By Teresa Williams
Former Chair, WCU Board of Trustees
When Dr. David O. Belcher swept into our lives in 2011, the Western Carolina University family saw only a glimmer of the powerhouse he would soon reveal himself to be.
Seen then as the highly energetic, personable and visionary new chancellor coming to campus, he quickly mesmerized us with his exuberant drive and sheer joy of life. Equal parts leader, musician and comedian, Dr. Belcher’s magnetic personality drew the Catamount nation into partnership with him in his relentless pursuit of excellence.
This high school valedictorian and former university provost was no stranger to goal-setting and hard work. Lovingly called “The Energizer Bunny,” Dr. Belcher revealed a sharp and wicked wit at unexpected times.
With timing common to professional comedians, Dr. Belcher frequently punctuated meetings with quips that stole the moment and refreshed the air. His unforgettable laugh was always joined by other voices grateful for the sound. Although he was the leader, the entertainer in him put everyone at ease.
Dr. Belcher understood the importance of relationships and of making true connections. In conversation, he gave his entire attention to the other participant. Everyone who knew him (students, alumni, faculty, staff, legislators, friends of the university, etc) felt that they were his favorite. His genius was that he recognized human potential and then persuaded others of its possibilities.
Dr. Belcher must have believed, as did Michelangelo, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set it free.” Informed by that vision, Dr. Belcher led the university forward on a course of thrilling and sustained success. Drawing on the talents of others and then giving them public acknowledgement for their contributions gave him great pleasure. He practiced that art without ceasing.
Unprecedented enrollment growth, exploding alumni pride and the successful advocacy for a new Natural Sciences Building during his tenure stand as a testimony of Dr. Belcher’s professional savvy. While these achievements will have lasting impact, the memory of his love and loyalty to the Western Carolina University family is what will buoy many.
David was more than a chancellor. He was our friend.
Teresa Williams of Mecklenburg County is a former Chair of the Board of Trustees at Western Carolina University and a member of the Higher Education Works Foundation Board.