“Coach McNeill’s interview revealed his strong commitment to doing things the right way and his love of coaching young men to grow in every part of their lives,” athletic director Terry Holland said.
McNeill vowed to make sure his players graduate. “Again, I’m witness to graduating while playing football,” he said. “It will be done. It will be expected here. If I can do it, everyone can do it.”
McNeill concluded his 24th overall season at the collegiate level as Texas Tech’s interim head coach by rallying the No. 21 Red Raiders to a 41-31 victory over Michigan State at the Valero Alamo Bowl Jan. 2 after the dismissal of Mike Leach. Seen as a father figure by Texas Tech players, McNeill was credited with promoting a family-type atmosphere and disciplined instruction on the field. He said he wants to assure ECU parents that he will treat “their most prized possessions” as he would treat his own.
McNeill began his coaching career as a defensive coach at Lumberton High School from 1980–84, before entering graduate school at Clemson University in 1985 and becoming a linebackers coach there. He got his master’s in counseling from Clemson in 1987. McNeill later spent three seasons on the staff at Appalachian State and returned to Boone after a year as defensive line coach here in 1992. He was defensive coordinator at Appalachian from 1993–96.
At ECU, McNeill was a three-year starter at defensive back and was the team captain for two seasons. He helped lead ECU to the Southern Conference Championship in 1976 and an Independence Bowl berth in. McNeill and his wife, Erlene, have two daughters, Renata and Olivia, the latter of whom is a sophomore at Appalachian State.
Fewer freshmen dropping out
ast Carolina came within an eyelash of meeting its 2009 goal of raising its freshman-to-sophomore retention rate to 79 percent, ending the year with a 78.8 percent retention rate. That’s up from 75.9 percent in 2008. ECU will have to make a similar dramatic improvement to achieve its retention rate goal for 2010 of 81 percent, which is about the level that the UNC system now expects all campuses to achieve.
East Carolina also boosted its four-year graduation rate to 32.5 percent, up from 31 percent a year ago. Across all UNC campuses, 35.2 percent of students who enrolled in 2005 had graduated by 2009. UNC Chapel Hill is tops at 75.2 percent; UNC Wilmington has the second-best rate, at 42 percent.
The more typical way of evaluating graduation rates is after six years. ECU’s goal was to raise its six-year rate to 56.5 percent in 2009 and beat that by a fraction. The system-wide six-year graduation rate is 58.8 percent. By 2013 East Carolina hopes to graduate 60 percent of students within six years.
Increasing retention and graduation rates is a priority for UNC President Erskine Bowles. ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard is serving on a committee of six chancellors to recommend ways to do that. That panel is expected to issue its recommendations in March.
One of Bowles’ policies to improve both rates is to push more high school seniors toward community college, and then to transfer to a UNC campus after two years. At ECU, 68 percent of such students graduated two years after transferring. Most other campuses saw such high graduation rates among community college transfers.
A new corner for medicine rises in Greenville
nstruction boom continues to reshape the Health Sciences Campus, where the newest project, the Family Medicine Center (right
), is becoming visible as its steel skeleton rises on Arlington Boulevard near West Fifth Street. The site is adjacent to both the East Carolina Heart Institute at ECU, which opened last year, and the construction site for the new ECU dental school, which is scheduled to open in 2011. Those three buildings, along with the four-year-old Health Sciences Building behind them, form the northwest quadrant of the Health Sciences Campus near the Pitt County Memorial Hospital complex.
The Health Sciences Campus will have grown by more than 800,000 square feet by the time all the planned projects are finished next year—or well over one million square feet if you include the new six-story cardiac bed tower at nearby Pitt County Memorial Hospital. That’s about the same size as the entire Main Campus three miles away. The growth is triggering a lot of private development in the West Fifth Street corridor, with a new hotel and some restaurants and apartment complexes popping up there.
There’s more construction across Moye Boulevard at the eastern edge of the medical complex, where work progresses on Moye Medical II, a new three-story practice site also expected to open this fall as the new home of, among other specialties, bariatric surgery. The new facility will offer a first for the medical school—its own drive-through pharmacy. It’s the second of three planned leased buildings to consolidate ECU Physicians, the medical faculty practice plan, into modern facilities. Moye Boulevard itself had to be rerouted to make way for the facilities and a new steam plant.
West Fifth Street, the northern boundary of the Health Sciences Campus that becomes Highway 43, is being widened by the state Department of Transportation to improve access to the expanding list of medical facilities available there. The $3.9 million project is adding turn lanes and sidewalks to the thoroughfare. Separate projects will add a turn lane onto Arlington from Stantonsburg, with sidewalks along Arlington between Stantonsburg and West Fifth. State and city officials agreed to local demands that the highway improvement projects not disturb B’s Barbeque, which sits just west of the Health Sciences Campus on West Fifth. The medical campus expansion began in earnest in 2006 with the opening of the Health Sciences Building, the home of the colleges of Nursing and Allied Health Sciences and the Laupus Medical Library. Beside it quickly rose the East Carolina Heart Institute, which spans two buildings and two institutions, ECU and its teaching hospital, PCMH.
The East Carolina Heart Institute at ECU is a four-story, 206,000-square-foot, $60 million building housing offices and research labs for cardiologists, surgeons and scientists as well as outpatient and educational facilities. Many patients who go there had or will have their surgeries and hospitalizations at the new 375,000-square-foot, $160 million heart hospital a long block away at PCMH, which now faces the former location of Moye Boulevard, which was rerouted to make room for it.
The heart institute’s approach—bringing together medical specialties that are often separate—distinguishes it from other centers nationwide. The entire heart institute, including the hospital as well as ECU’s patient, research and education center, is under the direction of Dr. W. Randolph Chitwood Jr., senior associate vice chancellor for health sciences.
The next phase of the expansion of the Health Sciences Campus includes the new Family Medicine Center, which will serve 29 counties in eastern North Carolina that have some of the worst health indicators in the nation. When it opens this fall it will become a focal point of the university’s efforts to reverse those statistics. The existing Family Medical Center is more than 40 years old and has less than 30,000 square feet of space. Its 32 crowded exam rooms see 46,000 patients a year. The new center is four times bigger, has 60 exam rooms, a pharmacy, laboratory, geriatric center and more parking.
Meanwhile, at the Brody School of Medicine 78 students make up the class of 2013, up from 70 a few years ago. A state plan to expand Brody to 120 students, along with a concurrent expansion of the medical school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is on hold for now, awaiting better financial times in the state budget.
The Brody building, which opened in 1982, is bursting at the seams and a replacement is badly needed, says BSOM Dean Paul Cunningham. Estimated to cost $150 million, a new med school building would have enough classrooms, labs and student areas to accommodate anticipated enrollment spurt. “The rough estimate is that (North Carolina is) about 1,000 physicians short,” Cunningham says, adding that the doctor deficit likely will grow in the years ahead, given a growing but aging population and epidemic-level incidences of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
If ECU is to dramatically increase its annual crop of family doctors, it also will need many more partnerships with local hospitals, doctors offices and county health clinics where all the additional med students can intern during their third- and fourth-year rotations. Such sites are in short supply but there are possibilities for new ones, including the idea of co-locating them with dental students in the 10 remote clinics the dental school will operate. Another possibility often mentioned is a Brody presence in Wilmington in partnership with a local hospital or UNC Wilmington.
“There are potential sites where there is a patient population, a medical center or hospital and a willingness to be part of the education process,” Cunningham says. “It will require a model that will distribute students throughout the region during the last two years of their training.”
Dr. Phyllis Horns ’69, vice chancellor for health sciences, agrees there is an urgent need for more of the physicians that ECU specializes in. “Here at the Brody School of Medicine, we are recognized for preparing primary care physicians,” Horns says. “We have made that commitment and are working with our colleagues at the UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine to expand medical education throughout North Carolina.” ECU is also working with PCMH to expand residency-training slots, she says.
Even with all the growth, no plans are in the works for the medical school to claim college status. In 2007, Nursing and Allied Health Sciences became colleges, but medical school administrators have not made a similar request. For Cunningham, holding on to the traditional title means staying in touch with the medical school mission of service.
“We have an iconic name,” he says. “It is attractive to people, because of its uniqueness. It’s the Brody School of Medicine, which includes the name of an incredible philanthropic family. What is most visible is the fact that we educate—and education takes place in a school. We are admired across the country in the way that we educate doctors, and retain them in our region.”
—Marion Blackburn with contributions by John Durham and Doug Boyd
Soccer player to cancer survivor
n high school, Taylor Bell (right) was considered one of the best soccer players in the state. She made East Carolina’s soccer team as a freshman, but her coaches were puzzled by her dwindling stamina. She couldn’t complete a fitness test of ten 120-yard runs in less than 18 seconds each. By Christmas, she was in too much pain to play anymore, but doctors couldn’t pinpoint a cause.
Then she came down with pneumonia. She had a chest X-ray at Student Health Services and a physician’s assistant found a spot on her lung that was attributed to the pneumonia. Later, she was struck with pain so severe she thought she had appendicitis or a cracked rib. A CT scan showed her left lung was collapsed and doctors found a tumor there.
Bell, who had never smoked a cigarette in her life, had lung cancer. She underwent surgery to remove a portion of her lung, and now she’s cancer-free. “I’m good to go. There’s an 85 percent chance it won’t return.”
After interning fall semester in the office of Rep. Walter Jones, she will graduate in May with a degree in political science and wants to be a lobbyist, a line of work that she already has had some success with.
Last fall she walked into the Washington office of Sen. Kay Hagan and left with Hagan’s promise to co-sponsor legislation Bell is supporting called the Lung Cancer Mortality Reduction Act of 2009. Among other provisions, it would expand research and prevention programs with the goal of cutting very high mortality rates by 50 percent by 2016. She got a commitment from her local congressman, Rep. Mike McIntyre, to champion the bill in the House of Representatives.
“It was an awesome experience,” Bell said of her meeting with the senator, which was arranged by the Lung Cancer Alliance. “Sen. Hagan immediately recognized me” because Bell and Hagan’s daughter, Carrie, had played soccer against each other on traveling teams as teenagers.
Dusty Donaldson of High Point, also a lung-cancer survivor, went with Bell to the meeting with Hagan. When Bell told her story, Donaldson said, Hagan “was moved by compassion. You could see a mother’s heart in Sen. Hagan, like ‘This could be my daughter.’”
When Bell asked Hagan to co-sponsor the bill, Donaldson added, the senator said, “‘Well, of course I will.’ It was really sweet. We all just hugged and thanked her.” Hagan recalled it as an emotional meeting. “I made sure I had a box of tissues out.”
“Taylor is an incredible spokesperson for lung-cancer survivors,” Hagan affirmed. “She can really articulate the need for research.”
Route chosen for campus gateway
fter more than 20 years of debate, an exact route has been chosen for Greenville’s 10th Street Connector, a $48.6 million roadway that will create an attractive new gateway to Main Campus for drivers coming into the city via US 264. The roadway will have the added benefit of linking Main Campus with the Health Sciences Campus, which now are separated by a couple miles of congested city streets. The four-lane roadway will have a planter median, sidewalks, bike lanes and a bridge over railroad tracks where trains often block all traffic.
A steering committee composed of city officials and representatives of ECU, Pitt County Memorial Hospital (PCMH) and the N.C. Department of Transportation selected the route in November at the conclusion of a series of community meetings. Final environmental impact studies should be completed this spring, with right-of-way acquisition beginning in May 2011. Construction is slated to begin in November 2013.
There now are essentially two ways to get to Main Campus from the west. The much longer but more attractive route is to exit US 264 at Greenville Boulevard and follow it, through many stoplights, to its intersection with Charles Boulevard near the football stadium. The shorter route is to continue on US 264 Business past PCMH, cross Memorial Boulevard and follow Farmville Road to its intersection with 14th Street, and from there down 14th Street to Charles Boulevard. While this route is much shorter, it can be confusing and takes drivers through one of Greenville’s most blighted areas.
The new roadway will start out following the latter route until the intersection of Farmville Road and 14th Street. There, a new corridor will arch southeast and connect with 10th Street near its intersection with Dickinson Avenue.
The chosen route will require the demolition of about 30 houses, 24 businesses, structures housing seven small non-profits and one church. The state will provide compensation and relocation assistance for displaced homeowners and renters. The Greenville City Council also allotted funds to compensate homeowners and is exploring similar compensation for affected business owners.
City and state officials have been considering ways to improve east-west traffic flow into the city since 1984. The project languished until a couple of years ago when the city, PCMH and ECU agreed to each contribute $2 million to a fund that would jumpstart work on the new roadway. William Bagnell, associate vice chancellor for campus operations and the ECU representative on the corridor task force, said he’s been impressed by the teamwork shown by the parties.
Besides improving access to Main Campus, the project also will significantly ease traffic around PCMH and shorten the commutes of many hospital workers who live in nearby Winterville and Ayden.
ECU introduces new mark
ow that East Carolina has concluded its centennial celebration, the university is rolling out a new mark that will be used as a primary identifier on many kinds of ECU materials. Above is a look at that mark, which also is featured on a decal included in most mailed copies of this issue of East. (Those issues are being mailed in plastic bags to keep the decals from falling out.)
ECU’s centennial logo was introduced in 2007, and the plan adopted then directed that it be modified for permanent use at the conclusion of the celebration. That mark has seen widespread use throughout the university community during the past few years. It’s been prominent on Pepsi cans, busses, university publications and a host of other spots.
The new ECU logo is combined with a version of the existing university word mark to form what is officially referred to as the ECU primary logotype. This replaces the old arches logo.
“In one sense, it represents an important technical improvement for our mark. Unlike the old arches logo, the new primary logotype features a much stronger representation of the university name and can also be rendered in purple and gold, both important parts of our identity,” says Clint Bailey, assistant vice chancellor for university marketing. “But in another sense, the update to the mark is just another reflection of the growth and development of East Carolina. It reflects our history while still being new.”
Implementing the mark will be a gradual process incorporated into the normal replacement of materials and signs.