Faculty-initiated scholarship fund honoring fallen student becomes endowed

Cliff and Barbara Lovin

Cliff and Barbara Lovin

After more than a decade, a retired faculty member has reached a goal of raising $10,000 to endow a scholarship in honor of Bryan Belcher, a 1985 emergency medical care alumnus who was killed in an Army medic evacuation helicopter crash.

He was a student when I took the job at WCU in 1983, and he was definitely a leader in his class,” said Barbara Lovin, who guided WCU’s emergency medical care program – the first baccalaureate EMC program in the country – to national prominence. Lovin later became head of health sciences at WCU.

Belcher had helped found Epsilon Sigma Pi, a student organization for the emergency medical care program, and was the force behind the group’s fundraiser to sell Brunswick stew at Mountain Heritage Day.

“We would cook it over an open campfire all night long, and the students kept on that tradition after he graduated,” said Lovin. “I even remember doing it out in the rain one night.”

Lovin was in Cleveland visiting family in 1987 when she read that Belcher was one of the soldiers killed in a fatal medical helicopter crash not far from Fort Stewart in Georgia.

“The group that had graduated was very close and close to him, and I knew they would be devastated so I flew back immediately,” said Lovin.

She credited her husband, Cliff Lovin, now retired dean of arts and sciences at WCU, for the idea of starting the scholarship. “My husband and I have spent our career in higher education, and we believe anything we can do to support students is critical,” said Lovin. “Paramedics have to commute to their clinical sites, so, if nothing else, this scholarship can help relieve students’ financial burden even if it only paid for the gas.”

Initially, the Lovins agreed to match donations to the scholarship dollar-for-dollar, and since 2003 the scholarship has been awarded to two recipients each year. Meanwhile, Lovin and others such as Michael Hubble, professor and director of the emergency medical care program, have continued to give to increase the balance in the fund to the $10,000-level required to endow the scholarship.

“I have a dual motivation for supporting this fund: I want to support students who choose to attend WCU as EMC majors, and I also want to honor Dr. Lovin, who has been an incredible colleague, mentor and leader of the EMS profession,” said Hubble. “She has touched the lives of countless numbers of paramedic students, and by extension, their patients, through her teaching, scholarship and professional service.”

When the fund neared the $10,000 threshold, Lovin called WCU’s Office of Development and made a gift to achieve the goal.  All of the paperwork was recently completed to finalize endowing the scholarship.

Amanda R. Rogers, one of its most recent recipients, had worked as a phlebotomist and basic CPR and lifeguard instructor before deciding after the birth of her daughter to pursue a career in emergency medical care. “Emergency medicine is everything I have ever wanted to do in health care,” said Rogers, who earned her bachelor’s degree in 2011 and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in health sciences at WCU.

“To be able to do this job, there is an honor that must be kept to be the patient’s advocate, to be trustworthy in their home, with their family, and most importantly with their life,” said Rogers. “It is this honesty to calling, pureness of need and focus to purpose that brought me to this field. It is the ability to be soft and offer support where it is appropriate, as well as be hard and give advice in teachable moments, that draws me in and keeps me close. It is this realness, this genuine honesty that is the honor of my life to be able to take part in. This is the standard I try to hold as a paramedic, a representative from Western Carolina and recipient of such an honorable scholarship.”

To make a donation to the scholarship fund, or to find out more about giving opportunities, visit give.wcu.edu.