Belcher to succeed Bardo as WCU’s chancellor

Dr. David Belcher was announced Western Carolina University’s 11th chancellor in the school’s 122 year history at 10:50 a.m. on Friday, April 8. The announcement was made at the end of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors bi-monthly meeting in Chapel Hill and was telecast to the Blue Ridge Conference Room on campus and on TV62.

The announcement of the new chancellor came 21 days after the Chancellor Search Committee, made up of 16 members drawn from WCU faculty, students, staff, alumni and administration and from the surrounding community, recommended a final slate of candidates to the president of the University of North Carolina system, Tom Ross. The search committee had been working since late October to help identify a successor for John W. Bardo. Chancellor at WCU since March 1995, Bardo announced last fall his plans to step down from the position this summer.

The WCU community will welcome Belcher on Monday, April 11 at 3 p.m. in the Fine and Performing Arts Center’s Performance Hall.

Belcher, who will officially start his post on July 1, comes to Western Carolina from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, where he was the provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs.

In his acceptance speech, Belcher said he and his wife, Susan, will work together as stewards with faculty, staff, students, alumni and supporters to lead an institution that “values the growth and development of the entire student through intellectual and cultural stimulation, through social interactions within a diverse community, through first-class research opportunities, through an emphasis on physical and emotional well-being and through a healthy student life grounded in, among other things, a first-rate intercollegiate athletics program.”

In recommending Belcher to the Board of Governors,  Ross said, “David Belcher brings to the task more than two decades of academic and leadership experience at highly respected public universities. At each step along the way, he has proven himself to be an energetic and effective leader who encourages strategic thinking, promotes collaboration and inclusiveness, and makes student success a university-wide responsibility.

“He has also earned a reputation for great integrity, sound decision-making, and a strong commitment to community engagement and outreach. I am convinced that Dr. Belcher has the right mix of experience, skills, and passion needed to take Western Carolina to the next level, and I am thrilled that he has agreed to join our leadership team.”

A native of Barnwell, S.C., Belcher graduated from Furman University in 1979 with a degree in piano performance. After receiving a master’s degree (1981) in the field at the University of Michigan, he studied in Vienna, Austria, on a Rotary Foundation Graduate Fellowship before earning his doctorate (1989) at the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music. While a student at Eastman, he received the Jerald C. Graue Memorial Scholarship for excellence in musicological research.

Belcher began his academic career in 1988 as an assistant professor of music at Missouri State University. During his 15-year tenure at MSU, he rose steadily through the academic and administrative ranks. After serving as coordinator of keyboard studies in MSU’s Music Department (1989-92) and assistant dean of the College of Arts and Letters (1993), he was named dean of the College of Arts and Letters in 1994. He left Missouri in 2003 to join UALR as provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs.

Under Belcher’s leadership, the university launched seven new doctoral degree programs, created an Office of Innovation and Commercialization to capitalize on faculty research and promote economic development, implemented initiatives to improve student retention and graduation rates, and begun a thorough review of the undergraduate curriculum. Belcher had also been a presence and a leader in the metropolitan arts community.

UALR Chancellor Joel Anderson said he will appoint an interim provost in the next few weeks to succeed Belcher until a search can begin to fill the position.

“During David Belcher’s service as provost, his contributions to the campus have been outstanding,” said Anderson. “He is a trusted colleague, and I enjoy working with him very much. Although I regret he is leaving UALR, I knew that sooner rather than later he would become a campus chancellor or president. I wish David and Susan all the best.”


(This article was written in conjunction with The Western Carolina Journalist.)