Thoughts from the Chancellor 

Hurricane Florence continues to affect thousands of ECU students, alumni and friends across North Carolina. Many will suffer for weeks, months and even years from the devastating effects of this terrible storm.


While Greenville escaped serious damage, and while our campus is prepared to return to normal operations, I urge everyone to remember those who lost their lives and others who continue to suffer from lost power, damaged homes and automobiles, and access to medical attention or even a hot meal.


Many federal, state and independent relief agencies are hard at work helping those in need, and I encourage you to support them as you can. Too, you are invited to join ECU and our recovery - East Carolina Undaunted. An email detailing the initiative will be announced shortly. You’ll have the opportunity to volunteer your time, food, or financial resources through special ECU websites created for this initiative.


As Pirate Nation has done so many times before, I know we will come together to assist our brothers and sisters in need.

Hundreds of campus officials and emergency operations staff from city, county and state offices, are working hard to prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Florence in just a few short days.  While we cannot predict the full magnitude of this storm when it reaches the North Carolina coast, you can rest assured that everyone is preparing for the worst and praying for the best. We will continue to monitor this storm closely, and we’ll keep you well informed about any significant developments.   

Students, I’m asking you to use today and tomorrow to travel home to your families.  We will feel the effects of this storm for days – at least from Wednesday night thru Sunday, possibly even beyond.  We have been told to expect substantial power outages and very limited mobility.  While our first priority is to keep you safe, emergency response vehicles will not operate when winds reach 45 miles per hour.  You cannot expect the normal level of emergency support during these circumstances. So, please make arrangements to leave right away.  If you absolutely cannot leave, please call Campus Living at 252-328-4663 by 8:00 p.m. tonight.

To members of our faculty and staff, we are committed to being as flexible as possible in allowing you time to prepare your homes and families.  Your safety is of the utmost importance.  Use your discretion and work with your managers to plan accordingly.

We encourage all faculty, staff and students to continue to monitor emergency messages at   If you are not already registered to receive ECU Alert text messages, go to to sign up.  

In the coming days, even weeks, we are certain to face additional challenges related to Hurricane Florence and her aftermath. We are Pirates and we will weather this storm together. Stay smart, vigilant and informed.  Stay safe.

Dear faculty, staff and students, 

Welcome to a new academic year at ECU. It is difficult to comprehend that more than two years have passed since I joined this wonderful community as ECU’s 11th chancellor. During those two years we made some bold claims for our university, and we set off on a course that will bring this institution the recognition ECU rightly deserves for helping its students prepare successfully for exciting careers – and for contributing so much to public service and regional transformation. Credit goes to our faculty and staff for their extraordinary dedication every day to this mission.

Unprecedented change awaits our students in today’s workplace, and we are committed to preparing them as critical thinkers, innovators and problem solvers who are well prepared to contribute to their employers’ success. ECU students have so many opportunities at their fingertips on this beautiful campus, from engaging with faculty experts in so many different fields of study, participating in meaningful research and practicing leadership skills in campus organizations to learning how to succeed in a global marketplace through the many international experiences available here. Our focus on equipping students with the tools they need for success is enthusiastically supported by the many donors who are providing the financial resources to make an ECU experience among the very best anywhere. Our $500 million comprehensive campaign is well on its way. And even in the current quiet phase, it has surpassed $190 million in gifts, pledges and commitments.

Almost 29,000 Pirates are on campus now, kicking off another year of a collegiate experience they’ll treasure for a lifetime. It’s especially exciting at this time of year, as we anticipate the start of our 2018 Pirate football campaign, which begins in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Sept. 1. I look forward to seeing all of you there.

The 2018-19 academic year will no doubt bring both challenges and opportunities for our great university. I am proud to be here with a world-class faculty and staff and the undaunted Pirate students. You inspire me each and every day.

Let’s have a great year, capture the horizon before us, and continue making the impact that has defined our university across our region, our state and our nation for more than 110 years.

Go Pirates!

Cecil P. Staton

Good morning. It’s my privilege to welcome you to the 2018-2019 academic year. I hope you had a wonderful summer and that you’re as excited as I am to kick off another academic year with almost 29,000 Pirates.

I want to start by welcoming Dr. Anisa S. Zvonkovic, who joined us July 1 as the new dean of the College of Health and Human Performance. And then I want to welcome about 140 new faculty members from across the university. We are very honored that you’ve joined us.

As I stand before you this morning, it is very difficult to comprehend that two years have passed since I arrived as the 11th chancellor at ECU. There have been surprises and challenges over those two years, but we’ve made significant progress even with occasional headwinds.

As you know, it is a challenging time for higher education, particularly with public institutions. We’re dealing with the continuing disruption of technology, a volatile political climate, the challenges of regulation, enrollment and financial issues, and intense competition. Even in this environment, ECU continues to do well. At the heart of our success are the people in this room, our faculty. Thank you for making this your life’s work.

Let’s use this morning to review some of the great things that happened at ECU over the last year. I’ll talk first about some incredible faculty and student accomplishments. And I’ll then review major initiatives. We’ll conclude with reflections on some of the challenges we face.

A good place to start is with some words from a feature story published on our website. They paint a portrait of an amazing ECU hero.

“She’s an angel,” they said. “Kind-hearted. Loving. A miracle worker who kept people fed, medicine ordered, and fears allayed.” Everything. Anything. She got it done. An ECU hero, Dr. Michelle Skipper made such a strong mark on the recovery from Hurricane Matthew that she won the Governor’s Award for Public Service last November. It’s the highest honor a state employee can receive. Wow!

Here’s another hero, Dr. Margaret D. Bauer, an ECU professor of literature and a writer who is described as bringing a “frightening energy” to studying, publishing and promoting the literature of our state. Dr. Bauer was presented with the state’s top civilian honor, the North Carolina Award, by Governor Roy Cooper. Presented annually since 1964, the award recognizes significant contributions to the state and nation in the fields of fine art, literature, public service and science. Listen to these past recipients: William Friday, David Brinkley, Maya Angelou, Billy Graham and Branford Marsalis. Wow, again.

And there’s ECU’s Dr. Douglas K. Schneider, who gained national news and social media attention this year for his unexpected, late-night visit to the library to help students studying for an accounting exam. In news reports that followed, Dr. Schneider rightly said, "I think for many of us, working here is a calling as much as it is a job." I agree with Dr. Schneider. It’s an attitude that defines the faculty at ECU.

Here’s another ECU Hero. Our Board of Governors awarded Dr. Greg Chadwick, dean of ECU’s School of Dental Medicine, with last year's top faculty honor. Dr. Chadwick received the annual Gov. James E. Holshouser Jr. Award for Excellence in Public Service, which the UNC system awards to one faculty member who exemplifies public service that improves the quality of life for everyone in the state.

Now, one last faculty shout-out — East Carolina University School of Music composition and theory professor Edward Jacobs, who received a prestigious Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, recognizing his extraordinary work as a composer. He is the first ECU faculty member to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship.

The good news is that I could go on and on with the many outstanding accomplishments of people in this room, but I’ll stop so I can also mention some noteworthy student accomplishments.

Fei Gao, a 2018 graduate of our Master of Public Health program, was one of two graduate-level winners of the 2018 Research Paper Contest by a medical journal called Preventing Chronic Disease, which comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He is the first student in ECU’s Master of Public Health program to receive the honor.

Congratulations also to Tyler Beasley, who put ECU on a state-level map as the first graduate student representative to the UNC Association of Student Governments. The association serves as a liaison between students and the Governor of North Carolina, the North Carolina General Assembly, and the Office of the President of the University of North Carolina.

Emory Saia, an ECU School of Communication student, was one of 14 young professional journalists and students to receive a Fulbright scholarship for the Berlin Capital Program in Germany, which gives journalists and students the opportunity to better understand the media’s role in Germany and Europe.

Graduate student Gabriel Beattie-Sergio earned the first-ever Schweitzer Fellowship for an ECU student in public health, focusing on childhood asthma. He will study the impact of Hurricane Matthew on people who live in substandard housing and have children with asthma.

These students are just a few examples of the undaunted spirit of our 29,000 students, who inspire me each and every day.

Now I’ll spend a few moments updating you on several of the key initiatives I announced at the beginning of my administration two short years ago. Let’s start with research.

Last November, for the first time since 2013, ECU reported to the National Science Foundation’s annual national research survey an increase for research expenditures of 3.2%.

For this last fiscal year, we expect to show a second consecutive year of improvement, which is in part driven by a $1 million increase in research productivity by units in Academic Affairs.

Last year our faculty produced the largest number of research proposals since at least 2013, with over 509 research proposals in fiscal year 2017-2018, compared to 449 the prior year. In addition to submitting more research proposals, the value of the proposals exceeded $200M, a significant jump over recent years.

Our funding rate is showing strong improvement. For example in 2015 and 2016, our “win” rate with NSF was 7% and 8% respectively. For 2017-2018 ECU had 26% of our proposals funded through NSF’s peer-review process. This is higher than N.C. State (20%) and UNC Chapel Hill (25%).

Finally, in 2015, 14% of our faculty were PIs on externally funded grants for research, service and outreach. This past year, that number increased to 24%.

Now, let’s do a quick review of our INTERNATIONALIZATION initiative.

We had 201 students on student visas (degree seeking or exchange), up from 187 the previous year. Fifty-nine countries were represented. We had about 75 international faculty and 30 visiting scholars. There were 702 ECU students doing curricular and co-curricular activities abroad, compared with 586 the previous year. Thirty-one countries were visited. And virtual exchanges included 444 students, connecting with 45 universities in 22 countries – part of our Global Initiatives Program.

I’m delighted to tell you that international applications and admissions to ECU are up over last year, in part due to new recruiting staff and a comprehensive strategic plan for recruiting international students.

Some extraordinary work is being accomplished with student success, as well.

Let’s look at ECU’s five-year graduation rate. For the 2002 cohort, only 49.5% had graduated within 5 years. By 2017 , that five-year rate had improved to 60%. This is one of the most significant gains within the UNC System. In fact, our graduation rates today are significantly higher than UNCC or UNCG. They are also better than our peers at Virginia Commonwealth, Texas Tech, Old Dominion, Florida International, and the University of Louisville.

Let’s now review the incredible support we’re getting from our loyal ECU donors.

Our comprehensive campaign continues to go well in its quiet phase. As of June 30, we are pleased to announce a total of $190M in gifts, pledges, and commitments. Of note recently, a $2,000,000 gift from Bob and Penny Barnhill of Tarboro through the Vidant Foundation will create two Distinguished Professorships in Hematology and Oncology in the Brody School of Medicine. We have applied successfully and are in the queue for matching funds from the state for these two endowments, bringing the total anticipated endowment to $3,000,000.

Total year giving for 2017-2018 was over $43 million.

Great universities raise the necessary funds to further their aspirations. I am pleased that ECU is taking this task very seriously, and you’ll see the fruits of that very soon.

Let’s take a look now at some enrollment challenges.

Enrollment will be down slightly this fall with first time/full-time/first-year students, transfer students and graduate students. Several factors may be affecting these numbers, from the broad focus by state universities on attracting rural and low-income students, which has been a strong segment for us historically, the NC Promise program, which offers dramatically lower tuition at several of North Carolina’s public universities, and a highly competitive environment for recruitment at a time when the population of college-bound students is flat.

Our task will be to maintain leadership with rural students and to market ourselves well in Wake and Mecklenburg counties, already our two strongest markets. Too, we have a vested interest in successfully marketing Greenville as a great college town.

Other initiatives include the recently announced Co-Admission Programs. Over the last several months, ECU signed co-admission agreements with 16 different community colleges. The agreements are designed to improve transfer student access and success through a collaborative degree completion program. Students will apply to a participating community college and ECU simultaneously and commit to maintaining full-time status. Upon completing an associate degree, they will seamlessly transition into degree-completion programs at ECU.

Now I’ll address some governance topics that affect ECU and all of North Carolina’s public universities.

If you follow public higher education in the news, you are no stranger to the fact that these are challenging times. We can take some comfort in the fact that North Carolina’s legislature still funds the UNC system at levels that are the envy for colleagues in many other states. We have a great local delegation that understands the importance of ECU for our students and region. Nevertheless, faculty raises have been too rare in recent years. And there’s too little we can do about that. State funding for the system is set by the General Assembly and the System Board of Governors, including funding for raises. Although we can recommend tuition and fee increases, those must be approved by the Board of Governors, and there is intense pressure, for understandable reasons, not to increase the financial burden born by our students and their families. That, unfortunately, does not help us with the rising costs we face across a university as complex as ECU, which has about 5,800 faculty and staff, and an aging infrastructure.

Capital needs or expenditures over $300,000 must be approved by the Board of Governors, and there is precious little money for new construction, much less adequate resources for the repairs and renovations that are sorely needed. We are grateful, however, that we have been able to move forward with projects like the student center on the health sciences campus, the new student union that will open the end of the year, the south-side football stadium renovation, and the planned life sciences building that will get started next year.

I recently received some criticism for an op-ed piece I wrote for the News & Observer in Raleigh, where I advocated for ECU and celebrated the wonderful accomplishments of our university. I pledge to continue that advocacy and to join chancellors across this system in advocating for you, our faculty and our staff. You work hard and too often without the recognition or rewards you deserve.

I want you to know that I am working with the academic council to find a way to deal with compression and inversion issues when it comes to faculty salaries, and one of the things we hope to implement as soon as practical is an increase in step raises. When our faculty move from assistant to associate and to full professor, those significant milestones should be met with more significant increases in pay. You have my commitment that the resources will be allocated for those purposes as soon as possible.

We are also creating a new Chairs Council that will meet for the first time this fall. An important aspect of its mission is to foster better communications between faculty and administration. Your voices are important to me.

Let’s talk for a moment about a very high profile national issue, Greek Life.

You are likely aware that several of ECU’s Greek Life organizations closed over the last year. Our experience coincides with a national trend that has led many universities to reexamine Greek Life. As a result, a 16-member ECU task force has been appointed to examine major aspects of Greek Life here. Their charge is to identify and consider nationally recognized best practices, and to offer recommendations to strengthen this community on campus.

I recognize the importance of having a healthy, vibrant and thriving Greek community. It is an important aspect of campus life for many Pirates, and it’s important that we take a close look at where we are and where we’d like to be. I’m expecting a Task Force report by Dec. 14.

Bear with me while I turn philosophical for a moment. People have been talking about the increasing pace of change all of our lives. But it’s truly startling when you pause for just a moment to think about the world we’re living in today.

According to a McKinsey study released several months ago, by 2030 – 375 million workers, or 14% of the global workforce – may need to switch occupations as advances in artificial intelligence disrupt work. The study anticipates that 60% of occupations have at least 30% of their work activities that could be automated. That’s an enormous disruption. And it’s a strong signal to all of us that we must prepare our students to adapt to constant change.

Just 30 years ago, I would walk into the Bodleian Library at Oxford, pull out a large leather folio, in a room almost as big as this one, and get the book I needed by filling out a form. If I was lucky, in an hour or so it would show up in a reading room where I could sit down and dive in. As a non-lending library, books could not be checked out. I wrote a 300-page thesis using this process. Yes, the world has changed.

Today, our students are going to have jobs that didn’t exist 15 years ago. And the truth is, today’s students will probably have to re-credential and retrain at least once in their lifetimes, maybe more, to prepare for jobs that didn’t exist when they graduated.

I am surprised by some who suggest today that a college education is not worth the cost and effort. The data shows that education is still an essential component of economic mobility. At ECU, 11,000 of our 29,000 students are from the poorest areas, Tier One and Two counties, and still nearly 40% of students are first generation. This university has a special talent in helping these young people up the economic ladder, and we must stay focused on that mission.

Someone has said, a good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning. Or as Plutarch, the first century Greek biographer and essayist wrote, “The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” I am so very grateful for the passion each of you bring to this work. So let’s get to it. Let’s go forth and ignite the fires within each of our students.

Have a great year. Go Pirates!

Today, I am announcing the appointment of a task force to examine major aspects of Greek life at the university, to identify and consider nationally recognized best practices, and to offer recommendations to strengthen the Greek Life community on campus.

Composed of alumni, faculty, community leaders and students, the Chancellor's Task Force on Greek Life will examine national issues facing Greek life on college campuses and the culture of Greek life at ECU.  Greek organizations on college campuses nationwide are dealing with issues such as hazing-related deaths, incidents of sexual assault and alcohol and drug related infractions.  ECU is neither exempt nor immune from this.  

As ECU's chancellor, I recognize the importance of having a healthy, vibrant thriving Greek Life community. Greek life is an important aspect of the campus experience for many Pirates and because of that, I think it is appropriate for us to further examine Greek life on our campus - where we are and where we'd like to be.

The task force will also examine current practices surrounding internal governance and accountability of Greek organizations campus councils; review recruitment and education of new Greek organization members; assess current policies and practices for social, educational and other activities engaged in by Greek organizations; and review university governance and oversight of Greek organizations. 

Members of the task force are as follows: 


  • Bob Plybon of Greensboro; CEO of Plybon & Associates, ECU alumnus, member of ECU Board of Trustees
  • Kandie Smith of Greenville; member of the Greenville City Council and & immediate past president and social action chair of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority


  • Rhys Collins of Cary, ECU student and president of the Interfraternity Council
  • Katy Houser of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ECU student and president of the Panhellenic Association
  • Jeff Foster of Greenville, Pitt County Superior Court judge and member of ECU Board of Visitors
  • Kelly Joyner of Greenville, ECU alumna and local advisor to Alpha Delta Pi sorority
  • Carolina Juanico-Cela of Winston-Salem, ECU student and president of the Multicultural Greek Council
  • Jordan Koonts of Raleigh, ECU student, president of ECU Student Government Association
  • Vonta Leach of Fayetteville, ECU alumnus, former ECU and NFL football player, member of Omega Psi Phi
  • Fielding Miller of Raleigh, CEO of CAPTRUST, ECU alumnus, member of ECU Board of Trustees
  • KJ Staton of Greenville, ECU student and president of the National Panhellenic Council
  • Jon Barnwell, Chief of ECU Police
  • John Mountz, director of Greek life at ECU
  • Doug Schneider, ECU professor in the College of Business and faculty advisor to Alpha Delta Pi sorority
  • Catherine Staton, Greek life advocate
  • Megan Ayers, assistant secretary to the Board of Trustees

In order to accomplish its charge, the task force will collect information, review documents, listen to presentation by subject matter experts, engage in open forums, and lead individual targeted discussions. I am asking the task force to provide a final report, including any recommendations to me by December 14, 2018. 


A Day for Reflection

Every January, we honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with special events and a national holiday marking his birth. Today, we honor his extraordinary life on the 50th anniversary of his death. It was on this day in 1968 that Rev. King was assassinated in Memphis. I was a 10-year-old boy in an elementary school in Greenville, S.C., on that tragic day, and I remember clearly how his death turned the world upside down. We are still challenged today to see all of his dreams come true, but those of us who are old enough to remember know we are a much better world because of the life he lived. I encourage our campus community to spend some time today reflecting on his words of hope, solidarity, non-violence, civility and peace. It’s a message that resonates as strongly today as it did a half century ago. 

Dr. Cecil P. Staton

These days at East Carolina University, “progress” is almost too modest a term for what we are achieving. It is a promising time, a fortuitous time, for the Pirate Nation—for our students, faculty, staff, community, supporters and friends. We are in the process of taking a substantial step forward. As we set sail in a new year and a new era, we pause to assess the ground we gained in 2017 and resolve to build upon our success to ensure an even bolder and brighter future for ECU.

Our university has experienced growth physically, but more importantly we have embraced our mission with renewed energy and determination. We are poised to reach a pinnacle of service and impact regionally, nationally, and globally. We are well along the journey toward becoming America’s next great national university. We have attained significant progress in the areas of our comprehensive campaign, construction and expansion, exciting research activity, globalization, rural prosperity initiatives and unveiling a new brand. We have shown that we are not afraid to seek and create new solutions, to test the waters of greatness and to capture the horizons we strive to reach.

We are producing sophisticated, globally aware graduates who have immersed themselves in their fields of study in order to become better stewards and servants in their communities. We are attracting and retaining faculty and professionals who are experts in their fields and we are providing facilities and resources on our campuses that are second to none in their value and impact.

There is much more work ahead! We will continue to grow in 2018, in every way and in every direction. There is no limit to where we can sail this pirate ship. We encourage you to join us on our promising journey toward ever increasing impact and greatness. 

Dr. Cecil P. Staton

The holidays are a perfect time for spiritual reflection, rest, good food, and warm fellowship with family and friends.

As we prepare for the joys of the holidays and anticipate the promise of a new year, we offer our gratitude for the dedicated alumni and friends of ECU, for our world-class faculty, our dedicated staff and administration, and our wonderfully diverse student scholars, athletes, and performers.

Catherine joins me in extending to all our very best wishes for a safe and restful holiday season.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Cecil P. Staton, Chancellor

It's a busy time of year. Cooler weather, falling leaves, and the last home football game behind us, we see the final days of the fall semester approaching. Exams are just around the corner. Fortunately, this week brings the wonderful holiday tradition of Thanksgiving and time to enjoy family, fellowship, too much food, and a few days of rest.


As we prepare for this well-deserved break it is a good time to pause and give thanks. ECU has much to be grateful for. We are a vital university well along our journey toward becoming America's next great national university.


Our enrollment this fall reached another all-time high. Our retention rate is the highest ever. Our student athletes have achieved their highest GPA ever. Our $500 million comprehensive campaign is making great progress as significant gifts and investment in ECU come into view. Our campus is in the process of transformation as we watch our $122 million student union rise from the ground. The Dowdy-Ficklen $60 million renovation begins in earnest, and we are finalizing plans for our new $90 million life science building, which will soon be underway.


Our faculty are receiving recognition for their research and teaching. Our students are engaged in ground-breaking research with practical implications for our region. Our colleges and schools are being recognized for their quality and performance. We are a university on the move and our trajectory is toward greatness.


As we prepare for Thanksgiving, I want to thank you for your role in ECU's success and dramatic achievements. I am grateful for a world-class faculty and staff that is committed to student success, public service, and regional transformation. I am grateful for engaged students who are preparing to change the world and capture their horizon. And I am grateful for wonderful alumni who are investing in ECU's future. Every day I see examples of ECU's successes and glimpses of the future that is ahead for this wonderful university.


Pirate nation is strong, committed, and undaunted. I hope you enjoy your holiday and find a few moments to remember why there is so much to be grateful for.


Happy Thanksgiving and go Pirates! 

Dr. Cecil P. Staton

At the conclusion of his remarks to the Board of Trustees on September 15, 2017, Chancellor Staton addressed the issue of ECU Athletics:

ECU loves to win. We have lots of stories we share with each other about great victories in this university’s athletic history, wins that are sometimes against extraordinary odds.  We’ve learned that we can get that “W” on any field of competition – at any time — and that’s for good reason. We’ve done it before. We are Pirates, after all.  

Let there be no doubt; we’re going to get back to our winning ways in football. But as we’ve struggled in recent weeks, my wife Catherine and I talk often about the unique place the two of us are in, one that most fans haven’t experienced. That’s the personal one-to-one time we have with our student athletes. It’s nothing like their time with coaches, but we’ve been on the field, we’ve traveled with them, sometimes on the bus, other times on the plane, sometimes in the hallway of a hotel. Sometimes we’re together before a game or at the conclusion of a game. And we never lose sight of the fact that it’s a rare privilege to spend time with people who work so hard to be the best they can be on the field, at the same time working hard to earn an education at a top national university. That’s a tough task, and there are very few of us who could be successful with those kinds of demands. But we have some remarkable student athletes at ECU.  And I can assure you, no one wants to win more than they and their coaches do, on the field and in the classroom. 

My more optimistic self knows that fans would behave differently if they knew these young people the way we do. But we live in a time when people can hide behind anonymity and say hurtful things they’re unlikely to say face to face. That’s the downside of social media and radio call-in shows.  I am too often appalled at what I see and hear in these venues. And I’ve encouraged our coaches and athletes to ignore it. Unfortunately, there are times when they just can’t avoid it. And that’s a shame. 

It’s been difficult for our football team and for Pirate Nation the last couple of weeks, but let me tell you what Catherine and I are going to do.  We are going to put our arms around our student athletes and love them.  We are going to express our appreciation and admiration for the fact that they get up each day, take classes, and still find time to work out, practice, and prepare with all their hearts to be the best they can be on the field and in class. Frankly, I don’t know how they do what they do.  

I hope you will join me in loving them and appreciating them for their dedication and determination. They are undaunted, and I urge all of us to remain undaunted, as well.  We want to be competitive on the field of competition. All of us do. But we also want the best for our athletes, whether it’s on the field, in the classroom or in life after college. Let’s support them across the board. And let’s be sure they know we’re supporting them. 

Catherine and I are going to stand behind our student athletes – home or away, win or lose. They are family, after all. They are friends. They are Pirates. And we are Pirate Nation.

We’ll get through whatever challenges the year brings, and our fans know that. I’m pleased that they are sticking with our long-term vision, whatever comes our way.  Their support, and my support, for our Southside Stadium expansion is unwavering. I salute these loyal Pirates and our athletics staff for nearly $15 million in philanthropy. I also salute the many Pirates who have stepped up to reserve their boxes and suites, far more than initial projections anticipated this far into the program. That’s what makes us Pirate Nation. That’s what makes me very proud. 

Go Pirates.

The Trump administration's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which protected children of undocumented immigrants from deportation, is especially concerning to university leaders, who have witnessed the hard work of so many young people who are simply trying to develop the skills that will make them even stronger contributors to our communities. These students have become respected participants in university life across America, and it's important that they know we value their contributions and encourage their continued hard work toward a degree. While the decision to end DACA has created uncertainty for them, we are hopeful that Congress will act quickly to address the issue. In the meantime, we join other North Carolina universities who are supporting our students fully, and we support the efforts of our higher education association, APLU, as it lobbies Congress and the Trump administration to address this issue quickly.

North Carolina's public universities are united in our support for all students. We will be receiving guidance from UNC System President Margaret Spellings in coming days, and we will keep you updated as there are developments that directly affect us. Rest assured that we will continue to be engaged on this issue during the weeks ahead.

As always, we have and will continue to offer support services to our students. ECU offers our students legal advice through Student Legal Services (SLS) which is part of the Dean of Students Office.  SLS is not affiliated with the University Attorney's Office and is an advisory service for students.  Click here to visit the SLS website or you can call (252) 756-3800.  In addition, students can contact the Center for Counseling and Student Development to speak with trained, professional counselors to deal with the stress/anxiety they are feeling. Visit or call (252) 328-6662 to set up an appointment. The Dean of Students office is also available to assist students (252-328-9297; ). Other resources on campus include the Office of Equity and Diversity (252) 328-6804 or the Office of Global Affairs at (252) 328-1426.

Over the past week, we have yet again witnessed nature’s ability to cause enormous damage, lost lives and life-changing tragedy. Pirates know the pain and suffering that hurricanes can inflict. Pirates also know how to support others in a time of need.

As America rallies to support those suffering in Texas and Louisiana, our thoughts turn to our brothers and sisters in higher education, especially our American Athletic Conference friends at the University of Houston, where 43,000 students, faculty and staff are dealing with the aftermath of the hurricane.

I call upon the entire Pirate Nation to support relief efforts that have special meaning to you, but also to consider supporting our university friends in Houston. We have experienced this kind of loss in eastern North Carolina. And we understand how meaningful it is when your friends are there for you in tough times.

Here is how you can help:

Give to University of Houston. University leaders tell us donated funds will be used to help UH students who experience hardships as a result of the storm. Visit the University of Houston giving page at and indicate “Harvey Relief.”

Give to Hurricane Victims. The American Red Cross depends on donations to provide immediate relief. You can donate by visiting, calling 1-800-RED CROSS, or texting the word HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Give Blood. The American Red Cross needs eligible individuals to please give blood or platelets now to help ensure we have a readily available blood supply for patients in need. Appointments can be made by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting, or calling 1-800-RED CROSS. 

Additional efforts to support those affected by Harvey are underway across the university. Stay informed by following ECU, Student Affairs, and Athletics on social media.

To any students, faculty, or staff who may have family in the affected areas know that counseling services are available. For students, if you are from that area and need assistance, contact your resident advisor or any Campus Living staff member, the Office of the Dean of Students at 252-328-9297 or email at, as well as ECU Center for Counseling at 252-328-6661. Faculty and staff may contact the Employee Assistance Program through ECU Human Resources.

Please keep all affected by this disaster in your hearts and minds because as we know in eastern North Carolina, the aftermath of a hurricane lasts long after the flood waters recede.

Thank you.

Good morning and welcome to the 2017-2018 academic year. It's great to see you back as we prepare to welcome what will likely be a new record fall enrollment of over 29,000 students.

I think it's important to begin my remarks today by extending a heart-felt, virtual embrace to our colleagues at the University of Virginia - and to other colleges and universities across America who know the personal pain when civil, respectful discourse falls prey to bigotry, racism, and violence. The heartbreaking news from Charlottesville is only the latest evidence that the hard work of teaching civility and respect must become a national priority, with our leaders and our universities setting the best examples.

Let me state very clearly, our university condemns bigotry, racism, prejudice, and violence as represented by extreme groups in our country. As University of Virginia President Sullivan stated this weekend, "Violence is not Free Speech." Our commitment is to set an example of what is best about a university.

I want to welcome some new members of our great team today. We have two new Deans and a new Vice Chancellor: Dr. Harry Ploehn, Dean, College of Engineering and Technology, comes to us from the University of South Carolina, Dr. Mark Stacy, Dean, Brody School of Medicine, comes by way of Duke, and Dr. Jay Golden, Vice Chancellor for Research, Economic Development, and Engagement, comes also by way of Duke. Let's welcome them. And then we welcome almost 120 new, full-time faculty. Let's have them stand and be recognized.

Welcome! We're glad you have joined the 5,800 Pirates who work and serve here. Welcome to ECU: America's next great national university.

I remember very clearly a day way back in 1989, when I stepped onto a college campus as a faculty member for the first time. It was a dream come true, and I was energized by the opportunity to teach, learn and change lives. This time of year also triggers vivid memories of the faculty members who became my mentors and friends when I was a student. They were very special people who invested in my life and dreams, and I will always be grateful.

We welcome you to an institution with high aspirations, a place committed to scaling even greater heights, to be one of America's great national universities. There are some who feel that statement is a bit of a stretch, maybe even a big stretch. But they'll come around. Let me be unequivocal. I came to this place because of the potential I saw. I saw greatness first-hand during the search process, and I wanted very much to be a part of it. And nothing has dissuaded me over the course of my first year as your 11th chancellor.

I think it's important to take a few minutes to share with new faculty and remind our veteran faculty of just a few achievements that are making this a great national university.

  • I'll start by publically congratulating our College of Engineering and Technology's Department of Computer Science for the $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to research new ways to teach computer science and to improve graduation and retention rates within the discipline. This is the largest total ever awarded to the college. Dr. Venkat Gudivada, chair of the Department of Computer Science, is the principal investigator.

  • Here's another example national leadership. The Teachers of Quality Academy, which grew out of a $1 million AMA grant, is teaching Brody School of Medicine faculty how they can better train future doctors, not only how to care for patients but also how to work within the systems and processes of current health care so they're doubly effective. This approach has generated widespread national attention and an inquiry from AMA about co-branding this initiative as a national program.

  • How about the Lay Health Coaching Curriculum, an innovative partnership between Brody and the Colleges of Health and Human Performance and Nursing? This program identifies and teaches people in rural and under-developed communities how to be a health coach for other members of their communities and quickly identify when professional care is needed and how to navigate the healthcare system to get it. It's sure to become a national model, as well.

  • Let's switch to physics, one of my favorite subjects. Did you know that ECU Professor Yong-Qing Li just broke his own world record by pulling a particle 10 meters with a laser beam, a feat that opens up all kinds of possibilities for space exploration?

  • And then there's doctoral student Daniel Wilkinson's synthesis of a molecule, opening possibilities for treating MS and other diseases, and doctoral student Daniel Ladin's cancer-fighting compound, which could become a topical skin-cancer treatment. Both diseases are getting national attention, and our students are part of finding the cures.

The list goes on and on…

  • A collaborative initiative by the College of Nursing - working with the College of Engineering and Technology -has joined the national effort to battle dementia and Alzheimer's disease by improving early detection.

  • The College of Education has been ranked in the top 10 percent nationally for secondary education programs, 15th of 560 for educational leadership programs, and 10th of 780 for elementary education degree programs. The College also ranked in the top 10 percent nationally in the 2016 National Council on Teacher Quality report, which rates preparation of high school teachers by undergraduate programs.

  • Here's a number that shows how well our students compare nationally… Our new nurses have a 96 percent first time pass rate, 9 points above the national average. And our athletic training education program boasted a 100 percent pass rate on their board exam in Spring 2017. The national pass average is 81 percent.

  • Congrats to Dr. Jon Kirchoff, who produced one of the 10 most downloaded papers in the Journal of Supply Chain Management and has been named to two editorial boards of national supply chain journals. Kudos to Dr. Tracy Tuten, whose book on social media marketing won a national award for textbook excellence and Dr. Kimberly Luchtenberg, who won the 2016 Manuscript Prize Award in the real estate investment category from the American Real Estate Society.

  • In the College of Fine Arts and Communication, senior music education major Lauren Lewis was selected as one of only two 2017 recipients of the Shannon Kelly Kane Scholarship and a national collegiate achievement award. Just a few weeks ago, the college demonstrated its leadership once again, hosting the ECU International Summer Guitar Festival, featuring guitarists from Italy, Switzerland, Canada, Cuba and across the United States.

  • ECU's Department of Economics is No. 2 among 18 peer institutions for faculty who are published and have been cited, and it's No. 3 for grant dollars.

  • The Maritime Studies Program has for three consecutive years placed No. 1 in producing professionally registered scholars in the field.

  • Our own Distinguished Research Professor Dr. Roger Rulifson, in the Department of Biology, has become one of the nation's most important and influential fisheries biologists, with over 100 published papers, more than 50 research students trained and over $7 million in grants.

  • Dr. Chris Geyer has become another leader in his field, with more than $2 million in NIH grants and the New Investigator Award from the Society for the Study of Reproduction.

  • Dr. Liza Wieland, professor of English, was named the winner of The Fellowship of Southern Writers 2017 Robert Penn Warren Award for Fiction. And Dr. Benjamin Fraser, professor of Spanish and chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature has won the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society's highest award, conferred annually to only two or three individuals worldwide.

Wow, I'm certain I've left out many other important examples of national leadership and other evidence that ECU is America's next great national university. But that's the point. We could go on and on with examples, and I encourage you to send more to me. I want to be sure we're sharing that news across this state, this country, and the globe. Let's congratulate these and other ECU faculty, staff, and students, who are leading the way as we become America's next great national university!

Look, we are not perfect, and we deal with all the challenges public universities face today; things like constrained state funding, resulting salary compression, advancing technology and innovation, student debt, freedom of speech and academic freedom issues, and quickly evolving workforce needs, just to name a few. That is all baked into the unpredictability of 2017. But we are here because we are committed to the grandest of enterprises: higher education. Every day, we change lives. That's the vision that inspires us.

Now, let's take a few moments to think about the year just past, and about the year ahead.

2016-2017 was an amazing time for me, filled with some soul-searching, assessment, and goal-setting, and culminating in installation week back in March. I've drawn from this last year one overriding conclusion: If North Carolina didn't have ECU, state leaders would have to go out and build it. We are responsible for putting more business leaders into our economy than any other institution in the state, more teacher and education leaders into public education than any other institution in the state, more nurses, more allied health professionals, more dentists and doctors into rural and underserved areas of North Carolina, more engaged and capable citizens into our workforce and communities, and I could go on and on.

But we've got a challenge. Not everyone is aware of how vital ECU really is. Our story sometimes doesn't make it west of I-95. We're about to address that problem through an aggressive re-branding program that will encompass everything from our logo and website to advertising, social media and media relations. We will lift up the ECU brand. And more people across North Carolina, our stake holders, our layers of governance, those involved in state government, and even the world of higher education in general, will know and understand what ECU has become and what we aspire to be.

Another important development last year took place at our November Board of Trustees meeting. Our trustees did something that we'll look back on in a few years as one of the most important decisions in ECU's 110-year history. The board voted to accept our recommendation to launch an ambitious $500 million comprehensive fundraising campaign for ECU. If ECU is to be a great American university, we must do what all great universities do-raise the resources to advance our vision. We are currently in the quiet phase of that campaign.

This past year we raised approximately $50 million. That's double just a few years ago. Think about that. We raise about $1 million dollars a week on average, but we must do more! Our campaign will focus on a couple of big capital projects, but it will also be about scholarships, endowed chairs, research, internationalization, and increasing our endowment, which is a woefully inadequate $200 million.

Last year I announced that research would become more of a priority at ECU. Let me add that the administration and governance of the UNC system has indicated that ECU must step up its research activities. As the third largest institution in the system, and the only UNC institution with a medical school, a dental school, and a college of engineering and technology, that should come as no surprise. Let's review...

Sponsored programs continue to provide funding for basic and applied research and instructional and service activities. Grant and contract expenditures totaled $38.4 million in FY16-17, and awards received totaled $45.5 million. ECU Physicians and Brody School of Medicine contracts account for another $53.5 million, bringing the total of external funds awarded to over $99 million in FY16-17.

I have set out an ambitious goal at ECU to double our research awards and expenditures in the next five years.

Numerous initiatives are underway under the leadership of our new Vice Chancellor for Research, Economic Development, and Engagement, Dr. Jay Golden, who is working hard to ensure we meet this goal and continue the growth and prominence of research at ECU well into the future. One example of his work is the recent launching of our 6 Strategic Research Clusters, which harness the intellectual strengths of faculty from across the university.

These include:
  1. Precision Medicine

  2. Biomedical Sciences and Engineering

  3. Human Health & Disease

  4. Marine and Coastal Systems

  5. Health Behavior and,

  6. Energy & Natural Resources

We are relying on each of you, our faculty, to help further define the initial focus for each of these clusters and, to work across the campus in making them into nationally recognized research programs.

Finally, we are also making progress on developing our Millennial Campus, which will be a primary asset for accelerating creative collisions and collaborations between our faculty and with industry. The goal of the Millennial campus is to create a new generation of innovative technologies and solutions that address the pressing issues of our region and beyond.

This past year also saw a new emphasis upon internationalization at ECU. A highlight of my year was traveling to Washington, DC, to receive on behalf of ECU a Senator Paul Simon Award from NAFSA, for ECU's important Global Academic Initiative program, which partners with 62 institutions in 33 countries to provide an interactive, student-driven global experience for about 300 ECU students each semester.

We also welcomed Dr. Jon Rezek as our new Executive Director of Global Affairs. We have set an ambitious goal to double the number of ECU students who participate in an international experience from the current 12.5% to 25% within five years. It will be a priority of our comprehensive campaign to raise resources that will allow more ECU students to have an international experience.

Here's another major development during the past year. Perhaps you read the news regarding our work on what we call Project Unify. Project Unify is an agreement reached between ECU and Vidant Health to bring under one new umbrella organization our physician practice plans. For many years ECU, through Brody, has operated a physician practice plan which today has about 430 physicians and health-care practitioners, together with about 1,000 staff, including nurses, who provide primary and specialty health care services to patients while also serving as the principal clinical teaching setting for our third and fourth year medical students. Vidant has a similar sized practice plan. Under the terms of Project Unify both plans will come together as an associated entity of the university. Its purpose will be to support the work of the Brody School of Medicine and our mission of providing a healthcare and physician workforce for rural and underserved areas of North Carolina. As an additional benefit, ECU will receive an upfront payment of $35 million, which will be committed to our endowment, and a guaranteed annual mission support payment for Brody of $14.25 million annually for 30 years.

Now I'll comment briefly on legislative issues. This past academic year, in addition to system wide goals of funding enrollment growth, funding salary increases, and eliminating further budget reductions, we had several specific goals for our institution. Among those were securing an additional $4 million in recurring funding for the Brody School of Medicine, securing funding for enrollment growth at Brody, and securing advanced planning money for a new medical education and research facility. The system prerogatives were generally successful, though leadership at GA and certainly on this campus is well aware that minimal salary increases do not make up for the difficult years that have been endured without increases. It is no small step, however, that we secured full enrollment growth funding, as well as no management flexibility reduction for this year. Recurring dollars are always hard to come by, so I am grateful for legislative leaders who took the lead for ECU, including our own Representative Dr. Greg Murphy.

With only two raises for faculty in eight years, there is much to be done to close the gap with our peers in faculty compensation. The 17 institutions of the UNC system are our state's crown jewels. And our faculty and staff are the reasons we are successful. I pledge my continuing support and efforts to secure the resources to recruit and retain the very best for the faculty and staff of ECU.

Let's talk about some of big construction projects now underway-or soon to be. We recently dedicated a $37 million Student Center on the Health Sciences Campus. And if you have not visited it, you should. Very soon, about one year from now, we will open our new $122 million Student Union. Also, the fall of 2018 will bring the opening of our Southside Stadium Expansion, which is going to ensure a national caliber game day experience at Dowdy-Ficklen. A year later, in July 2019, construction on our new life sciences building will begin, with an anticipated completion in October 2021. And then something that has been planned for some time, our new to be named either the School of Population Health or Public Health, will be accredited and operational by the Fall of 2021.

This past year UNC-General Administration and the Board of Governors went through a strategic planning process that led to a new plan launched in February. Following this process, I appointed a Strategic Planning Executive Working Group to review and update our own plan through 2022. I am grateful for the leadership of Dr. Chris Locklear and Dr. Laura Gantt, who have served as co-chairs for this group and process, and for the committee members who have invested so much of their time to it.

As part of planning, we continue to negotiate with GA regarding a performance matrix that we will be measured by, and you'll see from this slide that there is a determined focus on things like research, graduation rates, as well as our success with students from rural areas of NC and from low-income households. The good news is that our own strengths, mission, and commitments coincide nicely with much of the UNC-GA plan. As you leave, please be sure to pick up a copy of the purple book, our Strategic Plan Extension. We also have an ECU pin for you.

There is an old Chinese curse which paraphrased says, "May you live in interesting times." This curse was made popular after Robert F. Kennedy used the phrase in a speech in 1966. He said, "Like it or not, we do live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty; but they are also the most creative of any time in the history of mankind."

I think that you will all agree that we are living in most interesting times right now, and we might even prefer a much stronger adjective. It has been said that it is the nature of universities to be chaotic places. But we are one of the few places where diverse people, with diverse backgrounds, interests, and beliefs, have an opportunity to engage in seeking a better understanding of and a brighter future for the world. At ECU, we continue to set a model for civil discourse. And we continue to prepare our students as agents of positive change.

A window of opportunity for the next generation of Pirates begins with us today. ECU is prepared to advance as a national and global leader in higher education. And we are as strong and prepared as we've ever been to live up to our mission: Servire, To Serve.

With this window of opportunity open before us, it's important that we capture that horizon. It's what Pirates do! Welcome back and have a great year!

Robert F. Kennedy used a now-famous phrase in a speech in 1966 when he said, “There is a Chinese curse, which says ‘May he live in interesting times.’” Kennedy continued, “Like it or not, we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty; but they are also the most creative of any time in the history of mankind.” 

Though Kennedy’s generation had ample reason to believe they lived in extraordinary times of pain, danger, and uncertainty, we might very well assume the same for our day. This weekend, like many of you, I watched with disbelief the events in Charlottesville. Everyone who works in an American college or university shares the pain our brothers and sisters at the University of Virginia feel today.

When violence erupts, the evidence of our national failure in teaching and embracing the critical importance of civil discourse and the rejection of hate, bigotry, and violence is stark and gut-wrenching. The heartbreaking development in Charlottesville this weekend is only the latest evidence that the hard work of teaching and embracing a more noble way forward must become a national priority, with our leaders and our universities setting the best examples. Our thoughts and prayers are with the many people who have been hurt both physically and emotionally by the weekend’s events. I have extended our encouragement, our prayers and our offer of support to University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan.

Let me state unequivocally, our university condemns bigotry, prejudice, and violence. As University of Virginia President Sullivan stated this weekend, “Violence is not Free Speech.” Instead we celebrate our diversity as a reflection of the beautiful world we live in, and we embrace civil discourse as the most noble environment for the advancement of human knowledge. As we prepare to welcome our freshmen this week, and eventually more than 29,000 pirates to our beloved university, our commitment is to set an example of what is best about a university. 

We may live in interesting times, but we can choose the path we follow as a community of students and scholars. To our faculty and staff, thank you for your commitment to our students and their success, to public service, and regional transformation. Together, we can make sure these days are instead among the most creative in history as we prepare our students to make a positive difference in the world they will inherit.

March 22, 2017

Welcome to installation week! Nine months ago, Catherine and I moved to Greenville to take up my position as Chancellor of ECU. Those nine months have passed quickly and we've learned much about ECU, our superlative faculty, students, and alumni, the great support for ECU throughout this community, and the trajectory of this great university. Candidly, we've been welcomed by several interesting challenges during these early months. We've even survived our first hurricane, though what's a little hurricane to a pirate, right?

We've learned that as pirates we are "undaunted." We are fearless and unafraid to grasp opportunity. And we give "no quarter" to those who oppose Pirate Nation. But most of all, we have learned that the horizon for this institution is boundless. ECU is well on its way to becoming America's next great national university. I believe there is no limit to where we can sail this pirate ship! What does that mean, how do we get there, and what could stand in our way?

ECU is uniquely North Carolina's university. We boast the largest business school in the state. We put more allied health professionals and nurses into NC healthcare than any other institution. When you take our bachelors, masters and doctoral students in the College of Education, we put more educators into NC schools than any other institution. Our doctors and dentists are leading the way in providing healthcare in much needed underserved and rural areas of our state. We have wonderful performers, artists, and athletes who inspire us. We produce engaged citizens who will serve and improve their communities. 29,000 students strong, we have more than 5,800 faculty and staff, and more than 165,000 alumni. There is much to be proud of, but we haven't reached our horizon yet.

ECU is now 110 years old. As I anticipate being installed officially as chancellor on Friday, I am humbled by our history and heritage, and yet the opportunities that are before us are profound. Many challenges confront public higher education today as we prepare to address societal challenges and changes of unimaginable complexity. But no university has more assets or potential than ECU. If we can avoid distractions, small-mindedness, and sometimes even personal self-interest, we have enormous potential. If we can focus on innovation, quality, research, and international opportunities for more of our students, preparing them to be critical thinkers, problem solvers, and able to work collaboratively, our horizon is unlimited. And then there is the need to do what all great universities do, and what makes universities great-raise the resources and endowments to fuel our ambition for success. Our new $500 million capital campaign can take us there.

If we do these things, nothing can stand in the way of ECU achieving its destiny of greatness. America's next great national university is here-ECU! We are proud to be along for this journey. There are plenty of seats on this pirate ship. All hands on deck! Let's capture the horizon!

Cecil P. Staton, 


January 30, 2017

Many questions and concerns have arisen as a result of the Jan. 27 Executive Order that temporarily impacts citizens, including visa and green card holders, of seven countries – Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen – from entering the United States. The order also directed the U.S. Secretary of State to suspend the refugee admission program for 120 days and to suspend all refugee processing of Syrian nationals.

As a large, research university with students and faculty members from around the world on our campus, we know the value of having fellow citizens of the world beside us in our classroom and in our labs and clinics. They are an essential part of our campus, and our university is enriched by having them here. I want to offer my personal support for all of our international students and colleagues.

While the exact impact of the Executive Order on our campus is still being evaluated today, our review indicates that fewer than 20 members of the ECU community (faculty/staff/students) could be directly affected. At this time, we would advise students and employees who are nationals of the countries identified in the order to refrain from traveling outside the United States.

We will continue to work with our colleagues in the UNC system and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, along with federal and state representatives in monitoring and evaluating the implications from this decision. We will update the university community as more information becomes available.

If you are directly affected by the Executive Order, please let us know if you need assistance and we will do our best to help you. If you have concerns or questions, university resources stand ready to offer guidance. If you are a student, contact the Office of Global Affairs and the Dean of Students office; and for employees, contact the director of Immigration Services. 

For more information, you may also wish to review the following statements from the UNC system and APLU.

In closing, I want to stress that we value all members of the university community and extend our support to international faculty, students and staff. We are committed to a diverse, inclusive campus. The East Carolina University tapestry is enriched by what each of us brings to the whole.

Chancellor Cecil Staton

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.

Cecil Staton

October 6, 2016

Dear Students:

It is an honor and a privilege to serve as the chancellor of your university. This is a challenging, but wonderful time to lead ECU.

In the past week our campus has been experiencing - in a very public, yet also personal way - something that campuses and communities across our country are struggling with: balancing the desire of individuals and groups to express themselves, and the obligation we as a university have to provide a safe and secure environment for everyone on our campus. As your chancellor, I have the responsibility to hold these two priorities together, even when in tension.

To our students, let me be perfectly clear: you have the right to express yourselves peacefully and responsibly, and the right to expect to do so without fear of intimidation or violence. I will not tolerate the mistreatment of any student, and anyone who perpetrates such mistreatment will be dealt with swiftly.

However, when necessary, I will also ensure that public safety is preserved and maintained for the benefit of all who are a part of our campus. The university has a responsibility, if necessary, to place reasonable constraints on the time, the place and the manner of expression or conduct, but within those constraints, the university respects and will defend that right.

We are an imperfect campus in an imperfect society. We know we must work harder on issues of equality and social justice, and I am proud that we have many ways to facilitate discourse in an intelligent, safe and responsible manner. I applaud these efforts and stand with you in your efforts to effect meaningful change.

As a university, we respect the First Amendment, and we encourage the open, even passionate discourse of the issues that are important to our students and faculty.  It is also important to acknowledge the deep relationship our university has with the military and the men and women who serve and have served. We share a mission of service, and each day on our campus we appreciate the people who live that mission. It is because of their commitment to our country that we as citizens have the right to express ourselves.

East Carolina has a long and very proud history of tackling some of our society's most challenging issues, from preparing doctors and dentists who practice in our state's underserved communities to preparing teachers who shape the future in hard-to-fill rural classrooms. Whether it is civil rights, women's issues, war and military actions, ECU has encouraged the members of our campus community to express their opinions and perspectives in an intelligent, responsible and peaceful way. After all, if these conversations can't happen on the campus of an American university, where can they?

Our students and faculty represent the best of what diversity - in terms of ethnic background, political affiliation, nationality, sexual identification - can bring to an institution of higher learning. We all benefit from the shared perspectives and experiences of others, whether we agree with them or not. A fundamental element of our core mission is to reflect a global workplace and society and to prepare students to succeed in varied and changing cultures.

Challenges will always be here. That's a good thing; they make us stronger and wiser. Whenever we are faced with challenges, we must come together, rationally, peacefully and thoughtfully, to work towards resolution and mutual respect. We will not always agree with one another - in fact, we shouldn't - but we must always be willing to come together, rise to be our best selves, and demonstrate what makes ECU the remarkable community we love.

So I'm asking everyone who is a part of East Carolina University - students, faculty, staff, administrators and our alumni and supporters - to join together in an effort to resolve our differences peacefully, respect the rights of others to express themselves peacefully, and work to find common ground that continues to strengthen ECU. We will continue to experience tension between the desire for expression and the obligation as a university to provide a safe and secure environment. Balancing that tension will continue to be an important part of our responsibility as we prepare our future leaders to embrace a complex and challenging world with dignity and integrity.

Cecil Staton

July 1, 2016

Today I am proud to be your chancellor, but I am even prouder to be part of the amazing Pirate Nation that my wife Catherine and I have been so warmly welcomed into since my election on April 27. The Pirate pride I see on and off the campus of East Carolina University has been palpable since I first visited during the search process. Subsequent visits and time on campus have confirmed what I feel to be true—that this is an extraordinary university with a wonderful future, poised for greatness.

I must express my gratitude to UNC President Margaret Spellings, the Board of Governors, the ECU Board of Trustees, and our search committee. I am grateful for the confidence they are placing in me.

As your chancellor, I recognize I am standing upon the tall shoulders of those who have gone before. I want to thank Chancellor Steve Ballard for his excellent leadership over the last 12 years. We all owe Steve and Nancy our gratitude for their impactful service and commitment to this great university.

These are challenging, yet dynamic times for public higher education. We face constrained funding, increased state and federal regulations, the disruptive nature of technology, demographic, economic, and workforce changes, and fierce competition. I join you today, however, because I believe East Carolina University is in a unique position not only to survive, but to thrive in the current climate of change. 

ECU has enormous assets: a superlative faculty, a broad and relevant range of colleges and schools, a student-centered staff, great athletic traditions, terrifically engaged and capable students, and wonderful community and alumni support. I am convinced that ECU can and will provide leadership while responding to the challenges facing public higher education. 

Today I ask you to join me in a renewed commitment to the innovation that must occur at every level of our work. In every way we interact with students, we must prepare them to live, work, and make a difference in today’s global, knowledge-based economy. ECU must always put students first.

Let us commit ourselves to resisting the lure to be “pretty good” at everything, and instead choose the path of innovation and excellence that will lead this institution to its destiny of greatness. While the waters of change may be shifting beneath us, we will remain committed to finding the next generation of solutions.

At ECU we will prepare the teachers for our schools and the nurses, dentists, and physicians for our hospitals and communities. We will educate the business leaders who advance our economy. We will nurture the artists and performers who inspire us. Each day, we will prepare educated and engaged citizens who will change our community, North Carolina, and the world.

I ask you to join me today in embracing our mission to be a comprehensive public research university while aspiring to be an innovative world-class institution. The measure of our success will be the dedication of our faculty and staff as well as the accomplishments of our students and their impact upon the world. 

We will pursue a growing research and discovery agenda that benefits the public good. We will assume fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, and cultural vitality, as well as the health and well-being of the community, state, and region we serve. And, we will embrace our student athletes and encourage them as they achieve excellence both in the classroom and on the field of competition. 

ECU has the assets to do all of that, and the greatest asset is the people who are East Carolina University, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Our aspirations are momentous as we seek to live out and fulfill the mission of ECU—servire, “to serve.” I am confident, however, that if we commit ourselves to these objectives, the future of ECU is secured and our potential impact for good is unlimited.

Catherine and I are so very proud to join Pirate Nation and to labor with you at this incredible university.

Go Pirates!

Cecil P. Staton