Elon mourns the loss of long-time friend Irwin “Ike” Belk
Belk and his wife, Carole Grotnes Belk, contributed to the growth of Elon’s campus and athletics facilities across four decades.
Elon is mourning the death of Irwin “Ike” Belk, a Charlotte businessman, civic leader and philanthropist whose support of key projects at the university stretches back to the 1970s.
Belk, whose father started the department store chain that bears the family’s name, passed away on Feb. 24, 2018, at the age of 95. He is survived by his sister Sarah Belk Gambrell as well as his four children and grandchildren.
Belk and his late wife, Carol Grotnes Belk, were long-time friends of the late Elon President Emeritus Earl Danieley, with whom Ike Belk served on the University of North Carolina Board of Governors. In 1990, Elon awarded Belk an honorary doctor of laws degree for his support of higher education, which included serving as a trustee or board member for more than a dozen other colleges and universities.
The couple made gifts to Elon athletics and other contributions to the university throughout their lives. In 1978, what was then the Belk-Beck group of department stores provided funding for Beck Pool in the Koury Center, named for A. Vance Beck, a Burlington-area businessman and long-time business associate of the Belk family.
The Belks established the Carole Grotnes Belk Endowment Fund at Elon in 1988 to support student scholarships, and in 1999, made a major gift to Elon’s Campaign for the Elon Vision. That same year, Elon announced that its new 75,000-square-foot library would be named in honor of Carol Grotnes Belk.
"Elon is one of the most outstanding schools in the nation," Irwin Belk said at the 1999 announcement of the library naming. "It does a great job of educating young people. Earl Danieley is a personal friend of mine and I am delighted to play a small part in this institution that I believe in."
A competitive track runner early in his life, Belk provided major funding for Irwin Belk Track, the eight-lane, all-weather track adjacent to Rhodes Stadium that opened in 2002 in what is now the Jerry and Jeanne Robertson Track and Field Complex. He endowed tracks at 29 schools and colleges during his life, according to the Charlotte Observer.
The Belks also commissioned the bronze “Phoenix Rising” sculpture by artist John Hair that was installed at the North Athletics Complex in 2003, and the family supported the renovation of Rudd Field, home to Elon’s men’s and women’s soccer teams.