BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State University alumna June Wilson Hege ’65 is a recipient of the university’s 2022 Outstanding Service Award, which recognizes individuals for their exceptional service to App State.
Trained as an elementary educator at Appalachian State Teachers College, Hege now owns and operates a heavy manufacturing company in North Wilkesboro. With her unwavering Mountaineer spirit, Hege has served App State through multiple board appointments and years of dedicated service.
Watch this video to learn more about Hege and why she received an Outstanding Service Award from App State.
June Hege: My hometown is Charlotte. My high school was Garinger High. I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. Of course, my mother wanted me to go to an all-girls school. I told her, “Momma, Appalachian has ‘teachers’ in their name … ‘Appalachian State Teachers College.’ Where can I get a better education than at Appalachian State Teachers College?” And I had a homeroom teacher, and I told her where I was going to college, and she said, “That's fine.” She said, “You’ll do fine when you go to college and get your finger out of every little pie.” Well, I was curious. I wanted to know what was in every little pie. I didn’t know quite how to take it, but I was so glad I did not take her advice because I thought — that was the place for me and I needed to go up that mountain and do the best I could and follow my dream of being a teacher. And Appalachian certainly prepared me for that.
JW: Appalachian was a fun place to be. I enjoyed every minute of it. Back then it was antiquated, but we didn’t care. I can remember sitting in an English class, on a Saturday, because we did have Saturday classes, and the wind would blow so hard … we were sitting at our windows and the snow would come inside and have a pile on the floor during English class, and we wore toboggans, gloves, everything all during class because it was so cold. I can remember one time when they said … on WATA … this is an announcement from the college: “Women can wear pants to class today.” We had to wear skirts or dresses, but that Saturday it was like 13 below zero, and they said women could wear pants that day. It was a different place, a different time, but it was our university and we loved it.
JW: Well, everything has a story and this place has a story too. We’re at a business called Meadows Mills. We’re heavy manufacturing. And we build sawmills, stone burr mills, hammer mills. And the business started in 1902. Bob and I were married, and he was working for Duke Energy. I was teaching school at a nearby school, first grade, and I love first graders. Because they learn so much, and you see that bright star in the sky when they say, “I could do this!”
JW: So, how it came across is they were getting ready to sell, they were in their 90s and it was time to retire. The business wasn’t doing too well, and so they didn’t have any bites — no one wanted it. Bob said, “We’ve got to buy that business. We can’t let the business fail and we can’t put that many people out of work.” He was an agricultural engineer from N.C. State and I was a school teacher and here we are buying this heavy manufacturing building. And it’s been an education for both of us. We’ve added new things, even since Bob died four years ago. And this has been a venture that I’ve loved. I love the people. I love the experience, and I want this building to be here for 120 more years. I guess my high school teacher could say, “You and your husband had your finger in every little pie.” And boy, am I glad I did, because we found out what this community needed and we wanted to give back to our community that was so good to us for so many years.
JW: We were just, we were a good team. And he wanted me to be a part of everything he did, and he was a part of everything I did. And that makes a good marriage. He is the one that gave me the insight to volunteer and to do the best I could and I learned that by Don Sink coming to this building, sitting in this chair right over here and saying, “We want you to be a member of our Advancement Council for the College of Arts and Sciences.” I went to Bob’s office. I said, “They want me to be an advancement counselor for the College of Arts and Sciences. Do you think I should do that?” He said, “Yes! You should do it because Appalachian gave you your start and made you the person you are today. You live by giving back.” So I joined the Advancement Council. I had a wonderful time, and he supported Appalachian just as I did. I just am thankful that I had the opportunity to be married to him. It was a wonderful blessing that I will always treasure.
JW: It means everything to me that I was chosen out of all the alums to receive this award, and I hope that I just am deserving of this. I don’t feel like I am, but it’s so easy to be a part of Appalachian, and everybody needs to be a part of Appalachian and carry on the name and the respect the teachers get from being graduates that are from Appalachian. And this award just puts me in a special place, and I’m so grateful and thankful for it. It’s something I’ll never forget. And I want to say it’s good to be a Mountaineer … I love every minute of it, and I will always cherish this gift that the university has given me, not only an education, but this recognition is phenomenal to me. I just can’t believe it’s me that’s doing this because I certainly didn’t feel worthy.
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About the Reich College of Education
Appalachian State University offers one of the largest undergraduate teacher preparation programs in North Carolina, graduating about 500 teachers a year. The Reich College of Education enrolls more than 2,000 students in its bachelor's, master's, education specialist and doctoral degree programs. With so many teacher education graduates working in the state, there is at least one RCOE graduate teaching in every county in North Carolina. Learn more at https://rcoe.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the Southeast, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls nearly 21,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.