Chancellor’s Health Updates

Latest Update

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Dear WCU Community,

I write to let you know that Chancellor Belcher was recently moved to a care facility in Asheville.  In respect of his need for rest and quiet, visitors are limited now to close friends and family.  On behalf of the Chancellor and herself, Susan wishes to express her deep and continued appreciation of your prayers and support during this time and the many months leading up to it.  She and the Chancellor express their love to all of WCU and the community they love so much.    

If you would like to send a card or note to the Chancellor or Mrs. Belcher, please send those to:

Chancellor David O. Belcher and Mrs. Susan Belcher
Office of the Chancellor
1 University Dr.
501 H.F. Robinson Bldg.
Cullowhee, NC 28723

Sincerely yours,
Melissa Canady Wargo
Chief of Staff

Older Updates

Monday, November 27, 2017

To my Western Carolina University family,

It is with a heavy heart that I write to share with you some important news about my health and my future plans. Despite the best efforts of my medical team, the effects of my glioblastoma brain tumor have continued to worsen in recent months, and the aphasic impact of the disease on my speech and communicative skills has become more pronounced. My medical team has concluded that the latest treatment regimen is not working as hoped. 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.

This has been a very difficult decision for me and Susan to make. Western Carolina University has been a blessing for us both, and we love this place. I have been honored to lead this fine institution. The university has fed my soul and fulfilled me in immeasurable ways, and Susan has found a true home here amongst friends and avenues of service. However, we agree that we must now concentrate on my health, each other and our families, and living life. 

During the time I am on medical leave, I will retain my title of chancellor of WCU while the daily work of the university is carried out by an acting chancellor. UNC System President Margaret Spellings will announce an acting chancellor as soon as practicable. Susan and I will continue to reside in the Chancellor’s Residence and expect to engage with the campus community, albeit on a limited basis. We ask for your patience and understanding in the weeks and months ahead as we will not be able to acknowledge or respond to every communication. As always, Susan and I appreciate very much the warm wishes, thoughts, and prayers you have directed our way. 

While I am disappointed in this turn of events, I am optimistic that the future is bright for Western Carolina University. I am confident that each of you will do all that it takes to ensure that this university continues to change lives – the lives of our students, their families, their communities, and this State. I will have more thoughts to share with you at a later time, but, for now, know that I am truly privileged to be an integral part of this community. You make me proud.

Yours sincerely,

David O. Belcher

August 1, 2017

Dear WCU community and friends,

I write to share with you an update on my health. Despite last year's surgery to remove a malignant brain tumor and subsequent post-operative treatment, my latest medical examination has revealed a recurrence of the cancer. First, let me assure you that I feel fine. Susan and I are optimistic. We obviously are disappointed that there has been a recurrence, but know that I intend to attack this setback with the same fervor and passion with which I began this unexpected odyssey in April of last year. And – as my leadership team will attest – I am moving forward with the same dogged commitment and strategic approach that I strive to bring every single day in my job as CEO of our university.

My world-class medical team at Duke University Hospital has recommended a new treatment regimen, which I will begin this week. This new regimen is promising, but will require me to be away from campus several days each month.

As always, I am totally committed to my role as chancellor of Western Carolina University, and, with the support of my leadership team and that of the entire campus community, I intend to fulfill my executive responsibilities even when I am not on campus. My primary aim is that the campus community remain focused on our ambitious agenda of growth and positive momentum. 

Over the past year, we have been blessed by an outpouring of love and support from our Catamount family, and it has buoyed Susan and me in this fight. We welcome your warm wishes, your thoughts, and your prayers, and we ask for your understanding if our responses to your messages are not as timely as you have come to expect from us.

It goes without saying that this is not the outcome for which we had hoped after my surgery and first rounds of treatment. However, my medical team is top-notch, and Susan and I are eager to begin this new treatment regimen. I pledge to keep you regularly informed about our progress and to provide you additional updates as we take the next steps in this journey.

Sincerely yours,

David O. Belcher

May 4, 2017

Dear WCU community and friends,

Today marks the one-year anniversary of my successful surgery at Duke University Hospital to remove a small brain tumor. Susan and I are happy to report that my excellent team of health care providers, both in Durham and in Sylva, remain pleased with my progress. There have been no signs of recurrence of the cancer, my energy level has stayed relatively stable, and I thankfully have only two more rounds of chemotherapy before completing treatment in June. Thereafter, my medical team will continue to monitor my condition on an ongoing basis.

The last twelve months have been an incredible journey, one that Susan and I could not have made without the remarkable love and support that we have received from our Catamount family. As we pass this personal milestone, we look forward to celebrating the many institutional milestones to come, beginning with this weekend’s spring commencement ceremonies.

Thank you so much for your support over the past twelve months. I look forward to the opportunities that await this great university in the coming academic year.

Sincerely yours,

David O. Belcher

February 10, 2017

Dear WCU community and friends,

It has been a while since the last campus communication regarding my health, and I write today to provide an update on how I am doing. In this case, it truly is a matter of “no news is good news.”

I am now more than halfway through my 11-month treatment plan, which involves rounds of chemotherapy followed by periods of rest and recovery. Thanks to my amazing team of health care providers, both in Durham and in Sylva, and the unfailing support of my executive council and the WCU community, I am able to maintain my full-time schedule. My medical team continues to be very pleased by my progress, and the prognosis remains very positive. They have detected no recurrence of the cancer, and the speaking challenges that I faced earlier as a result of the tumor have gradually improved and occur far less frequently.

Susan and I are looking forward to my final treatment in June and to a bright future with all members of the Catamount family. As always, we thank you for your support.

Sincerely yours,

David O. Belcher

August 3, 2016

Dear WCU Family,

I write to provide you with an update on my health. As many of you know, the small brain tumor detected in April was malignant. Following successful surgery to remove it at Duke University Hospital in May, I received follow-up treatment in Sylva in coordination with my Duke health care team, treatment that included both chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Having completed that first round of treatment, I met this week with my health care team at Duke for a checkup. The news is very good and doctors are very pleased with my progress. I will continue to work with my outstanding medical team on the next phase of my treatment plan; however, I could not have asked for a better report. We will continue to provide updates when there is additional information to share.

Susan and I are so grateful for your support as we navigate our unexpected journey. We truly have been touched by your words of encouragement, your well wishes, your prayers, as well as some hilarious cards and memorabilia. We look forward to seeing you this fall, whether helping out as first-year students move into the residence halls; taking in a lecture, concert, theatrical performance, art exhibition, or athletics event; attending an alumni reception or other off-campus function; or simply strolling across this beautiful campus.

Yours sincerely,
David O. Belcher

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Dear WCU Campus Community,

Chancellor David Belcher continues his successful recovery from surgery earlier this month. Upon advice of his medical team at Duke University Hospital, he began follow-up treatment this week in Sylva. His health team is pleased with his progress and the outlook is very positive. He has also resumed work on a limited basis and is enjoying working in his garden and his regular exercise regime. Chancellor and Mrs. Belcher wish to thank the entire Western Carolina University community for the many well wishes they have received over the past six weeks. Future updates on Chancellor Belcher’s health will be made on an as-needed basis. 


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

To the WCU community and friends,

Chancellor David Belcher is continuing to improve daily as his period of recovery and healing remains underway at his home following successful surgery at Duke University Hospital earlier this month. Chancellor Belcher has been actively working in his garden and taking regular walks across campus to maintain fitness. He is beginning to re-engage in some of his pre-surgery activities, resuming work on a limited basis this week and attending church on Sunday. Chancellor and Mrs. Belcher continue to explore various treatment options and discuss possible next steps with doctors. A treatment plan is expected soon.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

To the WCU community and friends,

Chancellor David Belcher is now back home in Cullowhee, where he will spend the next week recovering and healing from his successful surgery at Duke University Hospital last week. He and Susan say they are glad to be home, surrounded by the beautiful, therapeutic mountains of Western North Carolina. In addition to resting and healing, Chancellor Belcher indicates that he intends to enjoy spending some time walking the campus and tending to his garden. As they await the final results of tests, he and Susan are now exploring various treatment options and discussing next steps with doctors. Again, Mrs. Belcher gratefully appreciates the community’s consideration as she asks for privacy during the next week. Messages and well wishes continue to be welcomed.  If you would like to send a message to Chancellor Belcher, please use the message feature located on this web page.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

To the WCU community and friends,

Chancellor David Belcher is out of surgery at Duke University Hospital. Mrs. Belcher called to report that the surgery to remove a small brain tumor was successfully completed this morning and that the chancellor is now in recovery. She and Dr. Belcher are in conversations with his team of doctors to determine a follow-up course of treatment. At this time, Mrs. Belcher indicated that everything they know is very positive. Chancellor Belcher will likely remain at Duke for another five to seven days. The university will provide another update no later than next Wednesday, May 11. Mrs. Belcher wishes to thank everyone for the many well-wishes, but asks for consideration and privacy during these first few days of recovery. Messages are welcome. If you would like to send a message to Chancellor Belcher, please use the message feature located on this web page.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Dear WCU Community, 

I write to express to you my sincere appreciation for the outpouring of support from the Catamount Nation in response to my recent announcement that I have been diagnosed with a small brain tumor. I am overwhelmed by your words of encouragement, your well wishes, and your prayers.

I promised to keep you fully informed about the path ahead. Today, I am at Duke University Hospital preparing for surgery. I am pleased to report that I am in extremely good hands and am under the care of one of the finest teams of doctors to be found anywhere. I remain optimistic and in good spirits, and I am looking forward to getting this procedure behind me. I expect to be back in the office as soon as my doctors give me the green light. I remind you that I am not known for my patience!

Also, while I am enjoying the many cards, letters, and emails, I hope you understand that I will be unavailable for a week or two after the surgery. My plan is to use this time to concentrate on my recovery.

Meanwhile, members of my executive team are implementing the robust plan we have developed to ensure that we continue to move the university forward during my absence. I regret that I will not be able to attend commencement ceremonies this weekend, but please know that I will be there in spirit. Provost Alison Morrison-Shetlar and other members of Executive Council are working hard to ensure this very important day is special for our students and their families.

Look for another update later this week after the procedure. Our plan is to provide you with weekly updates going forward. Susan and I thank you for your continuing thoughts and prayers.

Sincerely yours,
David O. Belcher

Support Rally for Chancellor Belcher

Campus Community Rallies to Show Support for Chancellor - Read the Story

On Thursday, April 21, 2016, Chancellor David O. Belcher shared this email, titled "An Important Personal Message," with WCU:

Dear WCU Campus Community,

I write to share with you some important and unpleasant personal news. This week, I was diagnosed with a small brain tumor, which is having an effect on my speech and expression. The resulting condition is called expressive aphasia. At this point, I do not have many specifics to share; however, I am optimistic and in the process of engaging with medical specialists to learn more.

I felt it important that you hear this news immediately and directly from me. I know that you care deeply for our University and I also know that you care for me personally. I am sure that this news will prompt many questions, many of which I cannot currently answer. Please know, however, that the members of Executive Council and I have a robust plan in place to ensure that we continue to move the university forward. Provost Alison Morrison-Shetlar will be my primary representative when I am unavailable. That said, I am fully committed as Chancellor of Western Carolina University and will fulfill my executive responsibilities even when I am not on campus. That has not changed.

I will be curtailing many of my personal speaking appearances, and you may find that I may not respond to you as quickly as I would normally. In some cases, I may ask a member of my executive team to respond on my behalf.

In the meantime, I welcome your thoughts and prayers. I also ask your patience and indulgence during this time. I promise that we will keep you fully informed as to our path ahead. 

Sincerely yours,

David O. Belcher

Office of Web Services