Division of University Advancement
The Women's Roundtable

Women's Roundtable at East Carolina University Profiles

Alison Atkins  ¦  Tonya Cockman  ¦  Deborah Davis  ¦  Gail Herring  ¦  Valeria Lassiter  ¦ Willie Marlowe ¦  Allison Peel  ¦  Mary Plybon

Alison Atkins, '52, '61
Alison Atkins

Alison Atkins, '52, '61, a Greenville native who grew up on West Third Street just across the road from East Carolina University's campus, also grew up with a passion for singing and teaching that she cultivated into a remarkable music career that has spanned more than 40 years. The decision of which college to attend was an easy one for Atkins, not because she was partial to Greenville, because she was certain that "ECU was the best place for her music education in North Carolina." Atkins earned a B.S. in music education at ECU in 1952, and praises her mentor, premier voice teacher and former ECU Professor Gladys White for guiding her and her classmates to successful careers.

After graduating, Atkins taught elementary music education but quickly realized that teaching college-age students was her true calling. She returned to ECU and received her master's degree in vocal performance in 1961 where she fondly says she spent, "most of those four years living in the McGuiness Theatre." Atkins performed in several lead roles in many opera productions including "The Medium" by Gian Carlo Menotti, "The Old Maid and the Thief," "Minotti," and "The Marriage of Figaro," by Mozart. In 1963, Atkins and members of the ECU Opera Theatre participated in a month-long USO tour to the Arctic area, singing at military bases in Labrador, Iceland and Greenland. They traveled during the Christmas season and sang popular opera and pop songs of the day to entertain the troops.

Atkins then moved to Hays, Kansas, to teach voice at Fort Hays University and shaped an incredible 28-year career concertizing and teaching while becoming an associate professor of voice. She continued to teach at a private studio after a move to Lawrence, Kansas. 

Atkins has also been a regular performer at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in Linville, N.C., singing Scottish folk and art songs and accompanying visiting artists for more than 40 years. She calls it her "crossover" career, and she has presented many other concerts here and in Scotland. As a result of her contributions to Scottish Culture in North Carolina, she was awarded the Agnes MacRae Morton Award from the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games and the Order of the Long Leaf Pine from the State of North Carolina. Atkins visited Greenville in 2007 when she was honored as one of the Women's Roundtable 100 Incredible ECU Women and returned to North Carolina permanently in 2008 when she moved to Wilmington. Atkins became a Women's Roundtable board member in 2009 and is proud of her role in the Women's Roundtables mission to encourage leadership and philanthropy. She is committed to giving future students of ECU the support and encouragement they need to become the world leaders of tomorrow.

Today, Atkins lives in Wilmington with her husband and works as a private voice teacher. She has dedicated most of her life to helping students develop their voices and guiding them to achieving their goals, whether they want to reach Broadway or teach.

"Singing is in my soul," Atkins said. "The interaction between student and teacher is one of the most rewarding experiences of life."

Women's Roundtable member Tonya Cockman '91
Tonya Cockman

Women's Roundtable board member Tonya Cockman, chief executive officer at Clear Defense, believes that leaving a legacy is one of the most crucial responsibilities of the Women's Roundtable. She lives by the words, "It doesn't matter how well you do in life, but what kind of legacy you leave behind."  

Cockman found her way to ECU from a small town in Virginia with a plan to stay one semester and then transfer to UNC-Chapel Hill. Luckily, some things do not end up going according to plan. The unexpected happened--she fell in love with ECU. Greenville captured her heart and the town surprised her with its captivating school spirit, culture and people. Tonya pledged sorority Tri Sigma her fall semester, along with well-known actress Emily Proctor, and double majored in fashion merchandising and business administration. She graduated from ECU in 1991 and began working for Ralph Lauren, spending time in New York City. With Ralph Lauren, she launched the Safari Line in North Carolina before eventually settling in Greensboro.  

In 1999, Cockman's father called her with a proposal – he wanted her to join him at his company, Clear Defense. The company mainly worked in athletics, working with the NCAA and the NBA to create the glass for basketball backboards and hockey arenas. Her father believed that coupling his business with her marketing skills would be a profitable business move. She took the offer and never looked back. Clear Defense also had defense contracts with the military, including one with the Pentagon where their glass was used in some areas of the building. Little did anyone know this contract would change the entire dynamic of the company.  

On September 11, 2001, a plane crashed into the Pentagon. In the parts of the building where the plane hit, Clear Defense glass was part of the structure and protected the people inside the building.  

"People have come up to me and told me that they stood behind our glass for protection against the melting walls and extreme flames…and it saved their lives," said Cockman. "That means so much to me, that we could help in this way."  

The tragic events of September 11, 2001, changed the world's view and security was everyone's first priority. After Clear Defense glass withstood these extreme elements, the company's focus on sports was altered. Their main expertise became providing defense contracts to the U.S. government and military. These types of contracts revolutionized their business and they now provide all the glass used in the military, including all vehicles. Cockman feels honored that they can help those who sacrifice so much for our country to remain safe.  

"It may seem small in retrospect, but we help them see clearly through those windows, and it feels good that we can help them in some way, no matter how small or big," she said.  

Cockman is passionate about empowering women and has worked with several different women's rights foundations, including Women to Women in Greensboro. With this community spirit, Cockman also wanted to get involved with ECU, but didn't know where to begin. Her sister-in-law, Caroline Cockman, invited her to the Women's Roundtable Legacy of Leadership event in 2007, and Tonya was enlightened. She knew several women attending the event and enjoyed it so much that she wanted to be part of the Women's Roundtable's mission to encourage and empower female students and future graduates of ECU.  

Cockman hopes to leave an enduring legacy for future generations of women and is committed to improving ECU's current endowment; she has pledged to see it grow and develop. She is proof that women can accomplish great things, and believes that success and giving back to the community is a responsibility of those who can.  

"There's nothing better than doing good while we're doing well," said Cockman.  

Deborah Davis '79, '83: Women's Roundtable Board Member
Deborah Davis resized

Leadership is one of the most important lessons that ECU alumna and Women’s Roundtable board member Deborah Davis ’79, ’83, learned at East Carolina, and she hopes to pass that on to the next generation through her involvement with the Women’s Roundtable.

“[ECU] has been true to its mission,” Davis said. “[It] produces well rounded individuals who not only appreciate their education, but understand that they have a responsibility to help pave the path for others. And last, but not least it is molding the leaders of the future for our communities.”

But Davis did not start out as a Pirate. She began her college career as a computer science major at NC State University. She quickly realized that East Carolina was a much better fit for her.

“My roommate and I had to find a place to live off campus due to a shortage that year of on-campus housing for incoming freshmen,” she said. “It did not take me long to decide that making my way across campus at 3 a.m. to gain access to the computer labs was not the life for me. My future husband was already a student at ECU and after checking out the School of Business, I realized that ECU was a much better fit for me personally.”

And she flourished. She graduated from ECU’s School of Business in 1979 with a B.S. in business administration and earned her master’s degree in business administration in 1983. Davis spent 32 years working at Pitt County Memorial Hospital, taking the hospital through a period of unprecedented growth in providing health care across the eastern region of the state. During her tenure, PCMH earned Magnet recognition for nursing excellence from the American Nurses Credentialing Center, and was recognized by Working Mother magazine as one of the top 100 workplaces in the nation for workingmoms.

That capacity for leadership was evident long before her work at PCMH. As the first person in her family to attend college, Davis was determined to get an education. Because of her transfer from NC State to ECU, Davis had to give up her scholarships and financial aid. To pay for her education, Davis worked full time and went to school full time.

“At that time, I did not have many options and could not take out loans to continue my education,” she said. “I was able to go to work at Pitt County Memorial Hospital. During the completion of both my undergraduate and graduate degrees, I was able to go to school full time and work full time to support myself. Looking back, I was very fortunate with the way things worked out, but I have often indicated to others that I have mentored that I would not wish for others to have to receive their education in this manner as it was very difficult.”

With her involvement in the Women’s Roundtable, Davis is helping to ensure that future generations of ECU students can concentrate on getting an education instead of worrying about how they will pay for college. Gifts to the Women’s Roundtable support the university’s Access Scholarship program, which provides financial support to a historically underserved but greatly deserving group of ECU students who demonstrate both financial need and proven academic potential.

“When we were growing up, there wasn’t much opportunity to go to college,” Davis said of her and her husband, Randy Davis ’84, who both grew up in eastern North Carolina. “ECU gave us both a chance to get a college education, and we’ve always felt a responsibility to give back.”

Now the chief operating officer at MCV Hospitals and Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, Davis appreciates the increased focus on women that the Women’s Roundtable brings to ECU, and its focus on developing women to help lead our university into the future.

“The Women’s Roundtable is one of the first times that the university has reached out to women alumni,” she said. “It is the perfect opportunity to get women leaders involved in the role they can play in the leadership of ECU and the future of the university.”

Gail Herring SVP pic

Women's Roundtable Board Member Gail Herring '79

As a young girl, Gail Herring knew she wanted a career in either medicine or business. When she was considering where to go to college, her decision came down to three simple things: accreditation, proximity to her hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina, and friends. East Carolina University fit the bill—it had a great reputation in both business and medicine, it was close to her hometown, and most of her high school friends were attending ECU—and Herring became a Pirate. 

Shortly after arriving at ECU, Herring decided to major in business and quickly discovered her passion, sports. She joined any intramural team she could find, whether it was flag football, softball or soccer. Never one to be uninvolved, Herring also pledged service sorority Gamma Sigma Sigma and joined Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Through both organizations she was constantly volunteering to do more and to give back to the Pirate Nation.

In 1980, with her business degree in hand, she started applying for jobs.

"(My) education prepared me for finance or banking. Having that background (from ECU) on my resume opened many doors. My career just kind of happened—I got married moved to Greensboro and got a job in a small bank, like my mother."

This small step into the world of banking started her career off with a bang. Now as the senior vice president of retail banking for First Citizens Bank in Pender and New Hanover counties, she has never felt more gratified.

"Developing others is my drive, and the favorite part of my job," Herring said. "I love to help someone grow in their role as a banker, coaching them to improve in their role as a trusted advisor to our customers. That's what excites me about getting up and going to work every day."

Herring moved back to Wilmington in 1996 but still bleeds purple and gold. Her son and daughter-in-law both earned their undergraduate degrees at ECU, and her grandson's entire wardrobe is Pirate gear. Her son and daughter-in-law are expecting a baby girl soon and Herring has already picked out the baby's ECU cheerleading outfit.

"We will raise them as Pirates just like we did our son," she said.

In 2009, Herring read about the Women's Roundtable in EC Alumni and joined immediately. When she was approached to join the board of directors, she readily agreed and took on two leadership roles, treasurer and chair of the Incredible ECU Women's Series: Investing in the Future, which was held in October 2010. Herring put her heart and soul into that event, which was attended by more than 300 people.

"It was a labor of love," she explained. Although it was time consuming and difficult at times she would not have traded the experience for the world.

"Meeting the keynote speaker, Jean Chatzky from NBC's Today, spending time with her, and seeing the significant impact the Women's Roundtable makes at ECU was one of the highlights of my career."

Herring continues her support for ECU and the Women's Roundtable through her service on the board of directors and as chair of the leadership committee. She lives by the philosophy, "never give up," and that philosophy has served her—and ECU—well. Now, she is using that philosophy to reach out to alumni in different locations and encourage them to support ECU and the Women's Roundtable. 

In August Herring reached out to the Wilmington-based Cape Fear Pirates to ask if the Women's Roundtable could be a part of their annual Football Kick-Off Party. They readily agreed, and many of the attendees joined the Women's Roundtable. By recruiting new members and creating awareness, the Women's Roundtable will continue to grow and support more students through the Access Scholarship Program and the Honors College. That is part of what drives Herring's involvement with the Women's Roundtable.

"The Women's Roundtable is the best involvement with the university because it connects you with other ECU women; it is gratifying and most rewarding."

                                                                                                   --Jackie Ziegler '12

Valeria Lassiter Women’s Roundtable board member Valeria Lassiter ‘90, president of Lassiter & Associates, talks about her connection to our university, and why she supports the Women’s Roundtable.

Q. Where are you from? 
     A. Clayton, North Carolina

Q. As a first generation college graduate, what would you say to students that are the first people in their family to attend college? 
     A. It is a challenge and it keeps getting tougher even after college. But you just have to do it! Education is access and opportunity and you must not stop with your bachelor’s degree. You must also be willing to enter into lifelong learning. It is important to utilize every resource on campus for students. I found the student affairs office and counseling services to be very helpful managing the transition through college.

Q. What was your major at ECU? 
     A. I majored in communications and focused on print. What is most appealing about communications is that it encompasses gathering and transmitting information and connecting people, businesses and communities. Nothing happens without communications. My degree has served me well.

Q. What kinds of things were you involved in while attending ECU?
     A. In my freshman year I made the cheering squad. I was managing editor of Expressions, the minority publication. I was on the Student Government Association. I was involved in electing the first African-American mayor of Greenville.

Q. You ran for president of ECU’s Student Government Association and were the first female minority to do so. What are your thoughts about diversity at ECU then and now? 
     A. As I reflect on my days at ECU, diversity was dynamic because a student could learn from the challenges from the lack of diversity and also experience the positive results of diversity. During my days at ECU I often tried to address diversity issues and the importance of a diverse environment. Chancellor Eakin’s door was always open to me to express my views as a student leader. We did not always agree, but the opportunity to disagree in a civil manner taught me a lot and helped build my confidence. I was also encouraged by Dr. Gay Wilentz, Dr. Fetus Eribo and Dr. Smith to run for president. And if you know anything about Dr. Gay Wilentz, she made you feel like getting involved was a responsibility and not an option. We all need to hold each other accountable in positive ways.               

Q. What was your career path after graduation? 
     A. Immediately following college, I was hired by the government in Washington, D.C., as a public affairs specialist, where I worked on the City’s public affairs agenda on human rights and minority business development. From there, I earned a Masters of Divinity degree at Colgate Rochester. 
     After completing my masters, I became the director of ministries of higher education overseeing the Washington, D.C., area university model for the D.C. Baptist Convention. Then, I was hired to lead the Marriott International local philanthropic programs in the Washington area through the Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities direct service programs for youth with disabilities.   
     After leaving Marriott, I became vice president of development for the Darrell Green Foundation to design Darrell’s celebration of 20 years in the NFL and his campaign to secure strategic partnerships for children and youth. From there I founded Lassiter & Associates, LLC, a fundraising management consulting firm. Lassiter & Associates, LLC, is in its seventh year of providing strategic partnership services and fundraising management counsel. We serve corporate and nonprofit clients.

Q. What do you consider your biggest career success? 
     A. One of my great career successes is the work that I engaged in that has resulted in more than $5 million in funding for children and youth. I was also able to work on a strategic partnership that resulted in a single $1 million gift from a well known international female philanthropist. 
     I see as my biggest success that I have trained more than 500 executives from around the country and world in fundraising and strategic partnerships. I value that I get to use both my degrees and my entrepreneurial talents for a for-profit business that improves our society and the business objectives of our clients all in one. I have a great and blissful life.

Q. What would you say to current students about getting involved in leadership roles at ECU? 
     A. Get started now in exercising your leadership muscles. Your college years are good practice. It helps to have been involved on campus and to have held leadership roles when you start applying for jobs after college. My leadership activities at ECU helped me secure my first job out of college which made the difference in getting a job with substantive responsibilities. Because of the leadership skills I developed, I have been given a lot of responsibility on my jobs, resulting in my being able to lead and transform teams.

Q. Why did you decide to get involved with the Women’s Roundtable?  
     A. I got involved with the Women’s Roundtable because it encompasses many of my values: women leaders; building a future through Access Scholarships for qualified students with financial needs; intergenerational engagement among women; and being involved with something that is a part of ECU’s larger strategic objectives.

Q. What would you say to potential members of the Women’s Roundtable? 
 If you believe that ECU must continue to be a part of developing local and global leaders, join the Women’s Roundtable. Let’s all make an investment—no gift is too small. As chairwoman of the Women’s Roundtable Donor Relations Committee I hope we can get thousands of women to invest in students.

Women's Roundtable member Willie Marlowe '65
Willie Marlowe

For Willie Marlowe, 2011 was a banner year. With five solo shows and participation in an invitational international show that traveled to four cities in Europe, one in Canada and Boston, Massachusetts, it was a year to remember. She is marking it as a stepping stone in her already storied career and looking toward the future.

Marlowe graduated from East Carolina University in 1965 with a bachelor's degree in art. Since then, she has been an art teacher, a professor, and above all an artist, traveling the world and gaining renown as a painter who says she is still learning her craft.

"It really is a long process of discovery," Marlowe said. "I am still on the path of learning about painting and seeing what can be done. Every time you make a brush stroke, there are just so many possibilities. That is what so exciting about painting. You can never totally predict what's going to happen. It has that element of surprise."

Born in Whiteville, North Carolina, Marlowe grew up drawing and soaking any information about art that she could. There were no art programs in the schools in Whiteville at the time, so when she came to East Carolina, doors opened for her.

"When I arrived [at ECU's] art department, I was a blank slate, open to learning. The art department trips to Washington, D.C., and New York City to museums were my first experiences with seeing major museums and important works of art. I liked being a part of the art department, working late in the painting and the printmaking studios with other students with shared interests. By being there, dedicated to learning about art, I found my path."

And that path led her to work as an elementary art teacher in Charlotte, North Carolina, through earning her master's in fine arts at the University of Idaho, and to teaching in the Department of Art and Design at Sage College of Albany for more than 30 years. In addition, she has shown paintings in more than 300 solo, invitational, juried and groups shows in the U.S. and abroad. In 2011, she participated in one of the most important shows in her career at the Opalka Gallery at Sage College at Albany, New York. Now a professor emerita at Sage College, she had the rare privilege of showing her works in a gallery that typically focuses on artists outside of the area.

"I was invited to have a comprehensive solo show, 1977-2010, at Opalka Gallery with a 32-page color catalogue," she said. Opalka Gallery Director and Curator Jim Richard Wilson wrote an introduction, an art historian wrote a scholarly essay, and an art critic wrote a shorter essay for the catalogue. "That show was important to me because it was a selection of paintings from the years I taught at Sage, and because three smaller solo shows were curated from it and traveled to The Arkell Museum, Canajoharie, New York; the Carrie Haddad Gallery in Hudson, New York; and Gallery C, in Raleigh, North Carolina. A fifth solo show curated by E. Tornai Thyssen was held at Hallspace Gallery in Boston."

Next spring, Marlowe will collaborate with the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company to use her paintings as backgrounds for the dancers as they perform at the Troy Music Hall in Troy, New York. But she hasn't forgotten her roots at ECU. Her father-in-law, the late Francis Speight, was artist in residence in ECU's art department while she was a student, and she considers herself lucky to have worked with him.

"I had admired Francis Speight's paintings, and there was quite a buzz of excitement that he was at East Carolina as the artist in residence," she said. "It was a real privilege to be in a critique group with him. He always complimented my strong compositions. That always made me feel really good."

Her strong connection to ECU also shows through her mother's family.

"Brantley Speight, my mother's cousin, and his wife Carrie (no relation to Francis Speight) were very encouraging to me as an art student," Marlowe said. "They often invited me out for dinner and came to my senior show in the Gray Gallery in the Rawl Building at ECU. Later, they gave the education building to ECU."

Her husband, Tom Speight, earned his B.A. in mathematics and a Master of Science degree in physics at East Carolina. In addition, her sister, Judy Stead, was an English major at ECU who minored in art. She is an artist, illustrator and graphic designer who has illustrated many books for children and wrote and illustrated The Twelve Days of Christmas in North Carolina, now in its second printing.

Now, Marlowe is extending that connection through her membership in the Women's Roundtable at ECU.

"What a great idea to bring the women of the university together to do things that are really interesting and good and would support the programs at East Carolina," she said. "I joined [the Women's Roundtable] because I am interested in supporting women's issues and this is a well organized and exciting program."

Her vision for the Women's Roundtable is one that encourages women to support ECU and the arts in their own communities.

"The [members of the Women's Roundtable] could, in their own communities, do something to enliven the culture right where they are. It has the potential to enlighten women to take part in the whole cultural environment in their area."

Marlowe is quick to admit that she found her way because of ECU.

"It was a turning point in my life. I really got the absolute most out of the transition from being a kid growing up in a very nice small-town environment, but longing to be in an atmosphere where the arts were valued. Then coming to East Carolina, I was introduced to new possibilities and started to see broader horizons opening up for me. Seeing more of the wide world became a reality, starting with art department trips to DC and New York City.

And through her membership in and support of the Women's Roundtable at ECU, she is helping others do the same. For more information about Willie Marlowe and her work, visit

Women's Roundtable Member Allison Peel '99
allison peel resized

When Allison Peel '99 was considering where to attend college, her parents gave her one stipulation—she and her oldest brother must go to college at least 250 miles away from home.

"They wanted us to get out of the D.C. area," Peel said.

Originally from LaPlata, Maryland, Peel decided to attend ECU in part because of its distance from home and because of ECU's physical therapy program. However, once she got to East Carolina, Peel found her true calling through work with Hal Daniels, professor emeritus in ECU's Dept. of Biology.

"He's so supportive of women in science careers," Peel said, adding that the more she read and wrote about cancer, the more interested she became. She switched her major to biology, and began her career with the National Cancer Institute, working with their editorial boards for their Web site.

"I'm not sure where I picked up my interest in cancer," Peel said. "Cancer is fascinating. It is changing very rapidly."

Now, Peel works as an education products manager at American Society of Clinical Oncology in physician education. She manages the development of print products such as ASCO's Self-Evaluation Program (ASCO-SEP), which is geared toward oncology fellows and practicing oncologists, who are preparing to take the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) medical oncology board exam. She also works extensively on ASCO's online education Web site, ASCO University.

The Women's Roundtable at East Carolina University helps support the university's Access Scholarship Program, which provides financial support to a historically underserved but greatly deserving group of ECU students who demonstrate both financial need and proven academic potential. The scholarship support it provides is part of the reason Peel chose to join the Women's Roundtable—she is grateful for her ECU education and wants to help ensure that generations of women coming after her have the same opportunity.

"I am very lucky that my parents could afford to send me out of state to school," she said. "In today's world I think a college degree is virtually a necessity for many career paths. Unfortunately, higher education has gotten so expensive that even the thought of going to college is out of the question for many women. By becoming involved in the Women's Roundtable I hope to help alleviate the stress many women face when thinking about paying for college. And hopefully allow them to worry a little more about their next chemistry test rather than the tens of thousands of dollars in debt they will have when they graduate."

Women's Roundtable board chair Mary Plybon '71
Mary Plybon

With a love for her native Pitt County and a drive to give back to the area that means so much to her, Mary Plybon’s dedication to eastern North Carolina and her alma mater, East Carolina University, is contagious. After spending part of her childhood and graduating from high school in Raleigh, Plybon, ‘71 had no doubt that she would return to her Greenville roots to attend East Carolina University. She attributes her family’s love of eastern North Carolina to the strong bonds they have with the people in the area and the legacy of Pirates in her family—both of Plybon’s parents attended ECU.

“My dad attended [ECU] when it was known as East Carolina Teachers College,” said Plybon. “He grew up near Tarboro on a tobacco farm and was the first boy in his family to attend college.”

Plybon studied social work as an undergraduate and said she was attracted to this field of work because of her childhood during the 1960s.

“I grew up with John F. Kennedy and the mentality of, ‘ask what you can do for your country,’” she said, “I’m drawn to people who need a hand up not a hand out, and when you’ve been given a lot, you should give back.”

Plybon watched a monumental event in ECU’s history play out during her freshman year. In 1967, ECU was still known as East Carolina College and was seeking university status, and there was a tense debate about whether East Carolina College would become East Carolina University. Plybon remembers the commotion surrounding the issue.

“I was one of the students at Chancellor Jenkins’ house, just watching and waiting for the approval from the N.C. Legislature.” she said.

Plybon witnessed that historic approval and has since marveled at ECU’s impressive growth over her lifetime. She is excited about the new medical, dental and engineering schools that ECU boasts, but most of all, she admires ECU’s commitment to provide opportunities to all.

“I like that ECU has continued to give people a chance. ECU offers access and honor scholarships, and I hope it always keeps that in balance,” she said. “ECU wants the best of the best, but it also gives people the opportunity to reach that potential.”

After graduating in 1971, Plybon’s first job was a position with Carteret County Department of Social Services. Her job focused on helping older adults “keep afloat” so they did not have to be institutionalized.

“It was a hard job emotionally and I had to learn to leave it at work,” Plybon said. “I had to try to find a balance in life, like anything else.” 

Plybon was also part of a group who pioneered an adult day-care program. It was a novel program for its time and it was a hard concept for many to accept, but her team pushed through.

Plybon and her husband have become involved with many areas across ECU, from athletics to academics. She has served on the Board of Visitors and her husband, Bob, serves on the ECU Foundation board of directors. The Plybons are passionate about philanthropy and are grateful they have the opportunity to give back. Mary Plybon is now beginning her duties in her new position as the Women’s Roundtable chair.

The Women's Roundtable was founded in 2003 and is a group of women dedicated to acknowledging the contributions of women to ECU’s legacy. The organization encourages new levels of leadership, philanthropy and commitment by women to the university's future. 

Since its inception, the Women’s Roundtable has hosted several events that have raised thousands of dollars for prospective ECU students. Plybon has loved her experience as a member and said it has been a way for many of her friends to reconnect with the Pirate community. She is also grateful that she has been able to witness the evolution of the organization first-hand.

“We didn’t foresee what the Women’s Roundtable was going to evolve into, but we recognized the talent and commitment of ECU women graduates; we knew they wanted and deserved to have an active role in the university. The Women’s Roundtable was an excellent way to get the process started,” Plybon said.

She is excited about her new role and is ready to continue the Women’s Roundtable mission and wants to help “identify women in a variety of fields that are doing really good work.” She wants to reconnect with more former ECU graduates in all walks of life, emphasizing young graduates that have recently entered the working world.

“We want them to know that there is a place for them at the table and in the Pirate community.”

Plybon also strongly believes that taking the time to ask people is the key to creating authentic involvement.

“Everyone gets caught up in their day-to-day lives,” she said. “Unless someone gives you a call you’re not as likely to join something until there is personal involvement.”

Plybon encourages former Pirates to never lose sight of what they learned at East Carolina and to always remember the sense of community they feel when they walk onto campus.

“Obviously, all ECU graduates do not stay in eastern North Carolina, or even in North Carolina,” Plybon said, “but I guarantee you they take what they learned at ECU and make wherever they land a better place.”

By Lauren Williams ‘11