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Cecil Staton Welcomed by BoG Memebers
Dr. Cecil Staton is congratulated by other UNC system chancellors after Staton's election as East Carolina University's next chancellor during the Board of Governors meeting April 27 in Chapel Hill. (Photos by Jay Clark.)

'An exciting time'

Board of Governors names Cecil Staton as chancellor

April 27, 2016

By Doug Boyd
ECU News Services

Cecil P. Staton, interim president of Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Georgia, has been named the 11th chancellor of East Carolina University by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

Staton was elected today during a special called meeting of the board. Staton, 58, will assume his new duties July 1, succeeding Steve Ballard, who has led ECU since 2004. Ballard announced last year that he was stepping down and will return to the faculty.

“Dr. Cecil Staton brings to ECU a rare blend of leadership experience in higher education, the private sector and elected public office, as well as a practical understanding of how to bring diverse constituencies and organizations together to get things done,” said UNC President Margaret Spellings. 

Staton said he’s looking forward to being part of ECU’s mission to serve students, the region and the state. 

“I am very excited about this opportunity because of the wonderful assets at East Carolina University and the ability I think we have to use those assets to meet the challenges public higher education is facing today and to really be innovative and show excellence in every area of the university’s work,” Staton said today. “That’s exciting to me, and I’m very happy to be here.”

Since 2014, Staton has served as vice chancellor for extended education for the University System of Georgia. In that role, he is responsible for strategic initiatives related to international education, continuing and professional education, entrepreneurial education and military affairs. He is also USG’s liaison with the Georgia Research Alliance and supports USG’s economic development initiatives and efforts to match the resources of USG institutions with Georgia’s evolving workforce needs. 

Since July 2015, Staton has also served as interim president of Valdosta State, a regional USG institution with 11,300 students. In that role, he has focused on retention, improving student success and better marketing and branding to reverse recent enrollment declines and associated budget shortfalls. He has also worked to expand VSU’s distance-learning offerings and competency-based education plan. As a result of these efforts, the university’s operating budget has been aligned with enrollment; applications for fall 2016 are up 60 percent over the previous year; and a capital campaign has raised more than $46 million during the past 18 months.

Staton also served as associate provost at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, a multi-campus institution with professional programs including medicine, law, business, education, pharmacy, engineering and nursing. In addition to teaching in the College of Liberal Arts and serving as an administrator, he led Mercer’s University Press and secured more than $4.5 million to help endow the academic publishing program.

Staton began his academic career at Brewton-Parker College in Mount Vernon, Georgia, where he was an assistant professor of religion from 1989-91.

Staton’s private-sector experience includes founding and leading three communications companies: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, a publisher of books and curriculum products; Stroud and Hall Publishers, a publisher of books on politics and current events; and Georgia Eagle Media, a holding company for broadcasting, newspaper and media properties.

In 2004, Staton was elected as a Georgia state senator representing the state’s 18th District. He served five terms before retiring in 2014. 

“His skill set of the public sector, legislative and academia – I feel like we really got the total package,” said Steve Jones, chair of the ECU Board of Trustees. “It’s an exciting time.” 

John Stiller, chair of the Faculty Senate and a member of the chancellor search committee, said Staton “emerged as a strong candidate as we went forward.”

He added: “We have a tremendously strong leadership team here, tremendously successful and efficient shared governance,” he said. “I’m going to do my best to work with the new chancellor.”

Active in professional and civic organizations, Staton has been recognized numerous times for his service and leadership. His awards and honors include the Georgia Independent College Association’s 2014 Miller-Deal Award for significant public service in higher education; Legislator of the Year awards from the Georgia Hospital Association, Georgia Technology Association and Georgia Rural Health Care Association; and the Georgia Ambulance Association Star of Life Award. 

He also holds an honorary doctorate from Mercer University and received the inaugural Richard B. Furman Award from Furman University. He serves on the board of directors of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the board of visitors of the University of Georgia.

Staton, himself a first-generation college student, said ECU has “world-class faculty” and a “student-focused” staff and “engaged students.” 

“I’m very impressed with the students who are there, their backgrounds and how East Carolina prepares them,” Staton said. “I believe, too, (ECU is) in the business of changing lives. As we change lives, we change families, we change communities and maybe the world.”

Eliza Monroe, a senior urban and regional planning major and member of the search committee, was impressed with how Staton has worked to increase retention at universities and with his varied background.

“I think he’s a great choice,” she said. 

Staton and his wife, Catherine, have two children: Cecil P. Staton III, a financial planner in Atlanta, and William Davidson Staton, a student at DePaul University in Chicago.  

A native of Greenville, South Carolina, Staton has a bachelor’s degree in religion from Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, master of theology and master of divinity degrees from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest and a doctorate in Old Testament, Hebrew and ancient Near Eastern studies from the University of Oxford in England. 

During the search, the 15-member committee evaluated 70 candidates, interviewed 11, brought five to campus for further talks and submitted three names to Spellings, Jones said. 

Welcome Cecil Staton