MacDonald Dining Hall received a complete makeover and was transformed into The Summit, a combination café, lounge, and buffet that treats students to a cozy mountain lodge atmosphere. The Summit includes updated food options, like a made-to-order pressed sandwich station and a grain bar, and features handmade tables from local business Rustik.

Relive the first meal in The Summit



Physical activity gets a lift with renovated Student Recreation Center and Williams Gymnasium

Generous donations from friends of the college made it possible to improve spaces dedicate to wellness and athleticism. Barbara and Todd Kopczynski worked closely with the Office of Advancement and Athletics Department to set up a Fitness Center with new exercise equipment, and trustee McNair Tornow and his wife Debi supported a new court in Williams Gymnasium. Both opened for use during the Fall 2021 semester.

Read about the SRC reopening



Commencement at Grandfather Mountain honors two classes and the first MAT graduate

In May, members of the Class of 2020 were finally able to commemorate their graduation after the COVID-19 pandemic led their own commencement ceremony to be postponed. Commencement exercises for both classes were held at Grandfather Mountain’s MacRae Meadows. Among the graduates was Ryan Beauchamp, the first person to be awarded a master’s degree by Lees-McRae.

Read about the Commencement ceremony

Lees-McRae receives recognitions for excellence in education

The college was included on the U.S. News & World Report lists of Best Regional Colleges South, Best Undergraduate Teaching, and Top Performers on Social Mobility. also named Lees-McRae as one of the best colleges for earning a degree in Human Services, Nursing, and Criminal Justice and #12 on the list of best colleges for online degrees in North Carolina.

View U.S. News & World Report rankings
Read more about the rankings

Campus groups put a renewed focus on sustainability

The League of American Bicyclists upgraded Lees-McRae from a Silver Bike Friendly University to a Gold Bike Friendly University, making Lees-McRae the smallest educational institution in the country at the gold level. In October, the college also participated in Campus Sustainability Month, with groups like Green Team, C.R.A.N.K. Crew, and the Student Sustainability Council leading sustainability-focused workshops and activities.

Read about the Gold Bicycle Friendly University ranking
Learn about Sustain Lees-McRae

Sustainability at Lees-McRae
Rail Report

Pro snowboarder Luke Winkelmann rides the rails

Winkelmann, a member of the U.S. Snowboard Pro Slopestyle Team and Blowing Rock, North Carolina native, visited campus in February to film a rail report video with Red Bull. Members of the Lees-McRae ski and snowboard team got to help build the jumps and spend some time with Winkelmann and fellow snowboarders Judd Henkes and Alex Caccamo. The world premiere of the video took place at the student end-of-semester celebration Bobcat Blast.

Read about the premiere

The college welcomes its largest incoming class 

A total of 254 first-year students enrolled at Lees-McRae for the 2021–22 academic year, bringing the main campus student population up to 675. After uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, it was gratifying to see so many students trust their education to Lees-McRae.

Student-athletes and coaches find success on a regional and national scale

The athletics department had a good year. Cally Morrill, the head women’s soccer coach, was named the Conference Carolinas Coach of the Year after leading her team to their most season wins since 2012. Several students competed at the national level this year, including at the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track & Field Championships and the 2021 USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships. Student-athletes on the swimming and indoor track and field teams also broke dozens of records throughout 2021.

Giving Day donor numbers exceed expectation

During the annual Giving Day drive, 258 donors chose to Back a Bobcat, surpassing the original goal of 240 donors in 24 hours. Thanks to the generous support of the Lees-McRae community, the opportunity to receive a superior education is now available to more students.  

Great work this year, Bobcats! Thank you for bringing excellence to this campus.
By Emily WebbDecember 10, 2021
FamiliesAthleticsCommunityAcademicsOnline LearningAlumniCampus Life