Alumni Hardy ’98, Wilson ’68, and Witcher ’74 ’87 Inducted into the Reich College of Education Rhododendron Society

Appalachian State University alumni Nakia Hardy ’98, Tommy Wilson ’68, and William “Bill” Witcher ’74 ’87 were inducted into the Rhododendron Society on June 9, 2023, at a brunch held at the Grandview Ballroom in Boone, North Carolina. 

Hosted by Reich College of Education Dean, Dr. Melba Spooner, the brunch was attended by the award recipients and their guests, past recipients, university leadership, Reich College of Education (RCOE) Advancement Board members, and college leadership.  

The RCOE established the Rhododendron Society in 1999, Appalachian’s centennial year. It is named for Appalachian’s former yearbook “The Rhododendron,” which captured the university’s historic moments, activities and accomplishments.

As the highest honor given by the college, the award honors alumni for their exemplary service to education and to their communities. The society recognizes RCOE graduates whose service as teachers, librarians, human service professionals or administrators has reflected great credit on themselves, the field of education and the university. Hardy, Wilson, and Witcher joined a distinguished group of Rhododendron Society members, bringing the total to 77.

Society members give back to the RCOE through an annual scholarship, which is awarded to an undergraduate and graduate students who are outstanding in their course of study. 

RCOE encourages Rhododendron Society nominations of Appalachian alumni currently working in the field of education as well as those who have retired. To learn more about the Rhododendron Society or to view nomination materials visit

Nakia Hardy ’98

Nakia Hardy

Dr. Nakia Hardy chose to teach as her career. Through the North Carolina Teaching Fellows program, she attended Appalachian State University, graduating with her Bachelor of Science in chemistry with a concentration in secondary education and physics. She also earned her Master in School Administration and Doctorate in Education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Hardy has been impacting education for over 25 years. She began as a high school chemistry teacher and moved into administration with increasing responsibility. She has held positions in Alamance-Burlington Schools, Guilford County Schools, Rockingham County Schools and Durham Public Schools - all located in North Carolina - as well as Baltimore City Schools in Maryland.

Highlighted accomplishments in these roles include:

  • obtained grant funds exceeding 1.5 million dollars for technology integration and STEM initiatives;
  • providing robust services in the area of mental health for students and families;
  • analysis of district assessment data to improve content, sequence, and outcomes of instructional strategies; and
  • implementation of district-wide professional development on understanding implicit bias, equitable practices, and culturally responsive pedagogy.

Recently, Hardy was named the superintendent of Lexington City Schools in Lexington, North Carolina. She is “excited to partner with the Lexington City School Board and the community at large to ensure positive outcomes for all children, socially, emotionally, and academically.”

Hardy is an award-winning educator. In 2000, she received the Guilford County Excellence in Science Teaching Award. In 2009, her work was recognized at the regional/state level as she was selected as the Central/Piedmont Region Principal of the Year for North Carolina.

Tommy Wilson ’61

Tommy Wilson

Tommy Wilson is known for his energy in teaching and coaching, as well as being a supportive leader to his teachers and students. 

He received his B.S. from Appalachian State University, when it was known as Appalachian State Teachers College, and his M.A. from Western Carolina University. Also, Wilson is a graduate of the Principals’ Executive Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

During his academic career at App State, Wilson played both basketball and football. His leadership was demonstrated both on and off the field, where he served as the co-captain of the football team and president of the Men’s A Club.

Wilson began his teaching and coaching career at West Henderson High School. He also taught and coached at Asheville High School before he moved to Hendersonville High School, where we served as the school’s principal for 18 years. During his tenure, Hendersonville High School was named one of the state’s top five high schools.

Wilson continues to be an active member and leader in his community. He served as president of the Kiwanis Club of Hendersonville and chairman of the Henderson County Board of Elections. He also played banjo in the Sassafras Band. 

In 2006, he was inducted into the Henderson County Education Foundation Hall of Fame.

William “Bill” Witcher ’74 ’87

Bill Witcher

William “Bill” Witcher received both his Bachelor of Music degree and his Master of Music degree from Appalachian State University. His thesis, a correlation study of music instruction and brain development, was nominated for an outstanding thesis award. He has also completed further postgraduate study at Florida State University.

He taught in the public schools of Madison County, Virginia, and Thomasville City, Rowan County, and Iredell County - all located in North Carolina. In 2006, he retired from Caldwell County Schools, North Carolina, after 32 years as a band director. He also taught Advanced Placement music theory.

During his time at Hibriten High School, the band traveled to New York City, Atlanta, Georgia, and Toronto, Canada, participating in national/international music festivals and earning Superior ratings.

From 2006 to 2021, Witcher taught as an adjunct faculty member for App State’s teaching brass method courses and served as the academic advisor for the Hayes School of Music. He was also on the staff of Cannon Music Camp, directing the Symphonic Band and teaching music theory.

In 2017, his peers and colleagues elected him into the North Carolina Bandmaster’s Hall of Fame. The American School Band Directors Association awarded him the coveted Edwin Franko Goldman Award in 2020 for his “Outstanding and Personal Contributions to the School Band Movement”. 

Witcher is also a National Board Certified Teacher in Early Adolescence/Young Adulthood Music Education. Additionally, Witcher is a member of many organizations, helping introduce music to all ages.

Rhododendron Recipients
Published: Jun 13, 2023 3:08pm