We Walk Because We Care

Published August 30, 2014

 “Every time I run, I make a statement to the world: I own my action, my body, my thoughts, and my experiences. I am not an object to be sexualized, diminished, or dominated. I am real. I am human. I am spirit manifest within this strong, healthy, and beautiful physical body. Honor that which rests within me.”

Leigh Cooper Wallace 1969-2012

Appalachian State University’s Walk for Awareness, now in its 25th year, is a community-building commemoration event held on Sanford Mall. Each year, hundreds of Appalachian students, faculty and staff come together to commemorate lives lost to interpersonal violence, support victims and survivors, and affirm our commitment to making the Appalachian community safe from interpersonal violence.

On Sept. 29, 1989, Leigh Cooper Wallace, then a 20-year-old Appalachian student, went on an early-evening run and was abducted at gunpoint and sexually assaulted by the same man who five days earlier had raped and killed Appalachian staff member Jeni Gray.  Leigh escaped that night, and her testimony against her attacker was key to his arrest and conviction.

Leigh did more than survive her attack. She thrived, and helped her community thrive as well.  A distance runner, she graduated in 1992 with a degree in exercise science, and stayed in the High Country, becoming a teacher and coach at Watauga High School, and a well-respected role model in our community. She often shared her story, and became an inspiration to countless others.

When the Walk for Awareness began in September 1990, more than 500 people attended to remember Jeni Gray. On that night, Leigh Cooper Wallace, who was still a student, spoke to the Appalachian Family.  We had lost a beloved member of our staff, and she helped us find closure.  She shared her strength with her university and our community, and we gladly accepted it. By sharing her strength, she made us stronger. The next year, we walked again, and today, this annual ritual has become an important part of our university’s culture. Tragically, in 2012, Leigh died from a sudden illness, but her inspiration lives on.

Leigh’s legacy is about the importance of community. Her story is Appalachian's story, and because of this, each year, on Sanford Mall, to commemorate her part in our community, for a quarter of a century, from this very spot, the Walk for Awareness has begun a journey of awareness and inspiration for countless Appalachian students each year.

In 2013, Appalachian installed a plaque in honor of Lee Cooper Wallace in the Crossroads coffee shop in the Student Union.

If you have been affected by interpersonal violence, Appalachian has several resources on campus to help you – Counseling and Psychological Services,  the Title IX Coordinator in the Office of Equity Diversity and Compliance, and the Dean of Students are here to help and support you.


Welcome Back!

Published August 13, 2014

As we embark on a new academic year, I am filled with excitement for new opportunities. The month of August on our campus allows you to hear the echoes of the Marching Mountaineers hard at work, new students and staff finding their way around campus, and those returning reacquainting themselves with old and new friends. This is one of the special moments being a part of the Appalachian community allows us to enjoy. During the hustle and bustle over the next few weeks, take time to enjoy the sounds, and these moments. Take the time to get connected or re-connected to the things that are important to YOU, those things that make a difference to you and others around you.

Appalachian has a long tradition of making a difference in this community. The Dougherty brothers founded this institution to make a difference here in the High Country, and their way of doing so recognized the value of education. Fortunately, 115 years later, that tradition continues through the daily efforts of our faculty, staff and students who give so much to so many.

In the spirit of honoring the traditions of our community, I challenge you to do great things this year: academically, in our community, with the groups in which you are involved, and most importantly within yourself.

I am reminded of a poem that I saw many years ago when I was a student in 1991. It was an advertisement in the campus newspaper for Macintosh and was entitled “Think Big.” The last stanza of the poem is:

The start of something new

brings the hope of something great.

Anything is possible. There is only one you.

And you will pass this way only once.

Do it right.

Enjoy this moment and the ride that comes with it. I am proud to serve you and others here at Appalachian and look forward to the year ahead.

Think Big!

Your Dean of Students,
J.J. Brown