There are no words sufficient to express the magnitude of the loss of our beloved chancellor, David Belcher. The sad fact of the inevitability of his passing on June 17 following his decision to go on medical leave at the end of 2017 does absolutely nothing to lessen the sting of our heartbreak. Chancellor Belcher changed the culture of Western Carolina University, and he touched the soul of everyone he met.
Officially launched on March 1 of this year with announcement of the largest donation designated specifically for scholarship support in Western Carolina University history, WCU’s “Lead the Way” comprehensive fundraising campaign has netted more than $51 million toward its goal of reaching $60 million by early 2019.
At a long-legged 5 feet 8 inches, Velma “Leone” Hyde Hughes Ray ’41 (left)
had a pretty decent stride. Good thing – she covered a lot of ground in her 77 years: loyal sister, favorite aunt, farm wife, school teacher, basketball player.
C.D. Spangler Jr., the late former president of the University of North Carolina System, once said the presence of faculty members on a campus who have earned the “distinguished professor” title is “the very essence of a great university.”
Simply put, Western Carolina University’s Jamaica Program, which has been developing teachers as leaders in Jamaican schools for half a century, has become the benchmark of success in educational instruction in that Caribbean country.
A first-generation college student who first set foot on WCU’s campus in 1983 and has never left, rising through the ranks from incoming freshman to serve as the institution’s second-in-command, has created an endowed scholarship fund in honor of her Jamaica-born parents.
The traditional student experience at Western Carolina University saw 18- to 22-year-olds strolling across campus, passing classmates on the way to a lecture, meeting with professors in the hallway or during their office hours, grabbing a bite to eat in the cafeteria and hanging out in residence halls.
For the son of a small-town Baptist preacher who went to college to become a classically trained pianist, only to find his professional career take an unexpected change of tempo into academia, the June 23 memorial service for Western Carolina University Chancellor David O. Belcher hit just the right note.
Susan Gardner Mayhorn ’93, one of Western Carolina’s most decorated track and field student-athletes of all time, was inducted into the Southern Conference Hall of Fame class of 2018 in March, becoming WCU’s first-ever inductee.