In 1885, when Robert Lee Madison arrived in western North Carolina to teach school, he was dismayed by how rudimentary the region’s schools were. A few years later he transferred to nearby Cullowhee. There he became the founding teacher of the academy that over time evolved into Western Carolina University. One cold night in 1893 he described how his teaching experience had shaped his philosophy of education. Upset by educational inequities that deprived rural students of opportunity, Madison called for a statewide system of teacher training schools to staff rural classrooms with competent teachers. Over the next century this Cullowhee Idea, as he called it, influenced the development of teacher training and pioneered the creation of regional universities in North Carolina.
For more information please see: Heritage and History of Western Carolina University