Chancellor Steve Ballard

Main Trustees Chancellor


Installation speech, March 31, 2005

To download a copy of this speech as a word document click here.

New Beginnings

Thank you, President Broad.  Thank you Governor Hunt, Chairman Talton and the ECU Board of Trustees.  Thank you fellow Chancellors…Bryan, Burnim, DePaulo, Moeser, Oblinger, Peacock, and Woodward.  Thank you to the entire East Carolina community, the Greenville community, special out-of-town guests, and distinguished visitors.

To borrow a phrase from Ben Franklin,   “ …This is clearly a time for platitudinous wisdom.” I hope that’s not the case today.

I am honored to be installed today as the 10th Chancellor of East Carolina University.  Chuck, when I asked you 6 years ago what it took to become an excellent academic leader, your reply was, “The wisdom of Solomon, the patience of Job, and the stomach of a goat.” I’d like you to know, today, that I believe that I have developed that stomach.  One for three isn’t bad.
This occasion today reminds me of a conversation I had when I first arrived here last spring. I spoke with a local resident whose blood is purple.  He said, “Steve, ECU reminds me of a story about a plane ride.  An hour into the flight, the pilot speaks to the passengers:
“Folks, we are cruising at 35,000 feet and going 700 knots.  There is good news and bad news.  The bad news is that we’re lost.  The good news is that we are making excellent time.’”

My message today is simple.  ECU is not lost, we have not been lost.  We have a great foundation … based on Service, Spirit, Leadership, and Character.  We are part of a public university system that is the envy of the higher education community. We have great opportunities, and these opportunities overwhelm our problems.  

At the same time, we are ready for a new beginning. Our future is in front of us and our aspirations are strong and bold.  he spirit and character of ECU are evident in numerous ways, but perhaps are best seen in Keith LeClair.  Our success at the national level in Keith’s sport started with a simple yet powerful vision from Keith, to be among the best 8 schools in the country.  Today, we are certainly close to that goal.  Let Keith LeClair’s courage, character, and spirit be a lesson to us all:
  • ECU will not be deterred from its vision;  
  • ECU will be recognized for our performance;  
  • ECU will realize our aspirations.

I spent much of my first six months at ECU watching and listening to our community.  As Yogi Berra said, “You can see a lot just by watching.”  Here is what I found.
  • First, ECU has always focused, for 98 years now, on our social responsibilities…we are not “infected by the ivory tower syndrome” …. to use Professor Henry Ferrell’s words;
  • Second, we are a national quality university with a state focus; and
  • Third, we have a special affection and eye towards eastern North Carolina.

North Carolina cannot be a great state without a thriving eastern region.  North Carolina needs the east and for the East to prosper, ECU must prosper. It is clearly a time for a new beginning for eastern North Carolina, with ECU as a leader, a catalyst, and a partner.

Our commitment to our state can be summarized in three words:   relevance, responsiveness, and respect:

  • Relevance:  We are addressing the critical needs of the state, which include preparing nurses and teachers, providing technological training, being a center for health education and science, and providing educational access to residents of North Carolina.

  • Responsiveness:  We are partners in the great economic transformation of eastern North Carolina.  Economic Development is central to our vision and our programs.

  • Respect: We are accountable for our work.  We are open and transparent in our decision - making.  We are committed to building integrity into our processes.

Let me return for a moment to the quality of our university.  Our standards are high.  We compare ourselves to national benchmarks.  We are committed to continuous improvement.    Because of the talent of our people and the quality of our work, we have become a national university.  Let me explain a few of the reasons that we have so much Pride in ECU.

Student Success
This year we have our highest enrollment eve: 22,700 students.  More importantly, we have added 3,350 new students over the past 3 years — the largest absolute growth of any public university in North Carolina.  Last year, we accounted for 81 percent of the distance education growth in the system.   Students are sending an unmistakable message about education at ECU.    

We are growing because we add value to our students. We are committed to their success.  We don’t measure success by the income levels of students when they enter or their SAT scores…rather by their competencies when they exit.  Let me tell you how we are doing:
  • The Education Trust ranks ECU as among the nation’s best in minority graduation rates.  For example, we graduate students of color at twice the rate of our peer institutions;
  • We engage our students in experiential learning. Over 8,000 of our students are currently engaged in service to their community and region;
  • The National Survey of Student engagement is a very important barometer because it measures what we add to the student experience. Compared to our peers, our scores are excellent and our students report higher levels of satisfaction on engagement, skills learned, personal development, and values and ethics.
  • Our students complete what they start.  We out-perform our peers in one-year and two-year retention rates and 4-year, 5-year, and 6-year graduation rates;  

High quality undergraduate education is the first responsibility of the public university; it is what the public expects us to do, and we are committed to being among the very best in nation in the quality of undergraduate training.

Quality of Health Education and Science  
In 1977, ECU enrolled the first class of 28 students in the Brody School of Medicine.  Its mission is to provide primary health care to a rural population.  Today, the Brody School enjoys national recognition.  We are 4th nationally in rural medicine, 15th in family medicine, and 19th in primary care.  

Further, we make sure our programs are available to North Carolinians.  All students in the Brody School of Medicine are North Carolina residents.  We prepare more baccalaureate nurses than any other North Carolina university.  We are among the top 5 nationally in distance education programs in nursing.

We are national leaders in bariatric surgery and discovered what is now known as the “Greenville bypass.”    Further, our new, $60 million cardio-vascular center will be a national leader in both research and treatment of cardiovascular disease and will create more than 500 jobs.   The center addresses illnesses which account for half of our annual health care expenditures, many of which are of epidemic proportions in eastern North Carolina.   

Performing Arts    
An essential part of the cultural value and the quality of life of this region is the quality of visual and performing arts at ECU:
  • We are internationally known in metallurgy.  Professor Robert Ebendorf was recently inducted into the National Metalsmiths Hall of Fame and received the capstone recognition of “Master of the medium”  by the Smithsonian;

  • In the School of Music, our Four Seasons Chamber Music Festival, led by Professor Ara Gregorian, features world-class musicians from 10 countries.   

  • Ray Bunch, from Goldsboro, earned his composition degree from ECU and since then has earned 6 Emmy nominations and one Emmy Award for outstanding music composition.

Teacher Preparation  
It used to be that training teachers was seen as the last resort in the educational hierarchy.  Yet today, preparing teachers of quality who want to remain in teaching is among our most difficult national challenges and is certainly correlated with the economic success of our country.  It is a critical need in North Carolina.  

ECU is a national leader in preparing tomorrow’s teachers, especially in science and math. Last summer we were one of 12 universities invited by the Carnegie Foundation to a special summit on Teaching and America’s Future.  We were invited because we know that teacher preparation is considerably more difficult than it used to be…requiring for example, new partnerships between the College of Arts and Science, Education, and Business and it also requires new ways of thinking about the cognitive content of many subjects.  

Our College of Education is known for collaboration.  Dean Sheerer created the Wachovia Partnership East…a consortium of UNC universities and community colleges to come to grips with the issues of teacher preparation, retention and success.  This is a national model for how our public institutions must work together to address teaching shortages, in the context of what it takes to be successful in today’s public schools.

The theologian Leonard Sweet said, “The future is not something we enter, it is something we create.”  Let’s imagine ECU in 10 years, the year 2015.  We ask to be judged on our contribution to our nation, state, our region, and our city.  Join me in looking at the future of our institution… Imagine a university in the year 2015 known for these characteristics.  

First, The Leadership University
In 2015, ECU will be recognized as “The Leadership University,” where each member of our community is empowered to achieve his or her aspirations.  Very few leaders are born.  Rather, they are nurtured, developed and trained.  We have a responsibility for this development.  The Chancellor’s Leadership Academy, begun by Dr. Shelton in 2003, is a model for leadership development of faculty and staff.  The Discovery Leadership Academy, initiated by Vice Chancellor Moore in 2004, is a national model for preparing first-generation college aspirants.
The BB&T Leadership Center is a catalyst for leadership development throughout the university, preparing the leader within each of us, and significantly enhancing the workforce of eastern North Carolina.    We were proud, yesterday, to acknowledge a new gift from BB&T of $1.0 Million to expand this significant center.

In 2015, our leadership programs for students will be recognized as essential elements for successful undergraduate experiences.  Our goal is that no ECU student would graduate without demonstrated competencies in both technical fields and in leadership readiness.  Employers will rate ECU graduates as their very best in leadership potential and “readiness for success.”

Second, Athletics and Academics
Imagine a public university, committed to quality athletic programs, that is better known for renewing, re-creating and re-energizing the concept of student athlete.  Do you remember that concept?   Based on the success of the class attendance policy and other leadership programs initiated by Athletics Director Holland last year, athletics and academics in 2015 will be integrated and mutually re-enforcing activities.  World class student athletes will come to ECU because they know they will receive excellent coaching, get their degree, and acquire competencies that prepare them for the future.  Our goal by 2015 is to not just meet the NCAA Academic Progress Rates, but for all 20 Division I sports at ECU to have graduation rates higher that than the general student body.

Third, Service and Engagement
ECU’s motto is To Serve.  Just imagine ECU in 2015 as the university that re-defined the notion of public service, making it among the highest honors of the university. Service will no longer be seen as a secondary element of our mission; rather it will be essential to how we use our intellectual resources, view our contribution to economic development and collaborate with other institutions.  ECU’s programs will address the most challenging issues of the day and be recognized for their relevance and responsiveness.   

Fourth, access and diversity
Imagine a university that lives its values related to access and diversity.   Vital and robust learning communities must have the exchange of diverse perspectives and experiences.  ECU believes and behaves on the principle that all our citizens are capable of learning. We are committed to making our resources available to the greatest needs of our citizens.

Imagine our institution in 2015, where 100 percent of the financial needs of our students are met, and we lead the state in providing academic programs in multiple formats that maximize student access and affordability. By 2015, we will have had 15 years of state leadership in the number and quality of distance education programs and courses with multiple formats.  

Just imagine a university that admits students based on their desire for learning, their classroom performance, and their fit with ECU programs.   By 2015, we intend to be known for ending the tyranny of admissions processes biased by income and race and to be first in the nation in minority graduation rates.

Fifth, Economic Catalyst and Partner
Imagine a university recognized as the best economic development partner in North Carolina and the very best collaborator and friend of the community college system. Because our leadership development programs are so well established, our students stay in North Carolina and contribute to our workforce. Workforce development is redefined as ensuring that students receive 21st century competencies and the ability to learn how to learn. They know that their ECU education has prepared them for a chaotic economy, multiple career paths, and rapidly changing work environments. They are both competent and confident because they have so many usable skills and the ability to apply different ways of knowing to real-world problems. Based on ECU’s approach to interdisciplinary education – combining strong liberal arts, professional programs and leadership training — they understand complex technological systems, critical thinking, and most importantly they are grounded in values and ethical practices.

Sixth, ECU as a Center for Innovation and Health Technology
As a part of our commitment to economic development and the quality of life in our state, imagine ECU in 2015 as a national leader in the innovation and application of medical technology.  Just imagine ECU as:

  • The first medical school to not only cure diabetes through bariatric surgery but the place where the molecular trigger for diabetes is identified and inhibited so that diabetes is a completely controllable disease.  Our reasearchers are approaching that pathbreaking discovery.

  • Imagine ECU as a national center for technologies dealing with speech impediments and speech pathologies; and …

  • A world center for research and technology transfer related to minimally invasive surgical technology;

  • ECU can be a national center on nutritional genomics, specializing in prevention and nutritional mitigation of illness;

  • Image ECU as the origin, the home, and the business location for hemocellular therapeutics, a world class innovation in frozen blood plasma created by researchers at ECU and Chapel Hill.   This innovation has significant global application for shock and trauma victims.  For the first time, plasma can be effectively frozen, transported, and stored so that it is readily available to emergency personnel.

Our aspirations for ECU are bold and significant…and more importantly, they are all built on existing foundations. Through the quality of our work and our willpower, we can transform our region. We will do the right thing for our university and our state.

Getting there will require true collaboration as we change ourselves in response to a chaotic environment.  As Meg Wheately says, “In this environment if you’re not confused, you’re not thinking clearly.” Let’s all embrace the changes necessary to realize our vision and our responsibility to our state. It is time for a new beginning.
I am honored to serve as your 10th chancellor and to work with the quality of the faculty, staff, students and administrators of ECU.

Let me close with a personal statement.  Will Rogers said, “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.” I would not be here today if it were not for the help of a few extraordinary people who have taken time, who have cared, and have improved my judgment.  Thank you Jack, Don, Chuck, and Frank.  Thank you, Senator Smith for the encouragement.  Thank you, all of my Kansas City friends, who taught me so much about collegiality and integrity.  Thank you, Tim and Tom for decades of friendship.

Thank you, especially, to Nancy, Nate and Laine.  And, thank you to everyone here today.  Please join me as we make this university a unique institution, committed to responsiveness, relevance, and respect.  It is a new beginning