A little more than seven years ago, then Western Carolina University’s Chancellor David O. Belcher pledged during his installation ceremony to make raising funds for endowed scholarships the top philanthropic priority of his administration.
That pledge eventually led to the start of a comprehensive fundraising campaign – only the second in WCU’s history, and one that focused on the need for increased scholarship support.
Come Thursday, May 2, WCU officials will reveal just how successful that fundraising effort has been when they announce the final total raised during “Lead the Way: A Campaign Inspired by the Belcher Years.”
“Since our campaign kicked off July 1, 2014, our generous donors, volunteers and others have been in action, making this moment possible,” said Lori Lewis, vice chancellor of advancement. “We are excited to celebrate success with our community – on campus and far beyond – and even more excited to experience how the power of philanthropy will have a positive impact on our students for many years to come.”
A community celebration will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on the arena floor of the Ramsey Regional Activity Center, the site of Belcher’s initial pledge to ensure access to higher education for all capable students. The ‘big reveal’ of the campaign total will come between noon and 12:30 p.m. Lunch will be served and entertainment will be provided by WCU’s Purple Thunder drum line, The Catamount Singers and Electric Soul.
Raising money for scholarship support was the late chancellor’s philanthropic priority when he arrived at WCU in July 2011; he was officially installed on March 29, 2012, as WCU’s 11th chancellor.
In October 2017, Belcher and wife Susan pledged $1.23 million in the form of cash donations and an estate gift for the university to kick off the public phase of the fundraising effort with a goal of $60 million by spring 2019. The Belchers said that they had decided to direct their philanthropic gifts toward scholarships because students represent their shared passion.
“Students were why Susan and I took the leap to join Western Carolina University six-and-a-half years ago to change lives. They are our reason for being. They are our joy,” he said.
Belcher took a medical leave of absence from the university in December 2017 and died June 17, 2018, from brain cancer.
By Melanie Threlkeld McConnell