Homecoming Legacy: ECU celebrates a rich history of traditions


East Carolina University has a strong reputation for being a place where students can receive a quality education, make life-long friends, and give back to their communities through volunteer work. The university fosters relationships and connections that contribute to an overwhelming sense of Pirate pride.

The university has long since been the home of time-honored traditions, and no Pirate tradition is as hallowed as Homecoming Weekend.

Homecoming Weekend for the Pirate Nation traces back to 1932, when the university was still known as East Carolina Teachers College. The addition of the Homecoming Parade in 1941 made the weekend’s festivities even more special.

First Homecoming Queen Photo

Kitty Garringer is the first to ride on the queen's throne in the Homecoming parade of 1953.

Notable milestones have occurred during Homecoming Weekend, from the first Homecoming to feature a sporting event in 1936, to the crowning of the first Homecoming Queen in 1953, to the first televised football game in ECU history in 1959.

This year, Homecoming Weekend will carry on its rich tradition of providing an opportunity for students, professors, alumni, and community members to celebrate and reminisce about their time spent at East Carolina University.

Homecoming participants this year will be “Rock’n in the Purple & Gold,” and this theme will be seen in the Homecoming Parade floats as they proceed down Fifth Street at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, October 23. Later that afternoon, the Pirates will take on the Marshall Thundering Herd at 4:15 p.m. in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

Kyle Smithwick, senior and chair of the student homecoming committee, said he is looking forward to seeing all of the ECU alumni come out and support a university that that is still near and dear to every Pirate’s heart, both young and old.

“Whether you are a new Pirate starting out or alumni—it’s all about celebrating your connection with the university,” he said.

Homecoming does not just start on the Saturday of the game. In fact, the entire week before Homecoming encompasses a series of competitions in which student organizations vie for points, which will decide the winner of the ultimate prize—the Spirit Cup. Contests include a banner competition, skit competition, lawn competition, canned food drive, parade float contest, and Homecoming court interviews.

Morgan Carter, president of ECU Ambassadors, the organization that has won the Spirit Cup the past six years in a row, said she appreciates the sense of pride in serving the university that comes through at Homecoming. She added that her favorite part of the weekend is the canned food drive. Last year, ECU Ambassadors collected 2,000 pounds of food.

“Serving the university and the community is the most memorable part of the weekend for me,” she said. “The university’s motto is “To Serve,” and this is a way to help the community and to show university pride.”

First Homecoming Queen Photo

Pee Dee and the ECU Cheerleaders celebrate in the Homecoming parade last year.

Smithwick also said that as chair, he encourages as much student involvement as possible in all of these events.

“One of my favorite parts of Homecoming is skit night,” he said. “I am excited to see how people connect the theme with the university and portray that connection in their skits.”

Another special part of Homecoming is the crowning of the queen and king. A vote was conducted through One Stop October 5–7, when students could choose their top candidates. Then at the Cannonball Dance October 14, the top five candidates will be announced.

A panel of judges will interview the candidates October 19, and the winners will be announced at halftime during the Homecoming game.

According to Smithwick, the candidates’ university pride really comes across in the interviews.

“You can see the candidates’ passion about ECU and how they feel about being a Pirate,” he said. “Overall, I think the whole tradition of Homecoming really speaks to what kind of university ECU is. Pirate pride only continues and grows, and it brings people back here, year after year.”

Paul Clifford, president and CEO of the East Carolina Alumni Association, echoes Smithwick’s sentiments about the Homecoming.

“The Homecoming tradition is all about the Pirate Nation and heritage,” he said. “People make it a point to come back.”

Clifford added that he loves seeing what the university has meant to people over the years, both alumni and present students.

“It is great to see everyone come back and reconnect,” he said. “It is an awesome experience to see what ECU means to people.”

Truly, Homecoming is special to every member of the university community, both past and present, but this year marks an especially significant year for the College of Nursing. The College is celebrating its 50th anniversary and has special events planned to recognize this momentous occasion.

First Homecoming Queen Photo

Alpha Phi Omega's victory train chugs along in the Homecoming parade of 1965.

The College of Nursing will also be entering a float into the float contest. “Our students really wanted to be a part of the parade because they have limited opportunities to do fun things together as a group,” said Dr. Alta Andrews, from the College of Nursing. “The float contest is a fun community activity and a celebration for ECU.”

According to Andrews, the first graduating class, the class of 1964, will be recognized during this weekend.

“I really look forward to seeing the interaction between the first graduates and the people who are students now,” she said. “It’s great to watch the graduates share stories with each other, and it’s also a wonderful opportunity to really see the tremendous accomplishments of our graduates.”

Andrews emphasized that the point of Homecoming is to celebrate East Carolina’s tradition of excellence. “We value excellence in education, service, and research, and we need to take time to celebrate that legacy,” she said. “Our community members have made great accomplishments and we should recognize them.”

The College of Nursing will continue to celebrate both its and the university’s legacy this coming year. Along with the Homecoming Celebration, the College will also have a Dixie Koldjeski Lectureship and Beta Nu Fall Banquet, which will feature Dr. Beverly Malone, CEO of the National League of Nursing. Spring birthday parties for students will be held in January 2010, and in February, a Hall of Fame Induction will occur. Also, in April 2010, the College will host a 50th Anniversary Gala.

More details about the College of Nursing’s anniversary events can be found on the College’s web site. Further details about Homecoming can be found here and the Alumni Homecoming event schedule can be found here.

By Meagan Williford
University Marketing