The John M. Belk Family’s Legacy of Philanthropy

The John M. Belk Family has made a gift of $10 million to Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center to support the construction of the John M. and Claudia W. Belk Heart and Vascular Medical Plaza, a comprehensive outpatient facility. The Belk donation is the lead gift in the Foundation’s GroundBreaking campaign, a capital campaign, which Presbyterian Medical Center launched to take on the nation’s number one and number two killers – cancer and heart disease.

The campaign will support the construction of an outpatient heart and vascular and cancer institute, located across from Presbyterian Medical Center at the corners of Third St., Fourth St. and Hawthorne Lane. This new facility will enhance patient-centered care coordination, improve accessibility, increase affordability and provide leading-edge treatments for patients facing these challenging diagnoses that often require numerous appointments over the course of many months.

The John M. and Claudia W. Belk Heart and Vascular Medical Plaza will function as a hub for virtually all outpatient needs a cardiac patient may have, including: medical clinics for cardiology and cardiovascular surgery, rehabilitation, nutrition services, dedicated nurse navigators, research and clinical trials, a retail pharmacy, and chapel. A sky bridge connecting the facility to Presbyterian Medical Center will support the continuity of care for all patients who access these services.

The facility will also house Presbyterian Medical Center’s outpatient cancer services including a cancer urgent care and the cardio-oncology program, an emerging field of medicine dedicated to minimizing the cardiovascular impact of cancer treatment.

The John M. Belk Family’s Legacy of Philanthropy

The Belk family has made a lasting mark on the fabric of Charlotte.  William Henry Belk, John’s father, may not a household name, but without Henry Belk, Presbyterian Hospital would not exist. Born near Waxhaw during the Civil War, Henry always knew he wanted to be a merchant. In 1876 at age 14, he went to work at B.D. Heath’s store in Monroe for $5 a month.  Smart as a whip, observant and a hard worker, Henry opened his first store within 12 years; his daring merchandising innovations made him immediately successful. He came to Charlotte in 1895 to open a Belk Brothers store here.

In 1917, when Presbyterian Hospital was running short on its fund-raising campaign to secure a new site, Henry offered to help by purchasing 10 acres of the 25-acre defunct Elizabeth College property, so that the hospital could purchase the rest. As if that wasn’t enough, Henry and other concerned Presbyterian Church members signed notes guaranteeing the hospital’s loan for the property. Thus it was that the Belks and the hospital arrived together on Hawthorne Lane as new neighbors.

In 1924 Henry hired noted local architect Charles Christian Hook to design a new house.  The construction cost was estimated to be $75,000.  After Henry died at age 89 in 1952, Mary continued to live at home until her death in 1968, willing the house to the hospital.

Once the house was bequeathed to the hospital it was used for office space. The history of Presbyterian is closely intertwined with that of the Belk family. Mary’s brother, Irwin, was one of Presbyterian’s first board certified surgeons. John once said during a speech made to celebrate the hospital’s centennial in 2003, “I love to tell the story of the hospital. Presbyterian Hospital has been part of the very lifeblood of my family. I literally grew up on the site that is now the hospital campus and it has been a great joy to watch Presbyterian grow and evolve over the years into one of the largest and most respected healthcare institutions in the Carolinas.”

John was Chairman of the Board of Belk, Inc. and served Charlotte as mayor for four terms. He served on the Board of Trustees for his alma matter, Davidson College, for almost 50 years. He served as a trustee for the hospital and helped initiate the Presbyterian Hospital Foundation and served as a member of the Foundation’s Board of Directors for many years.

John and Claudia funded The Belk Heart Center—the center of our cardiovascular program—helped provide seed support to the Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center, and provided leadership support for various capital campaigns during the Foundation’s history.

The Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center Foundation is grateful for the generous support of the John M. Belk Family to help improve healthcare and save lives in our community.

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Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center Foundation