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Chancellor Emeritus Richard R. Eakin and his wife Jo Ann enjoy a ceremony announcing the College of Nursing’s first endowed distinguished professorship, named in honor of the former chancellor. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

Distinguished Professorship in Nursing Honors Eakin

By Crystal Baity

East Carolina University’s College of Nursing announced in December its first endowed distinguished professorship named in honor of university Chancellor Emeritus Richard R. Eakin.

ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard also announced that the ECU board of trustees voted to recognize Eakin with chancellor emeritus status.

“There is none more deserving,” Ballard said. Eakin served as ECU chancellor from 1987 to 2001. During that time, the university grew by 5,000 students, achieved doctoral status and saw the passage of a bond referendum responsible for the construction of the new Health Sciences Building, home to the College of Nursing.

The $1 million endowment in the ECU College of Nursing is made possible by a $667,000 challenge grant from the C.D. Spangler Foundation Inc. and $333,000 in state matching funds from the Distinguished Professors Endowment Trust Fund, created by the N.C. General Assembly in 1985.

The Spangler Foundation committed $6.9 million to fund an endowed distinguished professorship at each of the 16 University of North Carolina institutions in 2007. Endowed professorships range from $500,000 to $1 million. Eligible disciplines include high-need fields of education, engineering, nursing and the traditional arts and sciences. The Spangler Foundation named the professorships.

Ballard thanked the Spangler Foundation and lauded the College of Nursing, its leadership and distance education programs and its role in providing new nurse graduates to North Carolina’s workforce.

Eakin was presented with a miniature chair in honor of the professorship and his contributions to higher education.

Dr. Phyllis Horns, former dean of the College of Nursing who now serves as interim vice chancellor for health sciences and interim dean of the Brody School of Medicine, said Eakin hired her as dean of nursing and she has always appreciated his support.

“Dick was instrumental in getting the Ph.D. program in nursing. He was also chancellor when we got the nurse midwifery program, which is the only one in the state,” Horns said. Eakin was instrumental in the expansion of the Rivers Building, which helped alleviate overcrowding in nursing’s former location, and in the development of the Health Sciences Building, she said.

“His chancellorship has meant a lot to this university and the College of Nursing,” Horns said.

“What we do with this professorship will reflect the high standards you’ve set.”

The Richard R. Eakin Distinguished Professorship will support the recruitment of a nurse scientist who has a history of funded research in an area that addresses the health needs of eastern North Carolinians.

Dr. Sylvia Brown, acting dean of the College of Nursing, thanked the Spangler Foundation and noted that the college has worked many years to develop an endowed professorship.

“We hope to attract an outstanding scholar and researcher,” Brown said. “Ultimately, the students will reap the benefits of this generous gift.”

Brown said Eakin has agreed to serve on the board of the Center for Nursing Leadership in addressing workforce nursing issues in eastern North Carolina. She presented Eakin with a miniature “thinking man’s chair” in recognition of the professorship and for his excellence in leadership and higher education.

Eakin thanked everyone, especially the generosity of Spangler, who hired Eakin as chancellor. He said he was honored to have the professorship named for him.

“I’m particularly thrilled it is given to the College of Nursing,” Eakin said. “It’s a college entirely worthy of this great honor.”

Beginning in 2008, the Spangler Foundation will invest up to $20 million over five years to help each campus qualify for one additional endowed chair each year, potentially adding 80 professorships systemwide. The plan is contingent on the N.C. General Assembly providing state matching funds annually through the Distinguished Professors Endowment Trust Fund.

Started to encourage the creation of endowed chairs, the trust has provided matching funds for more than 300 professorships in the UNC system. Previously, Spangler and his family foundation have made donations to endow or complete 37 distinguished professorships across the system. A successful Charlotte businessman and advocate for public education at all levels, C.D. Spangler Jr. served as UNC president from 1986 to 1997.

The ECU College of Nursing, established in 1959, is the oldest in the health sciences division and has an enrollment of 1,047 students in baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral nursing programs.

It is the largest producer of new nursing graduates in the state and offers the only nurse midwifery plan of study and alternate entry MSN option for non-nursing bachelor degree holders in the state.

The college is known for innovative online outreach efforts designed to increase access to education in rural areas. It serves as a center of excellence for leadership in nursing, professional nursing education, research, service and faculty practice in eastern North Carolina.The college offers program options for registered nurses and post-master’s students to advance their education.

4/23/07
This page originally appeared in the Jan. 25, 2008 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at http://www.ecu.edu/news/poe/Arch.cfm.