|John M. Belk Educational Endowment Gives $7 Million to Davidson to Enhance Belk Scholarship Program
September 07, 2010
Contact: Stacey Schmeidel, Assoc. VP for College Communications 704/894-2798
Davidson, NC - President Tom Ross announced today that Davidson College has received a $7-million gift from the John M. Belk Educational Endowment to support and enhance the John Montgomery Belk Scholarship Program, Davidson's premier merit scholarship program. The gift will be paid over the course of seven years beginning in December 2010, and will enable Davidson to begin to restore the number of Belk Scholars in each class to the levels that existed prior to the economic downturn and resulting loss in endowment values.
John and Claudia Belk and Mary Claudia Belk Pilon
Established in 1994, the John M. Belk Scholarship Program is one of the most prestigious and generous scholarships in the country. For each scholar, the Belk Scholarship provides comprehensive funding (tuition, fees, room and board) plus two summer stipends of $3,000 apiece. These stipends are designed to support the recipient's intellectual, personal, and leadership development over the course of their college years. In recent years, Belk Scholars have used their stipends to explore their passions in this country and abroad (see sidebar). Since the program's inception, Davidson has graduated 60 Belk Scholars.
"This new gift from the John M. Belk Educational Endowment is a tremendous show of support for Davidson, and it will allow even more students, eight per class beginning next year, to benefit from the unique opportunities for students attending Davidson as Belk Scholars," said Davidson College President Tom Ross. "This extraordinary family has been so important to Charlotte, to the region, and to the state of North Carolina, and we are grateful for all they've done and continue to do for Davidson College."
The Hon. Claudia Watkins Belk, wife of the late John Belk, said, "We are proud to be able to provide this additional support for the John M. Belk Scholarships at Davidson College. This program was always very important to John and to me, and my family wants to bring more of the nation's most accomplished students to Davidson. I really look forward to meeting with the scholars each year and am thrilled that there will once again be eight scholars entering the college next fall."
Christopher Gruber, vice president and dean of admission and financial aid at Davidson, said, "Over the years, our Belk Scholars have had a tremendous impact at Davidson. Their accomplishments both on and off campus are astounding. Mac Skelton '07, who led the student government at Davidson, is now a program director for the Buxton Initiative, an organization of Muslims, Christians and Jews dedicated to building understanding among their communities. MK Wyle '06 earned an M.S. degree in anthropology at the London School of Economics; she is now working as an organic farmer. Darrell Scott '10 is with the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. We are delighted that the Belk family, through the John M. Belk Educational Endowment, has chosen to enhance this important program by increasing the number of scholars to eight, and we look forward to seeing what the new, larger group of Belk Scholars will accomplish at Davidson and beyond." Gruber noted, too, that the scope of the Belk Scholars program was important and unique. "It is rare to find a liberal arts college of Davidson's size that offers so many premier scholarships," Gruber said. "This serves Davidson very well, as secondary school counselors around the country are more likely to nominate students for the Belk Scholarship, since a larger number of students are named each year."
The Honorable John M. Belk '43
The Belk Scholarship Program honors John Montgomery Belk '43, one of Davidson's best known and most distinguished graduates. An economics major at Davidson, Belk was captain of the varsity basketball team and a leader in student government and campus organizations. Following graduation, he joined the U.S. Army Infantry, serving for three years in World War II as a lieutenant and resuming active duty in the Korean War. After serving as an officer of the United Nations Civil Assistance Commission, Belk returned home to his family business in 1952. Under his guidance as Chairman of the Board of Belk, Inc., the business expanded into one of the nation's largest and most profitable retail organizations. John Belk dedicated himself to his community, most notably as mayor of Charlotte for four terms, from 1969 to 1977. He helped forge the beneficial collaboration between business and government that continues today, positioning Charlotte as one of the country's fastest growing cities. Belk was deeply touched by the opportunity to help deserving young people attend his alma mater, and kept in contact with many of the Belk Scholars. John Belk died in 2007. His family, including his wife, The Honorable Claudia Watkins Belk, and daughter, Mary Claudia Belk Pilon, continue to be involved with the Belk Scholars Program and participate in the scholar selection process each spring.
John Belk and his family have been very generous to Davidson over the years, focusing in particular on the Belk Scholars Program. Since 1994, John Belk, his family and the John M. Belk Educational Endowment have given nearly $32 million to support the Belk Scholars Program at Davidson.
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,800 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages, giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding Honor Code is central to student life at the college.
Recent Belk Scholars Projects at Davidson College
One of the most prestigious and generous scholarships in the nation, the Belk Scholarship covers tuition, fees, room and board, and also provides each recipient with two $3,000 summer stipends. In recent years, Belk Scholars have used their stipends to:
- examine sustainable development in EU nations (Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal and Greece
- participate in a Summerbridge Program in Hong Kong, teaching poetry analysis and writing to disadvantaged Chinese students
- participate in the Davidson Summer Program at the University of Cape Coast, which offers immersion in modern and traditional Ghanaian life
- study Arabic language and culture in Yemen, Syria, and Jordan
- play semi-professional baseball and teach baseball clinics for local children
- study Mandarin and conduct anthropological fieldwork on the role of rhetoric and debate in the developing Chinese civil society
- intern with the global Strategy Institute (GSI) of the Center for Strategic Studies in Washington, D.C.
- attend the Colgate Writers' Conference at Colgate University in New York
- travel in New Zealand and work as part of Willing Workers On Organic Farms (WWOOF)
- intern with a House Representative through the Davidson in Washington Summer Program
- study the theory and practice of wildlife conservation at the School for Field Studies in Tanzania
- volunteer with Help Argentina, a non-profit organization that assists low-income populations in the country's northern Salta region.