Davidson is building a community of (Belk) Scholars.
By Stacey Schmeidel
As a high school student from Vermillion, S.D., Hannah Pommersheim had never been to Davidson until she came to campus in March 2007 for a weekend for prospective Belk Scholars. Pommersheim “fell in love with the college—and with the community of Belk Scholars. They were all so amazing. I could get a sense of what being at Davidson would be like.” A few months later, she learned that she was one of nine students in the Class of 2011 to receive a Belk Scholarship—the college’s premier award, which covers tuition, room and board, and provides two stipends to support intellectual and personal development. She enrolled at Davidson—turning down Brown and Georgetown, among others— and she couldn’t be happier.
Since then, the college has been forced to enroll fewer Belk Scholars; the endowment for that scholarship, like other awards, was reduced in the global economic collapse of 2008.
But beginning next fall, thanks to a $7-million gift from the John M. Belk Educational Foundation, Davidson will be able to enroll eight Belk Scholars per year.
“This program was always important to my husband,” said The Hon. Claudia Watkins Belk, wife of the late John Belk ’43. “Our family wants to bring more of the nation’s most accomplished students to Davidson.”
Chris Gruber, the college’s vice president of admission and financial aid, says that the scope of the Belk Scholars program is important. “It’s rare to find a liberal arts college of Davidson’s size that offers so many premier scholarships,” he said.
Pommersheim agrees. “This will allow for a greater amount of diversity,” she said, “diversity of interests, experience, and all sorts of things.”
Since the Belk Scholarship was established in 1994, the college has graduated 60 Belk Scholars. Among them are Mac Skelton ’07, who led the student government at Davidson; he’s now a program director for the Buxton Initiative, an organization dedicated to building understanding among people of different faiths. MK Wyle ’06 earned an M.S. degree at the London School of Economics; she is now working as an organic farmer.
Pommersheim said the new scholarships “are affirmation for Belk alumni, and for current Belk Scholars. I am humbled, as always, by the generosity of the Belk family.”