The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce posthumously recognized Western Carolina University Chancellor David O. Belcher for his contributions and commitment to the region with its Excellence in Public Service Award.
Before his death on June 17 at the age of 60 following a more than two-year battle with brain cancer, Belcher was known as a force and fixture in the mountains, advocating for educational opportunities, a sustainable economy and cooperation between institutions locally.
The award, sponsored by First Bank, was presented during the chamber’s annual meeting Wednesday, June 27, at the Omni Grove Park Inn. Belcher’s wife, Susan Brummell Belcher, accepted the award.
Kit Cramer, president and CEO of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, said it was an honor to recognize Belcher for his spirit of collaboration and desire to have higher education institutions work together on behalf of the people of the area. In Belcher’s nearly seven years as chancellor, WCU enrollment and retention grew, academic programs excelled and he initiated a long-range planning process for the university’s Biltmore Park instructional site to better meet the needs of Asheville and vicinity, Cramer said. Under his leadership, WCU also added more than 200 endowed scholarships and was nationally ranked by major publications as a top university in numerous categories.
As was noted during a memorial service on campus, Cramer said, it was during Belcher’s tenure as chancellor at WCU that he and his wife expanded their vision from “what can we do to make our university better” to the broader “what can we do to make our region and the lives of our people better?”
Belcher previously served on the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors, another reflection of his commitment to public service and civic involvement, she said.
The annual meeting was presented by the Van Winkle Law Firm and the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority.