About 250 members of the Western Carolina University community braved rain showers to gather for a noon rally Friday, April 22, to show their support for Chancellor David O. Belcher, who is dealing with a health issue.

Belcher announced to the university community Thursday, April 21, that he has been diagnosed with a small brain tumor, which is having an effect on his speech and expression, a condition called expressive aphasia.

“The purpose (of the rally) is simply love and support for him as he has consistently shown for Western Carolina University,” Dale Carpenter, dean of WCU’s College of Education and Allied Professions, said in a message to campus encouraging participation in the event.

Carpenter led the crowd in a chant of “WCU loves and supports Chancellor Belcher,” which also adorned a large banner held by several of the rally participants.

Belcher received hugs and well wishes from numerous students, faculty and staff, and a group of students spontaneously broke into a rendition of the university’s alma mater.

In his announcement to campus, Belcher said he does not yet have many specifics to share, but that he is optimistic as he engages with medical specialists to learn more about his condition.

“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,” he said.

“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,” Belcher said.

He said that he remains fully committed as chancellor of WCU and will fulfill his executive responsibilities even when not on campus, although he will be curtailing many of his personal speaking appearances.

Belcher announced that Provost Alison Morrison-Shetlar will be his primary representative when he is unavailable.

The complete text of his email to campus can be found here: http://www.wcu.edu/discover/leadership/office-of-the-chancellor/personal-message.aspx