NC governor hails WCU chancellor Belcher as 'hero in higher education'

Western Carolina University chancellor David Belcher's passion for education helped him earn one of state's highest honors. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Our Person of the Week's passion for education helped him earn one of state's highest honors. When Western Carolina University chancellor David Belcher received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine this week, his wife Susan explained the magnitude of the moment as he battles brain cancer.

"It was a real highlight and a real bright spot in the two years we have had with David's health issues," she said. "He was incredibly honored to receive this award from the governor.

"It is a real challenge. And that's why I'm speaking on his behalf, because the tumor does not allow him to express his speech as well as he would like to."

At WCU, Belcher's impact on students and faculty is immeasurable. He became chancellor in 2011, and, under his leadership, WCU's enrollment jumped 18 percent.

In 2016, Belcher was diagnosed a glioblastoma brain tumor and went on medical leave last year.

Gov. Roy Cooper said the chancellor's impact transcends education.

"I know that he is battling brain cancer and a lot of people are pulling for him and praying for him," Cooper said. "And you can tell by the outpouring of caring from people what Dr. Belcher has done for this university and the entire state."

After the governor's roundtable discussion about the statewide opioid crisis, he took a moment to talk about Belcher.

"We're proud of this university, and I want to honor a person today who has helped make that university great," Cooper told the group.

Then he presented Belcher with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.

"Congratulations, Dr. Belcher, thank you!" Cooper said as applause broke out. "Chancellor Belcher has been a hero in higher education."

And for those who admire him, a heartwarming moment is just what the doctor ordered.

"That was very special," Susan said of the honor. "I think what David would want everybody to come away with is his phrase, we are in the business of changing lives."

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