As West Virginia University works to ensure social justice on campus, Black alumni are renewing efforts to expand opportunities for minority students –specifically Black, Indigenous and people of color – through the Horace and Geraldine Belmear Scholarship.
Established in 2008 by WVU’s Omega Psi Phi fraternity, Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and the Black Alumni Group, the scholarship honors a legacy of excellence cultivated by the Belmears from the 1970s into the 2000s. The late couple worked together – via complementary administrative roles – to recruit, retain and support a generation of Black students, becoming surrogate parents to many.
Charles Price Jr. is among them. His father – the first Black graduate of WVU’s College of Law – earned his undergraduate degree at West Virginia State University alongside Horace Belmear, who later recruited the younger Price to WVU. Price earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from WVU in 1985, and he has remained engaged with the University post-graduation through Omega Psi Phi, the Black Alumni Group, the WVU Alumni Association and the WVU Athletic Council.
“The Belmears, people full of dignity and integrity, were just looking to recruit students to West Virginia University and hopefully build a better future for them,” Price said. “I take my hat off to the Belmears for the lives they impacted. May we hopefully carry that torch forward.”
Price and other alumni leaders – including Dr. Patrice Harris, a member of WVU’s Board of Governors who served as the first Black woman president of the American Medical Association – are encouraging the WVU community to boost private support for the scholarship. Gifts can be made via a dedicated secure online giving page.
By providing more scholarships, they hope to increase minority enrollment and make higher education more affordable for students from underrepresented groups.
“The University community is richer because the Belmears spent time there,” Harris said. “I want people to contribute to this scholarship to support the legacy and the commitment that the Belmears made, not only to the students but to the University.”
The couple’s eldest son, Michael Belmear, said his parents understood the importance of outreach, support and encouragement for Black students and saw great potential at WVU. They played an instrumental role in establishing the Center for Black Culture and Research and PASSkey, a freshman orientation program that helped Black students adjust to college life by pairing them with mentors.
The Belmears also served as role models for the members of Omega Psi Phi and Alpha Kappa Alpha. Horace and Geraldine joined their respective Greek organizations in college and remained active members throughout their lives, serving as advisers for the chapters at WVU.
The Belmears often exceeded their professional obligations – sewing clothes, providing meals and transportation, offering a place to stay and much more – to ensure student success.
“My parents are two ordinary people who did some extraordinary things,” Michael Belmear said. “…They loved the students. It was a passion for them. They really, really cared about them. I think, when you care about people that much, it makes you do things for people you wouldn’t ordinarily do.”
Horace and Geraldine Belmear earned master’s degrees from WVU in physical education and home economics education, respectively. Both continued to volunteer with the University long after they retired – 1987 for Geraldine and 1993 for Horace. Geraldine, then 87, died in 2005; Horace passed five years later, at the age of 93.
All gifts to the Belmear Scholarship are made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University.
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