November 22, 2016
As I write this on a cool beautiful fall day, it is hard to believe that five months ago we moved to Greenville, preparing for me to become the eleventh chancellor of East Carolina University. Catherine and I have been overwhelmed by the hospitality we have received. A lot has happened over those five months, and we have much to be thankful for.
ECU experienced a record enrollment this fall, just short of 29,000 students. ECU made major progress toward a $55 million stadium renovation project, which the Board of Trustees endorsed at its November meeting. The Board also authorized the start of a major comprehensive campaign for ECU. This $500 million campaign will be nothing short of transformational for our campus and provide the foundation we need to become America’s next great national university. And this fall we have been inspired as we watched a great student athlete, Zay Jones, set a new NCAA record for career receptions. Go Pirates!
Our campus has also received several national recognitions this fall. We were acknowledged as number four in the country for the percentage of family physicians we produce, many of whom want to practice in rural, underserved areas of our state. We won a Kellogg Award for community engagement for our MATCH Wellness program that seeks to improve childhood obesity in our state and beyond. And last week we received the Senator Paul Simon award for campus internationalization efforts and specifically for our Global Academic Initiatives program that links ECU students with students in more than 30 countries though technology on our campus.
I could go on and on. We do have much to be thankful for. Wonderful things are happening around our campus.
We also endured Hurricane Matthew. The aftermath of this event continues to impact our region. I am proud of the way ECU has responded to the significant needs left by Matthew. Administrators, faculty, staff and students have stepped up to show that public service and regional transformation are not just words, but they reflect who we are as Pirates.
In January, the nation will witness the inauguration of a new president. Unfortunately, the aftermath of the election reveals a fractured, divided nation. It is not surprising that some of that electoral and political division would show up on our campus. Overall, we have let our East Carolina Creed guide us. We recognize that a university is a place where freedom of expression is respected. The campus should always be a marketplace of ideas, vigorous debate, but always civil discourse.
Our commitment to that freedom, however, does not displace our commitment to campus safety. On this campus, we will insist that our students, faculty and staff comply with the law as well as campus policies and procedures. We will not stand idly by in the face of any act that threatens the safety of any member of our University campus. We expect that our discourse, political or otherwise, should reflect civility and respect. We are committed to the diversity found on our campus and we celebrate it as a microcosm of the world our students will live and work in. It provides the perfect environment for personal growth and learning.
As we prepare for Thanksgiving, let me simply say I am thankful for this community of scholars, students and committed staff. I am inspired by our community and alumni support. This is a great university. Catherine and I are grateful to be here with you. Get some rest. Enjoy family and food. And let’s give thanks for our many blessings.