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Cullowhee, which means “white lily” in Cherokee, is an unincorporated community comprised mostly of Western Carolina University and the surrounding businesses and residences designed to service campus needs.

Professor Robert Lee Madison founded Western Carolina University — originally chartered as Cullowhee High School — in Aug., 1889.

About 1912, the university went through several name changes as its course offerings increased and it wasn’t until 1967, when the school was designated a regional university by the NC General Assembly, that the name Western Carolina University was finally settled upon.

Western Carolina University was named the premiere outdoor adventure college in the region three years in a row (2014-16), according to a Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine online readers’ poll. WCU has one of the most honored and respected marching bands in the country, Pride of the Mountains, having recently played the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (2014) and the Rose Bowl Parade (2011). Enrollment at WCU has steadily grown to over 11,000 students. WCU has ranked in the Top 5 nationally for undergraduate research; has a 16-1 student to teacher ratio; and offers more than 35 graduate degrees and certificates.

Near Cullowhee is the Village of Forest Hills, named for the 1878-1880 postmaster’s home, Forest Hill. Forest Hills is primarily a residential area for university faculty members.

Cullowhee is the fastest growing area in Jackson County. Cullowhee was recently named by as the No. 1 place to retire in N.C., as it relates to the Retirement Tax Friendliness Index, which takes into account property, income, fuel, sales, and Social Security tax data.

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