Andy Bates, an instructor in the East Carolina University English Department and amateur furniture maker, is donating proceeds from an upcoming exhibition to support Nathan Rimpf, an ECU graduate wounded in Afghanistan. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

ECU professor donates exhibition sales to alumnus Nathan Rimpf

Aug. 30, 2012

By Steve Tuttle
ECU News Services

English teaching instructor Andy Bates had cut off the tip of his thumb in a workshop accident at home and was sitting in the doctor’s office when he had the epiphany.

“I was sitting there feeling sorry for myself when suddenly it dawned on me that there are other people who have given so much for our country – they’ve lost their legs or their lives. It was then that I knew I wanted to do something along the lines of the Wounded Warriors project. And I had an idea about what I could do that might help.”

Nathan Rimpf
East Carolina University graduate Nathan Rimpf, injured while serving in Afghanistan, is learning to walk with prosthetic legs. (Contributed photo)
Bates is an accomplished furniture maker whose works already were scheduled for a November exhibition at Emerge Gallery in downtown Greenville. Bates decided that he would donate the proceeds from the sale of his work to a wounded soldier.

“So I contacted (ECU Assistant Vice Chancellor for Military Programs) Steve Duncan and asked him what opportunities he knew about where I could help. He said he had just learned about a recent ECU graduate who had lost both legs serving in Afghanistan, Nathan Rimpf.”

Army First Lt. Rimpf, who graduated from ECU in 2010, was injured on July 8 in Afghanistan just two months after arriving there. He was transferred to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where he continues to receive treatment.

“I knew then that because of this connection – Nathan is an alumnus and a wounded warrior – that he was who I wanted to focus on.”

Bates, who holds an undergraduate and a master’s degree from ECU, and Rimpf have never met but they correspond by email. “He’s already taking his first steps on his new legs, which is just amazing. His doctors have to slow him down, which is such a testimony to his own spirit.”

The exhibition of Bates’ creations will run throughout the month of November. The event kicks off with a reception on Nov. 2.

Will Rimpf be there? “They’ve said they’re treating that as a goal. That would cap off my year to have Nathan here, if only so he can see first-hand the support that the ECU community is showing for him.”

Friends and family of Rimpf also have created wristbands that sell for $5, with all proceeds going to the Nathan Rimpf Support Fund.

Rimpf recently was moved from his hospital room to live in the facility’s outpatient rehabilitation apartments. You can follow his progress through a Facebook page and a web page hosted at the Caring Bridge site.

Examples of Bates' furniture and woodwork are shown above. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

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