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WCU chancellor, wife pledge $1.23 million in gifts for student scholarships

Western Carolina University 

CULLOWHEE — Western Carolina University Chancellor David O. Belcher and his wife, Susan Brummell Belcher, have pledged $1.23 million for the university’s ongoing efforts to provide increasing scholarship support to help deserving students in their pursuit of higher education. 

Announcing the pledge, which is a blend of cash donations and an estate gift, was Claire Lemke, a senior from Gastonia majoring in music. She is among the recipients of WCU scholarships established by the Belchers.

The announcement comes as the university is on the verge of rolling out the public phase of its “Lead the Way” fundraising campaign, which will focus on scholarships.

“While I was one of the first recipients of a scholarship supported by the Belchers, I will be only one of hundreds to come,” said Lemke, speaking Oct. 12 at an annual luncheon to recognize donors to WCU scholarship funds. “This is the kind of transformational gift that will have lasting impact for generations to come.”

Belcher said that he and his wife decided to direct their philanthropic gifts toward scholarships because students represent their shared passion.

“Susan and I are here because of students. Students were why Susan and I took the leap to join Western Carolina University six-and-a-half years ago to change lives. They are our reason for being. They are our joy,” he said.

“This is worthy work, and our students deserve no less,” he told the nearly 200 donors and scholarship recipients gathered in the Grandroom of A.K. Hinds University Center. “Western Carolina University is in the business of changing lives. And with your dedication, and your passion and your commitment to our university and your financial support for our students, there is no telling what we will do.” 

Susan Belcher echoed the chancellor’s comments, noting that she and her husband frequently discuss the need to support WCU students.

 “These are not just David’s sentiments he articulates in speeches. These are our core values. We talk about the fact that higher education is the stuff of the American dream. We talk about the fact that cost is a barrier for too many qualified students,” she said. “This is simply unacceptable, and we must address it. It is imperative for the success of our students and our communities.”

During his installation address in March 2012, Belcher announced that increasing the number of endowed scholarships would be the top philanthropic priority of his administration. More than 200 new endowed scholarships have been established since then, he said, calling the response “gratifying and inspiring” but characterizing it as “only a good start, a good beginning.”

The Belchers said that is why they decided to share with the crowd their personal financial commitment to the Lead the Way campaign.

“We share this with you, not to put ourselves in the spotlight but to lead by example. And we are looking for partners to join us – partners who are willing to make gifts that will make a real difference to our students, partners who will dare to make gifts that will inspire others to give, partners who will join us and Lead the Way in helping our students to achieve the American Dream, partners like you,” Susan Belcher said.

WCU is in the preliminary “leadership” stage of its Lead the Way fundraising campaign. Organizers from the university’s division of advancement will reveal more details about the public phase in early 2018. For information, visit give.wcu.edu.

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