Western Carolina University’s (WCU) new chancellor, Dr. David O. Belcher and his wife, Susan, visited Macon County on Wednesday as the third of 15 stops on their “Get Acquainted Tour.”
Belcher came to WCU from Arkansas and is finding the transition to be an easy one. “Susan and I absolutely love being in this part of the country,” he said. “It is an absolutely spectacular place, the people are wonderful and we love Western Carolina University. “
The chancellor only joined WCU’s staff on July 1, but has already begun demonstrating his leadership skills and introducing strategic goals to bring much needed improvements to WCU. “I didn’t just come here to praise the past. I came to raise the bar,” said Belcher.
The chancellor spoke to the citizens of Macon County about the exciting things that are happening at WCU. According to Belcher, the university is growing and with that growth comes a greater opportunity for local students to receive higher education without having to leave the region. “We are growing the student body, while we are also increasing admission standards, so it’s a really great thing,” he explained.
Belcher plans to boost interest in student life on campus. Belcher is adamant that a strong student life will keep students at the university, and by the same token, keep them in the region. By keeping them in the region, after students graduate from Western they will be more likely to bring the skills and education they obtained at Western to the surrounding areas.
One focal point for Belcher is on WCU athletics. “I am behind WCU athletics as strongly as I am behind the rest of the university,” Belcher said. The chancellor praised athletic programs at WCU and explained that he “has a dream” to see all programs grow and become more successful. According to Belcher, research suggests that the more successful athletic programs are at a university, the higher the enrollment.
Belcher shared his excitement and pride in WCU. “As of last Friday, our Pride of the Mountains Marching Band was voted to perform at the Sept. 18 Carolina Panther Football game versus Greenbay,” he said. Macon Bank sponsored the event, which was held at the Macon Bank Corporate Center. Roger Plemens, CEO and president of
Macon Bank, and 1977 graduate of WCU, was happy to host the event. “It is a pleasure to host this event tonight to introduce our new chancellor,” he said. “Western is near and dear to me. It provided me with a good education and is also special to Macon Bank.” According to Plemens, out of Macon Bank’s 178 employees, 30 have degrees from Western or are currently attending the university.
The four month long tour is designed to assist Belcher in the process of crafting his vision for the next phase of development for the university. During the tour, Belcher hopes to solicit ideas and input from alumni, benefactors, legislators and community members from areas surrounding the university. Belcher will be visiting towns and cities in the Western North Carolina region and across the state, and to Upstate South Carolina, the Metro Atlanta area and Washington, D.C.