WNC Historical Association lauds WWC president emeritus for ‘Outstanding Achievement’

Warren Wilson College Board of Trustees Chairman Bill Christy, left, with Darcy and Doug Orr at Tuesday night's celebration. Photo by Reggie Tidwell, courtesy of Warren Wilson College
Warren Wilson College Board of Trustees Chairman Bill Christy, left, with Darcy and Doug Orr at Tuesday night's celebration. Photo by Reggie Tidwell, courtesy of Warren Wilson College

Press release from Warren Wilson College:

As he took the stage Tuesday night, Warren Wilson College alumnus and folk musician David Wilcox summed up President Emeritus Doug Orr’s legacy.
“Thank you, Doug,” he said. “You did for this place what we’re all trying to do: just to be more like ourselves, to become more authentically ourselves.”
Orr was the guest of honor at an intimate, invitation-only event held in the newly remodeled Kittredge Community Arts Center at the College. The Western North Carolina Historical Association (WNCHA) presented the former Warren Wilson president with its “Outstanding Achievement Award.” WNCHA’s Bill Lineberry said Orr was “most deserving” because of “his years of contribution to the academic and cultural welfare of Western North Carolina.”
For 15 years, Orr led Warren Wilson College as president. His tenure saw the construction of multiple new buildings, the completion of a $27.3 million capital campaign, record enrollment and the creation of The Swannanoa Gathering, a summer series of folk music and dance workshops that brought more than 18,000 people to the region since it began. Orr participates in the program each summer, and it continues to attract a plethora of musicians — budding and world-renowned.
“How many people are given the opportunity to create a cultural institution?” said Jim Magill, who directs and founded the College’s The Swannanoa Gathering with Orr in 1991. “I will always be grateful to Doug for that opportunity. This award is richly deserved and overdue. I congratulate WNCHA for their wisdom in making it. And I congratulate Doug for yet another public recognition of his many accomplishments enriching the lives of all of us here in Western North Carolina.”
The Swannanoa Gathering led to the recent renovation of Kittredge. Longtime Swannanoa Gathering participant Bill Kaman, through the Charles H. Kaman Charitable Foundation, donated funding to replace seats and flooring in the 40-year-old performance venue. Acoustic panels along with a new projector and screen were also purchased through the donation.
“Part of playing music is giving,” said Kaman, who renovated the building’s recital hall in 2014. “If you are able to do something in such a way that makes a mark and makes a difference, that’s a good thing. How do you go past that? If you can make a difference in such a way that your event or what you do can take on a life after what you do, that’s the important thing.”
Ever the consummate fundraiser, Orr took the opportunity during his celebratory night to help the College launch another fundraising campaign for Kittredge. Lobby upgrades, a new box office, renovation to the amphitheater and additional stage improvements are planned. To make that happen, Orr made the first donation to Warren Wilson College’s “Take Your Seat!” campaign. The seats funded through The Kaman Foundation can now be named with the money going to the new projects.
“Kittredge Theater not only helps preserve and sustain the music and offers a wonderful hospitality to these musicians, but it’s one of our core outreaches to the world,” Orr said. “Today, we sometimes forget that the heart of our society and democracy should be the arts. This facility sustains the arts. Through Kittredge, Warren Wilson College is going to carry the torch for the arts.”
In addition to Magill and Wilcox, Berea College’s Gordon McKinney, UNC Asheville’s Dan Pierce, WNCHA’s Allan Tarleton, The Swannanoa Gathering’s Al Petteway, and Warren Wilson College’s president Steven Solnick and retired dean Virginia McKinley praised Orr.
“I think what’s not just interesting, but overwhelming about Doug is that he’s won this award for all the contributions he’s made in Western North Carolina. He’s done all of it in far less than a lifetime. I think it’s just a little more than a quarter of a century,” McKinley said. “I am very grateful for the time he spent at Warren Wilson College.”
McKinley highlighted Orr’s work to emphasize Warren Wilson College’s distinct model of rigorous liberal arts academics combined with on-campus work and engagement in the community through service. His commitment to cross-cultural education and operationalizing environmental sustainability on the campus was noted. Orr also oversaw the College’s rise as an environmental leader in the U.S.
At the end of the night, Orr took the stage to thank WNCHA and the people who took the time to recognize him.
“I’m deeply honored not only with this award, but to see all of you out here,” said Orr, who wrote the book “Wayfaring Strangers” with NPR “The Thistle & Shamrock” host Fiona Ritchie. “When the Western North Carolina Historical Association honors me, it’s not about an individual. It’s really about a great tradition we are sustaining here. It takes the dedication of so many.”
Orr then invited his wife, Darcy, and Magill to the stage to perform “It Comes from the Heart.” He said the song speaks to the message he delivers about Warren Wilson College to participants of The Swannanoa Gathering.
“This is a journey of the heart,” Orr said. “It’s a community, and you’ll leave with a sense of heart and community more than anything else.”
To learn more about Warren Wilson College’s “Take Your Seat!” campaign, visit http://warren-wilson.edu/giving/TakeYourSeat.
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