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John Belk Makes "Transformational" Scholarship Gift to Davidson College

October 6, 2000
CONTACT: Meg Kimmel 704/894-2242 or mekimmel@davidson.edu

Edward E. Crutchfield, chair of the Davidson College Board of Trustees, today announced an historic $28-million commitment to the college from lifelong Charlotte civic and business leader John Montgomery Belk, a 1943 Davidson graduate. This commitment will expand The John Montgomery Belk Scholarship, a merit-based program for academically talented student leaders first established by Belk in1994.
John Belk
The Honorable John Montgomery Belk

With this gift, the John Montgomery Belk Scholarship will be among the nation's most prominent such programs, placing Davidson in a unique position among other top liberal arts colleges, none of which has such an extensive scholarship program. The John Montgomery Belk Scholarship is comparable to prestigious merit scholarship programs at outstanding universities, such as the University of North Carolina's Morehead Awards, the Duke University's Duke Scholars Program, and the University of Virginia's Jefferson Scholars.

Belk's commitment promises to fund a cohort of 40 John Montgomery Belk Scholars within the Davidson student body of 1600. The scholarship is comprehensive, providing each scholar room, board, tuition, and fees, as well as grants for two summer internships and international study, and will involve the Belk Scholars in leadership development programs at the college.

Belk's gift provides momentum to the most ambitious fundraising campaign in the college's 163-year history, which Crutchfield, a 1963 Davidson graduate, also announced today. At its fall meeting, the Davidson Board of Trustees approved the $250-million goal for the new campaign, carrying the theme "Let Learning Be Cherished." Davidson trustee and Florida businessman Edward L. Baker, a 1957 graduate of the college, will chair the national campaign, which includes a $100-million goal for student financial assistance. Baker is chairman of the board of Florida Rock Industries, Inc. in Jacksonville.

The Davidson campaign theme is taken from the college's Latin motto, "Alenda Lux Ubi Orta Libertas," translated as, "Let Learning Be Cherished Where Liberty Has Arisen." Over one half of the $250 million raised will be dedicated to endowment. Endowment growth will strengthen the institution overall as earnings relieve the operating budget in a number of critical areas and moderate the need to increase tuition. In addition to increasing funds for student financial assistance by $100 million, the campaign will preserve the community that forms the foundation of this liberal arts college, increase faculty resources, improve academic and athletic facilities, and expand campus technology. Commitments totaling $100 million are already in hand toward the $250-million goal.

With his commitment, Belk becomes the largest individual donor in Davidson history. In terms of beneficial effect for the institution, his contribution is comparable to Maxwell Chambers' $250,000 gift in 1855 and James B. Duke's decision to include Davidson in his 1924 indenture creating the Duke Endowment.

The former Charlotte mayor and chairman of the board and Chief Executive Officer of Belk, Inc. said he intends for the program to attract more of the nation's top students to a place where their hearts and minds will be nurtured. "My goal is to join potential together with challenge," he said. "Davidson enrolls young people with exceptional minds and leadership ability, and is a college with a proven record of educating leaders without ignoring the needs of their souls. It simply makes sense to bring these elements together."

When the John Montgomery Belk Scholarship is fully funded, ten entering students each year will receive full scholarships, creating a cohort of 40 outstanding students. Nancy J. Cable, dean of admission and financial aid, said the importance of the program should extend beyond the impressive achievements of the individuals it attracts to campus. "The power of having 40 of these students at a time on our campus is a dynamic we have never experienced," she said. "These will be the strongest leaders in all facets of campus life, and will surely have a cumulative effect far greater than their individual accomplishments."

As a nomination-based program, The John Montgomery Belk Scholarships will vault Davidson into a stronger position in attracting the top students from around the nation to its campus. The program will also make Davidson a viable alternative for more students who now receive prestigious scholarships at other colleges and universities. With 40 Belk Scholars representing 2.5 percent of Davidson's overall student body of 1,600, the program is proportionately more significant than others in the region, and possibly in the nation.

While Davidson already enrolls students from 43 states and 21 foreign countries, the John Montgomery Belk Scholarship selection process will enhance the college's effectiveness in recruiting students nationwide. Davidson will invite a total of 50 private and public high schools across the nation to submit nominees for the 10 Belk Scholars in an entering class. By carefully selecting those schools, the college can use the program to increase geographic, racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity on campus. Admission deans will select another 50 candidates from the applicant pool. The final 10 Belk Scholars will be selected after campus interviews.

The endowment that funds the scholarships has been structured to assure that its return will fund the program in perpetuity. It is even possible that endowment growth will allow creation of more John Montgomery Belk Scholarships in the future.

Davidson College President Robert F. Vagt spoke of Belk's historic gift in terms of the $100-million campaign goal for student financial assistance. Once this goal is met, the funds will help Davidson meet the full financial need of all entering students, decrease the amount of loan included in student financial aid packages, and enable Davidson to enroll top scholars from across the nation, regardless of financial need. Vagt explained, "We want to ensure that the decision to attend Davidson is a function of academic capability and personal commitment, not family financial resources."

Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,600 students. Since its establishment in 1837, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently ranked among the top liberal arts colleges in the country by "U.S. News and World Report" magazine.

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John Montgomery Belk Biographical Information

Current Belk Scholars at Davidson College

Belk, Inc. Information

Davidson College Fact Sheet

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