Representatives of Western Carolina University’s faculty, staff, student and alumni organizations took the opportunity during the Friday, Dec. 1, meeting of the WCU Board of Trustees to thank Chancellor David O. Belcher for his leadership over the past six and a half years.
The meeting marked the last for Belcher, who announced Nov. 27 his decision to go on medical leave at the end of the year after an ongoing battle with brain cancer. He has informed the campus community that he does not expect to return to his duties as chancellor.
From a proclamation issued by the WCU Faculty Senate to remarks of appreciation delivered via speakerphone by an under-the-weather Student Government Association president, the quarterly meeting of the trustees was characterized by words of thanks and promises to maintain the university’s positive momentum – not to mention a few tears.
Belcher has demonstrated “extraordinary leadership” since assuming the role of chancellor July 1, 2011, Pat Kaemmerling, board chair, said in opening her remarks.
“He has changed the culture of our university in so many positive ways, and his leadership has enhanced not just Western Carolina, but our community and our region. He has led with strength and integrity and passion and a wonderful sense of humor. We will always be grateful for what he has brought to us and for us,” Kaemmerling said.
“He will leave an indelible mark on this place and on all of us. And he brought along on his journey a wonderful woman named Susan, who has worked tirelessly for Western, who has found her own path and left her own mark on this university. There are not enough words to express our respect and admiration and affection. We will always carry you in our hearts,” she said.
In his report, Faculty Senate Chair Brian Railsback read a proclamation approved by the chief policy-recommending body of the general faculty that recognizes WCU’s progress in terms of enrollment, retention, campus facilities, advancement and overall reputation under Belcher’s leadership. The proclamation also recognizes the $1.23 million gift commitment for student scholarship support announced by the Belchers in October.
“Whereas, Chancellor David O. Belcher and Susan Brummell Belcher have worked untold hours as a team to tirelessly advance the cause of Western Carolina University; and whereas Chancellor David O. Belcher and Susan Brummell Belcher have exemplified the best core values of the institution through their art, dedication, compassion, enthusiasm, humor and generosity, now, therefore, be it proclaimed that the Faculty Senate applauds the vision, leadership and effectiveness of the Belcher administration and the wonderful team of David O. Belcher and Susan Brummell Belcher and the resulting inspirational legacy that they have created for Western Carolina University,” Railsback said, reading from the proclamation.
Student Government Association President Katherine Spalding, who fell ill prior to the board meeting, delivered her report to the trustees via telephone, concluding with her expression of appreciation to Belcher.
“I just want to say that I feel really blessed to have had the opportunity to work with you, Chancellor Belcher. From SGA, we really do wish you the best. You’re irreplaceable, but at SGA we will do everything we can to support your leadership and continue to do all we can for the students,” Spalding said.
Mandy Dockendorf, chair of Staff Senate, thanked Belcher for his role in improving morale among WCU’s employees.
“Staff members are really proud to be working at Western Carolina and of the work that they do. They know the work that they do on a daily basis is valued,” Dockendorf said. “Thank you, Chancellor Belcher, for leading that. I really believe that if we are led by really great people with energy and enthusiasm for what we do, then it’s going to trickle down to everyone at the institution.”
Representing the WCU Alumni Association, Robin Parton Pate, the group’s president, called the Belchers “amazing people.”
“Thank you, Chancellor Belcher. Thank you, Susan,” Pate said. “You have inspired me, personally. You have inspired this board. You have inspired the over 70,000 alumni who are proud to be Catamounts. I am rarely speechless, but it was really tough to think of the best way to thank you. You guys are catalyzing a new generation and you’re leaving a legacy. You are a legacy. We look forward to continuing your good work.”
After Belcher goes on medical leave Dec. 31, Alison Morrison-Shetlar, current provost at WCU, will serve as acting chancellor, as appointed last week by University of North Carolina System President Margaret Spellings. Carol Burton, WCU’s associate provost for undergraduate studies, will step into Morrison-Shetlar’s shoes by taking the role of acting provost. Both appointments are effective Jan. 1, 2018.