WCU rallies in support for Chancellor Belcher

Students show support for Chancellor Belcher, April 2016. Photo by Hunter Bryn.

Battles are fought and conquered with the community around one strong enough to withstand any obstacle.

In a time of need, Western Carolina University has become just that for Chancellor David O. Belcher.

On April 21, 2016, Belcher sent out an email to the entire WCU campus informing that he was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

He then proceeded to go through an 11-month treatment and made sure to keep the campus up-to-date on an almost monthly basis.

On Nov. 27, 2017, an update email was sent out discussing the continued decline in his ability to speak and communicate, (find out more about expressive aphasia).

“In the wake of this news, I have decided that the time has come for me to go on medical leave effective at the end of the year, December 31st. Although I fully intend to explore additional options in my fight against this disease, I do not expect to resume my duties upon completion of leave,” said Belcher in the email message.

Since this news, the support around campus and on social media has been something to be remembered.

Students were more than willing to participate when approached with the opportunity be a part of the video message from WCU students.

One message read: “You’ve touched many lives as Chancellor and have blessed many with your presence! May your life grow as bright as the smile always on your face (and the dreams of college students)!”

Genuine, authentic, and prideful are just a few words that can be heard when describing Belcher.

As an advisor and his Chief of Staff, Melissa Wargo, reflected on her time working with him.

“He is a tremendous person. He is an inspiring leader. I wouldn’t be doing this job for anybody else except for him,” said Wargo over the phone. “It has been professionally lifechanging for me to work for Chancellor Belcher.”

Belcher and his wife, Susan B. Belcher, were presented with a proclamation by the Faculty Senate at WCU on Dec. 1, 2017. In this, the leadership and direction that Belcher has put forth were highlighted.

“Whereas, Chancellor David O. Belcher and Susan Brummel Belcher have exemplified the best core values of the institution through their art, dedication, compassion, enthusiasm, humor, and generosity.”

Chair of the Faculty Senate and speaker, Brian Railsback, said not only is Belcher energetic and compassionate, but he also knows how to accomplish tasks.

“This fall semester when I met with him as Faculty Chair, he had wonderful advice on how to move our agenda. He is a great listener. He is decisive. He is truthful,” said Railsback in an email message.

WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher rallies students at the start of the SoCon 2012 Championship game. Photo by Jarrett Frazier.

Along with academic work, Belcher has been actively involved with athletics. One of the most notable memories was Belcher trotting and chanting during a men’s basketball game, uplifting the crowd.

“His literal cheerleading sometimes for the university was just an amazing sight to behold,” added Wargo.

His cheerleading went further than athletics. Belcher’s ability to connect with students distinguishes him from the bunch.

David O. Belcher, was appointed Chancellor of Western Carolina University on July 1, 2011. As Chancellor, he oversees an institution within the University of North Carolina system that has a current enrollment of over 11,000.

Belcher’s first year as Chancellor was not an easy task as he was to see out the “2020 Vision: Focusing Our Future” plan. This strategic plan focused on enrollment growth and reinforced the historic commitment to the region.

Throughout the years of his designation as Chancellor, Belcher has had a hand in the increase of the student body, the increase of institutional scholarships, and the overall improvements made on campus, including Noble Hall, Brown Cafeteria, and now a new Natural Sciences Building.

In addition to his academic career, Belcher is a successful pianist. He has performed around the country as a recitalist and has dove deep into classical music.

While Belcher will remain on campus and involved in a limited role, the support shown for him and his decision show how much the campus community meant to him, and how much he meant on campus.

Garrett Readling contributed to the reporting.

Related stories:

Campus leaders express thanks to Chancellor David Belcher at last board meeting

WCU’s Chancellor Belcher goes on medical leave, provost steps as interim

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