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‘Forever in our purple-and-gold hearts’

The late Jerry Wolfe, a Beloved Man in the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, holds his honorary doctorate from WCU while standing alongside Chancellor Belcher in May 2017. WCU photo The late Jerry Wolfe, a Beloved Man in the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, holds his honorary doctorate from WCU while standing alongside Chancellor Belcher in May 2017. WCU photo

Outpourings of support and sadness were in ample supply once news of Western Carolina University Chancellor David Belcher’s death reached the Catamount community at large. From political leaders to staff to students, nearly everyone had a story or a sentiment to share about how Belcher had impacted them. 

“David Belcher’s passion, integrity and vision have forever shaped and strengthened the university that he loved so much. David’s fierce belief in Western Carolina University’s ability and responsibility to change the lives of students and transform the region it serves inspired the Catamount community, and it inspired me.”

- Margaret Spellings, president, UNC System 

“If you had the chance to know him, you admired him. If you had the opportunity to work with him, you respected him. If you had the honor to call him friend, you loved him. He brought us leadership, which made us stronger. He brought us transparency, which instilled us with trust. He brought us music and laughter, which gave us joy. His stamp will forever be on this campus, in this region and in our hearts.”

- Patricia Kaemmerling, chair, WCU Board of Trustees 

“His advice on how to get from A to Z was genius. He made my job much easier. His incredible administrative skill might have been easy to miss because he made it look so easy and because his huge personality, artistry and humanity shined so brightly.”

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- Brian Railsback, chair, WCU Faculty Senate 

“Dr. Belcher’s tenure marked a deeply positive shift in employee morale and engagement. He showed us what one person working with purpose and a generous spirit could accomplish. He made us feel like we were valued and that our work made a difference. Under his leadership, WCU came together as a community with pride of place. Dr. Belcher’s enthusiasm and energy was infectious; after hearing from him, you couldn’t help but to aim higher, work harder and give more.”

- Mandy Dockendorf, chair, WCU Staff Senate 

“Chancellor Belcher never failed to make the student voice the loudest in the room. He will forever be in our purple-and-gold hearts, and remembered for leading this institution into a new era. He will be missed as more than just our chancellor, but also our friend, cheerleader and hero.”

- Katherine Spalding, president, WCU Student Government Association

“There is a renewed sense of pride among alumni as a result of his tenure at WCU, which was characterized by a unique ability to motivate others and empower them to thrive under his leadership. We are forever grateful for his vision, dedication and the lasting impact he and Susan have made in the lives of our students, community and alumni.”

- Robin Parton Pate, president, WCU Alumni Association 

“His legacy and the mark that he left here on our community is immeasurable, and it is with a great amount of loss that we will miss him.”

- Brian McMahan, commission chairman, Jackson County 

“Last time I saw Dr. Belcher was in the grocery store, and I was kind of having a hard time with some things I’d been going through. He and I had a long hug and embraced and didn’t say a whole lot. We just understood and had sympathy with each other.”

- Boyce Deitz, commissioner, Jackson County 

“Dr. Belcher was not only a chancellor but a friend to our community and an advocate, supporter. He and Susan would visit the store often, and I was always amazed by the man’s tenacity to just remember things. We’d go to the (WCU) ball games and he would reflect back on my kids, always called them by name.”

- Mickey Luker, commissioner, Jackson County 

“Chancellor Belcher was a passionate leader that inspired all who knew him to strive for greatness. He had a contagious smile that would light up a room. His influence will carry on forever in the hearts of those who had the privilege of knowing him.”

- Richard Sneed, principal chief, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

“Dr. Belcher was nothing short of a champion in the Western North Carolina community — he was a leader, a visionary, a mentor and a dear friend to so many over the years, beloved by the entire Western Carolina institution where he served as Chancellor. Though he spent the last years of his life battling several challenging health circumstances, Dr. Belcher never wavered and conducted himself as he so often did: with impeccable character, class and integrity.”

- Rep. Mark Meadows, R-Asheville

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