Aug. 18, 2017
East Carolina University Chancellor Cecil Staton outlined his plans and expectations for the coming year during Faculty Convocation at Wright Auditorium Friday, marking the official start of the 2017-2018 academic year.
After declaring his support for and solidarity with the University of Virginia and reiterating a condemnation of bigotry, racism and violence in the wake of this week's events, he welcomed the university's new faculty and administrators.
"We welcome you to an institution with high aspirations, a place committed to scaling even greater heights, to be one of America's great national universities," Staton said. "There are some who feel that statement is a bit of a stretch, maybe even a big stretch. But they'll come around.
"I came to this place because of the potential I saw. I saw greatness … and I wanted very much to be a part of it. Nothing has dissuaded me over the course of my first year as your 11th chancellor."
Spreading the word about ECU's achievements and elevating the perception of the university is one of Staton's goals, and he announced a comprehensive rebranding aimed at increasing awareness beyond eastern North Carolina.
"Not everyone is aware of how vital ECU is," he said. "We intend to lift up the ECU brand so that more people across North Carolina - our stakeholders, our Board of Governors, those involved in state government and even the world of higher education in general - will know and understand what ECU has become and what we aspire to be."
Staton also lauded the ECU Board of Trustees for approving the administration's recommended $500 million comprehensive capital campaign, which is currently in its quiet phase but has already generated $140 million in gifts and pledges.
"Our campaign will focus on several big capital projects for this university, but it will also be about scholarships, endowed chairs, research, internationalization, and increasing our endowment," Staton said.
The funding is necessary in order to achieve such goals as doubling research awards and expenditures over the next five years and doubling the number of ECU students participating in international experiences from 12.5 percent to 25 percent.
Also speaking at the event were Patricia Clark, professor in the School of Theatre and Dance and recipient of the 2017 Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching, and biology professor Kyle Summers, recipient of the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award for Research and Creative Activity.
"I have learned as a teacher throughout my life the power of education and the strength of education, not only in this nation but around the world," said Clark, the founder and director of ECU Storybook Theatre, a program that provides young learners throughout eastern North Carolina the opportunity to experience live theater.
"My students and I travel around (the region) and we share with the schools international stories that we gather in the global classroom, so that they can learn about different cultures, different communities and different ideas," she said.
The convocation ceremony also included a musical spotlight by Stephen Ivany and Alisa Gilliam of the School of Music on trombone and piano, respectively. The pair performed "Romance" by Carl Maria von Weber.
Staton reminded the gathered faculty of their role and responsibility to ECU's students. "A window of opportunity for the next generation of Pirates begins with us today," he said.