ECU News Services


Three Department Chairs Selected
When fall semester begins, three chairpersons will be in place for the departments of English, History and Mathematics at East Carolina University. Dr. Alan White, dean of the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, recently made the appointments.

Jeffrey Johnson


On July 1, Dr. Jeffrey Johnson, professor of English at Northern Illinois University, will begin his new role as chair of the Department of English, replacing interim chair Dr. Ron Mitchelson. Dr. Gerry Prokopowicz will move from interim to permanent chair of the Department of History. And July 6, Dr. Johannes Hattingh, professor and graduate director of mathematics at Georgia State University, will begin as the chair of the Department of Mathematics.

“English, history and mathematics are essential parts of the whole that comprise any college of arts and sciences,” said White. “These core disciplines play a major role in supporting the basic foundations curriculum for every student at ECU, and therefore, I am extremely delighted and relieved that we have appointed three excellent candidates as chairs for these Harriot College departments.”

Johnson has spent the previous 10 years teaching English at Northern Illinois University. His expertise falls within the area of British Renaissance literature, with particular interests in the life and writings of John Donne. Johnson has worked with Thomas Harriot’s papers in the British Library.

“The Department of English at ECU houses a wonderfully diverse and talented faculty and staff, and as such, I am both delighted and humbled to be appointed as chair,” said Johnson. “I have every confidence that working in concert with my new colleagues, we can shape a bright future for the department and for our students.”

Prokopowicz, who came to ECU in 2003, is an associate professor of history and has held the position of Harriot College’s interim chair in the Department of History since 2007. He is a known scholar on the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln, and is the author of “Did Lincoln Own Slaves? And Other Frequently Asked Questions about Abraham Lincoln.”

“It is a great honor to be asked to serve as chair of the History Department,” said Prokopowicz. “We have a very productive faculty, an enthusiastic body of undergraduate majors, a growing master’s program and the unique Program in Maritime Studies. It’s an exciting time to be part of this department.”

He expressed his surprise at how different it is to serve as chair, after three years in the role of interim chair.

“In addition to dealing with immediate issues, I’m finding more opportunity to focus on long-range planning. It’s a great challenge, but structurally, I think it will benefit the department to be able to count on having the same person in place for awhile,” Prokopowicz said.

Hattingh, the new chair in mathematics, has taught courses over the past 22 years that range from numerical analysis, graph theory, abstract algebra, linear algebra and modern algebra, to elementary statistics, precalculus and calculus. He has published more than 80 scholarly articles, and he is a member of the American Mathematical Society and a Fellow of the Institute of Combinatorics and its Applications.

“I am very excited about joining the Department of Mathematics at East Carolina University as departmental chair, and I look forward to working with the dean's office and the department's faculty in strengthening the department's teaching and research profiles by using the external program review as a spring board,” said Hattingh. “The department already has excellent faculty, and with the necessary infusion of resources, I am confident that it will go from strong to stronger.”

This story appeared originally in the June 15, 2010 issue of Pieces of Eight. An archived version of that issue is available at