Moment of silence honors Carol Grotnes Belk

Elon University faculty and staff remembered the namesake of Belk Library on Tuesday in a brief gathering to celebrate the life of a North Carolina philanthropist praised for her deep commitment to education.

The Rev. Joel Harter speaks on the legacy of Carol Grotnes Belk in a brief remembrance.
Two dozen Elon University staff and faculty members reflected Tuesday on the statewide impact of a woman whose support of education touched every college campus in North Carolina prior to her death this week in Charlotte.

Carol Grotnes Belk died Aug. 26, 2014, just two days shy of her 87th birthday. Along with her husband, Irwin “Ike” Belk, a businessman and philanthropist whose father founded the chain of Belk department stores, their $1 million gift to Elon in 1999 led the university to name its new library in Carol Belk’s honor.

Tuesday’s remembrance on the first floor of Belk Library included reflections by the Rev. Joel Harter, Elon’s associate chaplain for Protestant Life. Visitors were able to view photos of Carol Belk throughout life courtesy of the book “Call Me Ike” about her husband.

“While she did not seek the spotlight, her deep commitment to education is apparent in how her family chose to honor her with named philanthropic gifts as diverse as college athletic fields, museum facilities, named professorships, distinguished lecture series, theaters, and the libraries at Appalachian State University and Elon University,” Harter said. “While most of us did not personally know Mrs. Belk, we have all benefitted from her service and generosity.”

Harter praised Carol Belk as well for her devotion as a mother to four children, and her gardening skills with a particular interest in orchids.

The Belks had previously established the Carol Grotnes Belk Endowment Fund at Elon to award scholarship assistance to deserving students, and they also made gifts to Elon in support of athletics facilities and other institutional priorities.

The Belk-Beck group of department stores provided funding in 1978 for the college’s Olympic-size pool, which is named in honor of the late A. Vance Beck, who was a Burlington-area businessman and long-time business associate of the Belks.

Irwin and Carol Belk have made donations to more than 30 colleges and universities in North Carolina and South Carolina.