Pirate Nation

Above: Sandra Bullock as Jean in Stage Door with Jennifer Youngdahl (left photo) and Brian Cottle '85(right photo)

Bullock’s first bow

peter_panThe acting genius that brought her the 2010 Best Actress Oscar for The Blind Side was first seen 25 years earlier when Sandra Bullock ’87 was cast in back-to-back ECU Playhouse productions. It must have made for a busy senior year to blend class work with learning the lines for leading roles in two very different productions. She was the Indian princess Tiger Lily in Peter Pan, choreographed by Mavis Ray, which ran in October 1985. A month later she returned to the ECU stage as Irina in the Anton Chekhov play The Three Sisters. Theatre department founder Edgar Loessin, who directed her in Pan, once said, “she’s one of those people that the camera loves.”

the_three_sistersBullock, the daughter of a German opera singer and a Virginia voice coach, first took the McGinnis Theatre stage her junior year as Jean in Stage Door. With that collegiate acting experience under her belt, she moved to New York, took acting lessons from Sanford Meisner and, two years after Sisters, was cast in her first New York stage play, No Time Flat, and her first movie, Hangmen. She had appeared in more than a dozen movies and TV series before her big breakthrough in 1994 in the movie Speed. Also appearing in that film was Beth Grant ’71. Bullock received ECU’s Outstanding Alumni award in 1997. She currently has four films in pre-production, including Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, co-starring Tom Hanks.

The Ethnographers

the-ethnographers_optWith six of the seven members of the new indie band The Ethnographers either current ECU students or recent graduates, it figures that one must have sat through an anthropology class. That would be Megan Kennedy, a senior media production major who discerned parallels between what she was studying and what the new band she had joined was singing. “Ethnographers live as one of the people rather than studying them from afar, and the data they record is called ethnography. So it’s like the data of our lives is our music and the songs that we write,” she said.

The band, which has played several downtown Greenville venues, released its own self-titled album in 2009 and has a second album scheduled for release later this spring.

The band was formed in 2008 by Ian Collins ’08 and Danielle Eiler ’08. Other members are Luke Rayson ’08; Samantha Hollen ’08; Matt Shapiro, who like Kennedy is a current student; and Justin Nelms, the oddball of the bunch and a student at Rocky Mount Community College. Kennedy and Eiler, a psychology major who was a member of the track and field team and still holds the ECU record for the discus throw, are the lead singers. Hollen, who has a nursing degree and a caring attitude, is the unofficial mother of the group. Collins, who has a degree in social work, keeps everyone organized. Rayson and Shapiro have degrees in photography and graphic design. Shapiro, who plays drums and actually made the drums he uses with the band, designed the album cover artwork.

These seven people started off as simple college acquaintances but became best friends and—after a crisis-filled 2008 tour through Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and New York—now consider each other family. “It’s like a marriage between seven people,” Shapiro said. Their chemistry is obvious on stage. There is a goofiness about them that shows how comfortable they are with each other, which fits perfectly with their music and lyrics.

The Ethnographers stay busy playing local shows. Upcoming gigs include a Feb. 17 date at The Blind Tiger in Greensboro, a Feb. 18 show at The Brewery in Raleigh, and a Feb. 19 show at Live in Greenville. “We are probably going to do a summer tour and are trying to go overseas maybe in 2012,” Collins said.

The Ethnographers CD can be purchased through iTunes.

—East occasionally publishes original work by students. This piece by Abbey Way, a junior from Mount Pleasant, Pa., was written as an assignment for Cindy Elmore’s feature writing class in the School of Communication.


Lend a helping hand during Service Month

Every April, alumni and friends across the Pirate Nation participate in Service Month. This month-long service project is a way for Pirates to live out the university’s motto, Servire, meaning, “to serve.” Many Alumni Association Regional Contacts will organize service projects, but individuals are invited to volunteer in their community wherever help is needed.

There are a number of ways to lend a helping hand: help build a home for Habitat for Humanity, serve food at your local soup kitchen, run an errand for an elderly neighbor, volunteer at the Boys & Girls Club, participate in a run/walk that benefits a charity, or help beautify a neighborhood park. The possibilities are endless!

Service is at the heart of East Carolina University. From the students to the Board of Trustees, service to others and giving back to make a positive difference are what East Carolina what built on. Plan a service project for fellow alumni in your area this April. The Alumni Association will be glad to help you spread the word to alumni and friends in your community. To get started, simply contact Tanya Kern ’02 at


Race for student scholarships

The Pirate Alumni Road Race and Fun Run is scheduled for Saturday, April 16, at 9:00 a.m. This 5K race and 1 mile fun run starts at Reade Circle in Uptown Greenville and travels down historic Fifth Street adjacent to ECU’s beautiful campus. Participants will enjoy a Victory Breakfast immediately following the race with awards for the top overall finishers and for winners in eight age categories. Road Race T-shirts will be given with goody bags, and all participants will be entered into the door prize drawing. Registration is $15 through March 31 and $25 through race day. All proceeds benefit student scholarships given by the Alumni Association. Make the Pirate Alumni Road Race and Fun Run part of your Great Pirate Purple/Gold game weekend. Visit or call 800-ECU-GRAD for more information and to register.


Black Alumni Reunion this spring

A Black Alumni Reunion is scheduled for the weekend of April 15–17. Participants will enjoy activities associated with the Great Pirate Purple/Gold game, an alumni mixer, Ledonia Wright Cultural Center presentation and a Saturday gala. Details for this reunion are still being finalized. Have an idea or suggestion to make this reunion a hit? Contact Emily Adkins ’08 at or call 800-ECU-GRAD. Look for details soon.


Golden Alumni celebrate 50 years

Members of the Class of 1961 will get together the weekend of May 5–6 for a special Golden Alumni Reunion. This reunion includes participation in the Senior Salute Dinner, which honors graduating seniors; recognition at the Candlelight Induction ceremony where members of the Class of 2011 light candles from the Golden Alumni Reunion candle; a campus tour; and reunion dinner. The highlight of the Golden Alumni Reunion will be leading the Class of 2011 into Friday’s Commencement Ceremony in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. All participants will adorn gold robes to signify their Golden Alumni status. Look for more details soon or contact Emily Adkins ’08 at or 800-ECU-GRAD for more information.