This spring the university will hold its first chancellor installation ceremony since 1996

By BILL STUDENC MPA ’10

David O. Belcher will be formally installed as chancellor of Western Carolina University during a traditional ceremony capping a week of activities in late March designed to highlight and celebrate the accomplishments of students, faculty, staff, alumni and community partners. Tom Ross, president of the University of North Carolina system, will preside at the official installation ceremony, scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Thursday, March 29, in the Liston B. Ramsey Regional Activity Center.

The installation ceremony is the academic ritual at which the chancellor takes the oath of office. The event is typically attended by UNC system officials, state legislators and other elected state and federal officials. It includes academic delegates from other institutions across the nation and around the world, representatives of professional organizations and honor societies, and members of the campus and surrounding communities.

A 30-member steering committee is in the process of planning other installation week activities centered on the theme “Defining Our Future in Pursuit of Distinction,” said Beth Tyson Lofquist ’78 MAEd ’79 EdS ’88, interim provost and co-chair of the committee. “This will be a week to honor and recognize not only our new chancellor and his wife, Susan, but also to express our appreciation to our friends and neighbors throughout our community and region that we serve,” Lofquist said. “It also will be a celebration of all that Western Carolina is and all that this university has to offer.”

Other installation week activities are still in the planning stages, but are expected to focus on the academic, creative and athletic talents of WCU students, faculty and staff, said Dianne Lynch, chief of staff and committee co-chair. “We have so much talent on this campus that we want to showcase,” Lynch said. “Our faculty, staff and students will help provide the excitement leading up to one of the most significant days in the life of a university.”

Among the tentative activities on the schedule are celebrations of faculty scholarship and undergraduate research, performances by faculty and student musicians, art exhibitions, a half marathon and disc golf tournament, and the start of a new tradition – the “firing up of the Cata-fount,” the water fountain in the central plaza area. Some events also are being planned for downtown Sylva.

Belcher was named Western Carolina’s 11th chief executive officer in April by the UNC Board of Governors. He assumed his duties on July 1, when John W. Bardo, who had held the position for 16 years, stepped down as chancellor.