Dec. 6, 2016
A retiring East Carolina University professor known for changing lives is being honored through a new scholarship that will continue his legacy.
Dr. J. Barry DuVall will retire this month after 32 years as a professor in the Department of Technology Systems in the College of Engineering and Technology.
DuVall's former student and ECU alumnus Timothy Gomez created the Dr. Barry DuVall/Timothy M. Gomez Teacher's Choice scholarship to help future ECU students realize their dreams. Industrial technology students William Koch and Gregory Parrish received the first scholarships this fall.
"The recipients are students who cannot dedicate 100 percent of their time to studies, and this is one way that we're able to help better their lives so they can focus on their education, like Dr. DuVall did for me and many others," said Gomez '92 '95.
"He made us be everything we could be, and he wouldn't settle for anything less," Gomez said. "After 50 years of riding students like me, there's many of us out there that owe our lives to him, and for me personally, he changed my life."
Gomez is CEO of Dixon Ticonderoga, one of the oldest manufacturers of writing instruments, arts and crafts and fine art products in the United States. But 25 years ago, Gomez was a struggling ECU student from northeastern North Carolina who didn't have very good grades because he was working 60 hours a week to make ends meet.
That all changed, he said, after DuVall approached him about graduate school. Gomez said DuVall helped him get into graduate school and a grant program that allowed him to focus on school instead of having to work all the time.
"My master's degree grades were straight A's," Gomez said.
Another former student, Mike Putnam '98 '00, said DuVall's impact is everlasting.
"Dr. Duvall mentored each student as though he had stock in their future career," said Putnam, president and CEO of Sequence, a quality and compliance consulting firm in Raleigh. "He went well beyond teaching technical content. Dr. Duvall taught the intangibles every employer desires in a candidate, whether it was a proper handshake, the importance of eye contact or the value of self-confidence."
DuVall said he came from a family of teachers, with his parents, aunts and uncles being in the profession. He received undergraduate and graduate degrees from Indiana State University, where he worked in the print shop with graphic arts. DuVall taught at several universities before coming to ECU in 1984. A decade later, he was on the forefront in teaching online classes.
"I have had one of the greatest jobs in the world. That's because technology is always changing, there are always opportunities for improvement, and my students are working professionals who are results-oriented and make it all worthwhile." Duvall said.
In September, Gomez picked up DuVall in a limousine and took him to the College of Engineering and Technology's annual Robert E. and Betty S. Hill Recognition of Excellence Awards Ceremony. There, DuVall was presented with the J. Barry DuVall Lifetime Achievement Award.
"This was a surprise for me, that's for sure," DuVall said. "I just would never, ever anticipate anything like that. … That's wonderful, you know."
Dr. Tijjani Mohammed, chair of the ECU Department of Technology Systems, said it is nearly impossible to narrow DuVall's impacts and contributions into a few sentences or even an article.
"Dr. John Barry DuVall is a legend… He will forever be remembered as one of the greatest technology teachers, a great colleague, a sincere friend and a caring mentor who offered unconditional support to everyone around him without any expectation of anything in return," Mohammed said. "People like Dr. DuVall are very rare and to say that he will be sorely missed in our department and the university will be a gross understatement."
DuVall's email signature includes a quote: "I am here to help those who help themselves. Forge on!" Those who know him best agree that DuVall helped many students get all they could from their time at ECU.
"You just never know what to expect when you work with others," DuVall said. "I could tell though that some of those people have the spark in the eye and the energy and enthusiasm. He (Gomez) was like that. And that always makes it worthwhile. That's why I've done it (teaching) so long."
Gomez said he wants students who come to ECU to know about DuVall, and he will make sure that happens through the Teacher's Choice scholarship. Gomez plans to award four scholarships to technology systems students with demonstrated financial need in 2017, and will grow the fund from there.
"I love this man," Gomez said. "As humble as he is, he deserves to retire in this way."