The UNC Charlotte community mourns the passing of longtime friend and ardent supporter Irwin “Ike” Belk, who died Saturday at age 95. Over the course of a relationship with the University that stretched more than a half-century — and whose influence transformed UNC Charlotte from a two-year college to North Carolina’s urban research university, Belk helped lead the institution in many capacities, including as a member of the UNC Board of Governors and UNC Charlotte Board of Trustees.
“We have lost a giant figure in the history of our University,” said Chancellor Philip L. Dubois. “Ike Belk will be remembered for generations to come not only for his generosity and commitment to the growth and expanding service of UNC Charlotte, but as a hero at the pivotal moment at which we became the fourth member of the University of North Carolina System.”
As a North Carolina state senator in 1965, Belk introduced legislation that would include UNC Charlotte in the consolidated University of North Carolina System. In doing so, he orchestrated a coalition that convinced 49 of 50 senators to endorse the bill that transformed Charlotte College into the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Belk’s role in shaping the University’s history continued over the coming decades. He and his late wife, Carol, endowed a number of academic scholarships and professorships at UNC Charlotte as well as provided funds for the track and field complex on the main campus that bears Ike’s name. A high-school athlete who played football and basketball and ran track, Belk is UNC Charlotte’s overall largest donor to 49er athletics, with a number of 49ers facilities named for various members of the Belk family.
“Ike was one of the kindest and most generous individuals I have known; his generosity can be seen throughout our campus,” said Athletics Director Judy Rose. “Our athletes compete proudly in the Irwin Belk Track and Field Center and study in the Miltimore-Wallis Athletic Training and Academic Center. I’m grateful to have been the beneficiary of his loving friendship; his influence within our athletic program will last in perpetuity.”
Three residence halls on campus are dedicated to his children. Belk Hall honors his son, Carl, chair of the Irwin Belk Foundation and member of the UNC Charlotte Board of Trustees and of the UNC Charlotte Foundation Board of Directors; Miltimore Hall and Wallis Hall are named, respectively, for daughters Irene Belk Miltimore and Marilyn Belk Wallis.
A dedicated patron of the arts in North Carolina and across the country, Belk was committed to beautifying a number of colleges, and UNC Charlotte was no exception. The 1,000-acre main campus showcases more than 25 sculptures he commissioned or donated, including two larger-than-life bronze pieces positioned at the entrances to the 49ers football complex.
For a lifetime of commitment and generosity to UNC Charlotte and its students, the University honored Belk in 2007 (and Belk, Inc., in 2014) with the Distinguished Service Award. UNC Charlotte's Board of Trustees and the Board of Directors of the University Foundation established the Distinguished Service Award in 1987 to honor those who have provided outstanding leadership and exemplary service to the Charlotte community and to the advancement of UNC Charlotte.
A celebration of Belk's life will be held at 11 a.m., Monday, March 5, at Myers Park Presbyterian Church. Memorials may be made to the UNC Charlotte Foundation, 9201 University City Blvd, Charlotte, N.C. 28223 or Myers Park Presbyterian Church, 2501 Oxford Place, Charlotte, N.C. 28207.
Click here to read Belk's obituary, published in the Charlotte Observer.