Top 10 most memorable moments of 2023

2023 marked another year of historic growth for Lees-McRae

College community breaks records with 2023 Giving Day

This year’s Giving Day theme, Rise to the Challenge, was the perfect description for the way Lees-McRae students, alumni, families, and community supporters contributed toward this year’s day of fundraising. With almost $300,000 raised across 670 individual donations, important priorities for the college including The Legacy Campaign, which funds the development of South Campus, received ample financial support on this year’s Giving Day.

These donations, in tandem with the completion of the $2 million Bissell-Kopczynski Challenge, made impressive strides toward fulfilling the entirety of The Legacy Campaign and allowed Lees-McRae to meet this year’s goal of doubling the 2022 Giving Day goal.

Rise to The Challenge on March 23!
Mountain Day of Service 2023

Mountain Day of Service increases impact with the addition of new sites

Mountain Day of Service was another annual tradition that broke records in 2023. Each year the day is set aside as a time for all Lees-McRae students, faculty, and staff to give back to the community, and this year 492 volunteers served at 37 sites, making two new records.

Volunteers also built connections with new organizations such as Yellow Mountain Enterprises in Newland, North Carolina, and traveled into Tennessee for the first time to serve at Roan Mountain Community Park and Friends of Roan Mountain State Park.

Read more about Mountain Day of Service 2023

Lees-McRae recognized among Best Regional Colleges South for fifth consecutive year

Lees-McRae College has been recognized by U.S. News and World Report as one of the Best Regional Colleges South for five years running, displaying the college’s commitment to consistency of excellence.

“Lees-McRae is committed to creating excellence in everything we do,” President Lee King said. “It’s nice to be recognized for that hard work, but we will continue to strive for consistent improvement in the quality of our academic offerings, campus living facilities, and student life experiences.”

Read more about this year’s ranking

Clouds part for Commencement 2023

Being nestled high in the North Carolina mountains often makes weather forecasting a tricky business. Leading up to Commencement 2023 all signs pointed toward a dreary day of cloud cover and rain, and it was announced that the ceremony would be moving to Williams Gymnasium. 

The day before the ceremony, however, the clouds parted, and just as quickly, the campus community came together to return hundreds of chairs, podiums, microphones, and more to Tate Lawn where the Class of 2023 could turn their tassels in the sunshine.

Read the recap of that special day

“You have the power to make a difference. Greatness comes to those who are willing to take risks and push through.” – Online Human Services major Makayla Gaitan ’23

Traditions new and old honored at Homecoming

For the last few years, Homecoming has looked a bit different than in the past. With the COVID-19 pandemic leading to a virtual Homecoming in 2020 and rescheduled Homecoming in 2021, and a hurricane forcing 2022 celebrations to move inside, Homecoming 2023 marked a much-anticipated return to tradition.

The weather was beautiful in Banner Elk that early fall weekend as groups of alumni and students were able to celebrate their Bobcat pride surrounded by the beauty of their mountain home. A new opening event, BobcatFest, hosted students, faculty, staff, and guests on Tate Lawn, while Bobcats young and old were able to crowd on Bobcat Bank to cheer on their teams during Saturday’s games.

Relive the weekend


Cheerleading Conference Champions

Lees-McRae Cheerleading earned two titles, Advanced Co-Ed Division and Cheer Champion, at the 2023 Atlantic Casualty Conference Carolinas Spirit Championship. The competition, which hosted its second annual event in 2023, was held at Wofford College. Lees-McRae competed against nine Conference Carolina cheerleading teams and four dance teams.

Read more

Skiing and snowboarding team claims four titles at USCSA National Championships

The college’s ski and snowboard team traveled through blistering winds and piles of snow to Mammoth Mountain, California in March where they secured four national titles at the annual U.S. Collegiate Ski & Snowboard National Championships.

Sophomore Biology major Lilly Kamp secured two titles for the team: Alpine Combined Women’s Snowboard, and Boarder-Cross Women’s Snowboard. The team also earned titles for Women’s Snowboard Boarder-Cross and Alpine Team Combined.

Read more about the team’s success

HELIOS welcomes inaugural class

Co-directed by Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty Pam Vesely and Dean of the Library Jess Bellemer, HELIOSwhich stands for Highly Experiential Learning Initiative Opportunities for Servicewelcomed its inaugural class in 2023.

The program is a branch of the college’s Honors Program and seeks to provide students with rich experiential learning opportunities that stretch outside of the classroom, campus, and even the country. The program is currently planning their first trip to the Bahamas in the summer of 2024 where they will visit the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Sciences Institute (BAMSI), a college partner.

In August, Executive Director of BAMSI Raveenia Roberts-Hanna visited Lees-McRae to deliver the annual Convocation address and meet with the HELIOS students about the future of their relationship with the Bahamian institution.

Students serve their community and make history as volunteer firefighters

Lees-McRae students often join incoming cohorts at the Banner Elk Volunteer Fire Department, but this year the Bobcats went the extra mile. All but two of this year’s newest group of volunteers were Lees-McRae students, many of them in the Outdoor Recreation Management and Wilderness Medicine and Rescue programs, which provide students with the valuable knowledge and relevant skills necessary for fire and rescue work.

That wasn’t the only notable achievement of these Bobcat firefighters, however. In October, Lees-McRae students Erin Haldie and Lilly Anthony, along with another female firefighter, performed the department’s first all-female fire call, making local history.

Learn more about this valuable experiential learning opportunity

Lees-McRae Cycling competes in Mountain Bike Nationals close to home

This year, the annual USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championship was held in western North Carolina at Ride Rock Creek in Zirconia. As the largest collegiate cycling event that USA Cycling hosts each year, Lees-McRae cyclists were excited to compete at such a high level so close to home.

The four-day competition saw a number of notable performances from the Bobcats, eventually landing the team in fourth overall for the Team Omnium.

Read more about Bobcat success at the National Championship

“It’s really exciting that we’re going to be in our home state. This is my first Nationals with Lees-McRae, so I’m really excited to see how it is and race with all the ladies around the country.” – Sophomore Lauren Moon

Lees-McRae Cycling Takes on Mountain Bike Nationals
By Maya JarrellDecember 01, 2023
CommunityAthleticsCampus LifeAcademics