WCU Chancellor Belcher remembered fondly
Cullowhee – Dr. David Belcher, chancellor of Western Carolina University, passed away Sunday.
He was 60.
Murphy Power Board President Larry Kernea was a friend of Belcher’s who remembered the chancellor fondly Monday.
“I appreciated the interest. energy and enthusiasm of David Belcher the first time I met him,” Kernea said. “His honest evaluation of where he thought this community and the university were, and what we might accomplish by focusing toward the west, were spot on. He is truly missed but left a legacy to be built upon.”
Trevis Hicks of Tri-County Community College had great admiration for Belcher.
“David was a breath of fresh air for WCU. He brought so much to the table for the school. He had an energy like no other chancellor,” Hicks said. “He had a vision for the school from Day 1. His leadership was second to none. He led the school with one thing in mind, the students.
“When Dr. Belcher started as the Chancellor at WCU, he made a meet and greet tour of the area and visited the Murphy Rotary Club as well as Tri-County Community College. From the first minute of meeting him, I knew that he was going to do incredible things. … He was as genuine and down to earth as anyone else. His sense of humor brought so many laughs and good energy as well.”
U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) extended his prayers to the Belcher family in a statement Monday.
“Dr. Belcher was nothing short of a champion in the western North Carolina community – he was a leader, a visionary, a mentor and a dear friend to so many over the years, beloved by the entire Western Carolina institution where he served as chancellor. Though he spent the last years of his life battling several challenging health circumstances, Dr. Belcher never wavered and conducted himself as he so often did: with impeccable character, class and integrity,” Meadows said.
“We will miss his leadership and influence dearly, but he leaves behind a tremendous legacy of service that can be held as a standard for all to aspire to. All in western Carolina are better off because of the life of Dr. David Belcher. We are praying for his family in the coming days and weeks ahead.”
A memorial service will be held beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday in WCU’s Fine & Performing Arts Center.
The native of Barnwell, S.C., was a 1975 graduate and valedictorian of Barnwell High School. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Furman University in 1979, master’s degree from the University of Michigan in 1981 and doctorate from the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester in 1989, all in piano performance. He studied in Vienna, Austria, for two years, funded in part by a Rotary Foundation Graduate Fellowship.
Since 2011, Belcher served as chancellor of WCU. During his tenure, he was widely recognized for energizing his university community to work with regional leaders to serve the needs of western North Carolina, a combined effort that resulted in the university reaching all-time highs in student achievement, enrollment, retention and graduation rates, in student and alumni engagement and in philanthropic giving.
His legacy at WCU includes support and implementation of two pivotal statewide initiatives that are expected to greatly enhance public higher education in western North Carolina – the N.C. Promise tuition program that dramatically lowers student college costs and his efforts toward the successful passage of the Connect NC Bond, which included $110 million in funding for WCU’s Apodaca Science Building, a state-of-the-art facility that will prepare students for 21st-century professions in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.
In addition, his support for the consolidation of WCU economic growth-oriented graduate and undergraduate programs at a new instructional site in Asheville represented an unprecedented strategic investment in economic development opportunities for the region.
Prior to his appointment at WCU, Belcher served at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock from 2003-11 as provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, and at Missouri State University from 1988 until 2003, first as coordinator of keyboard studies in the Music Department (1989-92), then as assistant dean (1993) and dean (1994-2003) of the College of Arts & Letters.
Known as a champion of public service, Belcher served on key boards of directors, including the My Future N.C. Commission on state educational attainment, the NCAA Division 1 board on intercollegiate athletics, the North Carolina Arboretum and the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute in Arkansas. He also was the founder and five-year director of the statewide Missouri Fine Arts Academy.
Belcher was regarded as a passionate and committed believer in the power of education, according to a release from Western Carolina.
His message – “We are in the business of changing lives” – became both an inspiration and a challenge to those sharing his commitment. He enjoyed travel to experience new cultures and was an avid gardener. Many remember his infectious laugh, quick wit and energetic leadership style.
Surviving are his wife of 14 years, Susan Brummell Belcher; brother Philip Burgess Belcher and wife Kelly of Asheville; sister Elizabeth Belcher Mixon and husband Ben of Rock Hill, S.C.; and sister Miriam Belcher Ponder and husband Dean of Huntersville. He also is survived by his aunt, Martha White of Allendale, S.C., and nephews and nieces Owen Belcher and wife Olga Shupyatskaya, Kera Belcher, Sarah Mixon, Eleanor Mixon and Noah Ponder.
In lieu of flowers, the Belchers request that memorials be directed to the foundation endowments of Western Carolina, Furman University, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and Missouri State University.