By Roanoke College News

Profiles of Service, M.C. Belk Pilon '96

M.C. Belk Pilon '96 - Charlotte, N.C.; Chair, John M. Belk Endowment

Mary Claudia, "M.C.", chairs an endowment whose mission is to empower the 21st century workforce by creating pathways to prosperity for underrepresented students. In January, M.C. represented the John M. Belk Endowment at the White House College Opportunity Summit, hosted by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. There, the Belk Endowment announced that it will provide $10 million to the College Advising Corps to increase access to higher education for low-income students in rural North Carolina high schools. In April, the Belk Endowment announced a gift of $825,000 to Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte. The gift will increase access to JCSU by providing scholarships to deserving students. An estimated 85 percent of JCSU students receive some form of financial aid; 45 percent are first-generation college students, and 70 percent come from low-income households.

"These are my dad's shoes I am stepping into, and they are truly big ones to fill. Almost 20 years ago he created the John M. Belk Endowment, which funded a National Merit Scholarship program, the "John M Belk Scholarship," at Davidson College, his alma mater. In his day jobs, he led Belk, Inc. for over 50 years and was Charlotte's first-ever, four-term mayor in the early 1970s. He was known for getting things done." 

"Before he died in 2007, he asked me to lead this endowment into the future by identifying the most pressing needs in education and work toward true solutions. Over the past seven years, I have come to understand that he handed me the reins because we had a shared vision for equity in education and could help perpetuate what he started."  

"In 2014, the John M. Belk Endowment hired its first director, Kristy Teskey, and announced our new funding strategy to help North Carolina clear the education pathways for all students regardless of their income, ethnicity or geography and prepare them for gainful employment. I am excited about the opportunity we have to make a difference in the lives of individuals, in the capacity of institutions and in the economic empowerment of communities."

"Roanoke College was and continues to be a positive influence in all aspects of my life. From the day I stepped on campus over 20 years ago, the faculty, staff and students became an extended family. The Roanoke experience allowed me the space to combine my past and present experiences and prepare me to make a positive contribution in my personal and professional life." 

"The faculty, staff and peers constantly challenged me to be a better person by solidifying my self-confidence and deepening my strong moral and ethical character. These life lessons have carried me through to this point in my life and career. I will always be grateful to my Roanoke family for helping guide my path."