Press release from Western Carolina University, shared Jan. 30:

CULLOWHEE – A seven-member committee has begun the process of searching for a successor to Dianne Lynch, Western Carolina University’s chief of staff who will be stepping down from the position at the end of May.

Sam Miller, vice chancellor for student affairs, is serving as chair of the search committee, which has been tasked by Chancellor David O. Belcher with providing three unranked finalists for his consideration.

The new chief of staff will be coming on board as the university begins the first phase of a process of institutional restructuring. In addition to serving as the principal aide to the chancellor on important university operational matters and leading the university’s government relations activities, the chief of staff will oversee WCU’s communications and public relations functions and a new marketing unit that is being formed from several existing offices.

Reporting directly to the chancellor, the chief of staff is a member of the university’s senior leadership team, is a member of the executive council and provides coordination for the achievement of strategic directions, goals and initiatives for the Chancellor’s Division.

Lynch announced in December her plans to retire in the spring after a 37-year career with the state of North Carolina, including various leadership roles for nearly 20 years with the Jackson County School System.

She joined the administration at WCU in 1995 as director of the university’s Equal Employment Opportunity Programs before becoming assistant to the chancellor in January 2003. Lynch was promoted to the role of chief of staff in July 2005.

“Dianne’s contributions have been exemplary and she has been an indispensable part of my leadership team. In my own brief tenure at WCU, she has been enormously helpful, providing perspective, insight into institutional history and culture, honest guidance, grounding during challenging situations, a sense of humor, and a passion for this institution and what it can mean to the future of our region and state,” Belcher said in December when announcing Lynch’s retirement.

“My 18 months of working with her, of course, represent only a fraction of her service to WCU and the state of North Carolina, and I know that the impact she has had in every phase of her career has resulted in progress and change for the better,” he said. “Her legacy is extraordinary.”

Members of the committee searching for Lynch’s successor are, in addition to Miller as chair, Larry Arbaugh, associate director of athletics; Connie Haire, Sylva resident and formerly Macon campus vice president of Southwestern Community College; Bill Studenc, senior director of news services; Terry Welch, assistant to the chancellor; Kathy Wong, director of human resources; and James Zhang, dean of the Kimmel School of Construction Management and Technology.

Detailed information about the chief of staff position at Western Carolina University, including a complete job description is available online at

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Angie Newsome is the executive director and editor of Carolina Public Press. Contact her at (828) 774-5290 or e-mail her at

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