Danny Williamson ’84 MAEd ’86 has an undeniable knack for influencing young people, as evidenced by the 18 Southern Conference track and field championship trophies his teams have hoisted in his 25 years as Western Carolina University’s most successful head coach. Add making friends in high places to his list of talents, as Williamson has piqued the interest of one of the nation’s most benevolent track and field fans and a top supporter of higher education in North Carolina.
Irwin “Ike” Belk and the Belk Foundation recently issued Williamson and WCU’s track and field program a check in the amount of $100,000. Williamson has written Belk for several years to thank him for his support of track and field in North Carolina, and would occasionally include WCU apparel. “Last summer, I asked about the possibility of financial support and he responded with a wonderful gift,” Williamson said. “Mr. Belk’s generosity will allow us to continue to grow our scholarship program, purchase new equipment and generally enhance our program in many areas.”
Belk, retired president of the Belk Inc. retail chain, former member of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors and a former member of North Carolina’s Senate and House, has donated millions to colleges and universities in the Carolinas. Belk’s latest is the fourth substantial gift to WCU. The Carol Grotnes Belk Building was named to honor his wife, followed by the establishment of the $1 million Carol Grotnes Belk Distinguished Professorship in Commercial and Electronic Media. Another gift commissioned the Catamount sculpture that sits at the main entrance of the campus.
Belk’s affection for track and field led him to assist with the building of more than 100 track and field facilities around the nation. He also has donated millions to the United States Olympic Committee and has served on that governing board.