June 6, 2005
Cullowhee, N.C. - Dr. Robert Failing - a 1951 graduate of Western Carolina, longtime supporter of Catamount athletics and member of the University's Development Foundation Board of Directors - was named the University's 2005 Distinguished Service Award recipient by the Southern Conference during last week's league meetings on Hilton Head Island, S.C. Also during the meetings, Rans Brempong received his Mike Wood Mike Wood Foundation Graduate Scholarship, given annually to a SoCon men's basketball player.
The SoCon recognizes a recipient from each of its member schools during the annual Honors Dinner. For the release on Brempong, please click the following link:
Brempong Receives SoCon's Mike Wood Postgraduate Scholarship
A native of Ann Arbor, Mich., Failing left Western after graduating and received his M.D. from Duke in 1956, obtaining his medical license from the state of North Carolina that year. He served as an intern and his residency at Los Angeles County Hospital from 1956-61 and he has remained an active community member in Southern California ever since. He began his life's work in 1957, when he received his medical license from the state of California, working as a deputy medical examiner in the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office. In 1961, he moved to Santa Barbara, retiring in 1994.
Interestingly, while serving as Santa Barbara County Coroner, Failing was involved with a 1969 unsolved homicide where the victim "Jane Doe" was never identified, eventually leading novelist Sue Grafton to write Q is for Quarry as part of her Kinsey Millhone series of books.
Failing has been generous with his time and resources, providing for the Catamount athletics department. Most recently he, along with Reg Moody and Walter Durr, were presented commemorative game balls as their financial gifts went a long way in the expansion of E.J. Whitmire Stadium, adding nearly 4,000 seats, a concession area, a merchandise area and restrooms.
A renowned mountain climber, Failing has summated more than a dozen of the world's tallest mountains since 1975. His ascents include Mount McKinley (the highest peak in North America), Mount Aconcagua in the Andes (the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere), Vinson Massif (the highest peak on the continent of Antarctica) and the famed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. Failing was part of a National Geographic Explorer television program in 1995 which accompanied the last surviving member of Admiral Richard Byrd's North Pole expedition team from 1928, Norman Vaughn, to climb Mount Vaughn in Antarctica. Failing additionally became just the ninth person ever to climb the highest peaks in all 50 states.
In 1982, Failing was recipient of the Western Carolina University Distinguished Alumnus Award. At that time, former WCU Chancellor H.F. Robinson said, "Bob Failing exemplifies the success, character, strength and determination that Western Carolina graduates have. Dr. Failing has had the courage to go beyond limits which halt the average person. He has made sacrifices necessary to become a very successful and well-known pathologist and he has indeed seen the world from the perspective viewed by few men."
Failing is active in his church, serving as a Vestry member, and has been on the Board of Directors Tri-Countries Blood Bank, Inc., the Santa Barbara chapter of the American Red Cross, Community arts Mucis Association, Inc., Los Padres Search and Rescue Team of Santa Barbara, Los Padres Interpretative Association and Valley Club of Montecito. He is also a member of the Cherokee Masonic Lodge (Murphy, N.C.), the Scottish Rite (Santa Barbara, Calif.) and Al Malaikah Shrine Temple (Los Angeles, Calif.). He is also an avid golfer.
Failing is married to the former Nancyann Yungblut Raber and has four children as well as two stepchildren.