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On Thursday, College of Nursing students enjoyed birthday cake celebrating 50 years of nursing education at East Carolina University. The first students, all women, were enrolled in fall 1960. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

Celebrating 50 years of nursing education at ECU

College of Nursing students ushered in the first week of classes and kicked off an academic yearlong celebration of 50 years of nursing education at ECU Aug. 26.
Nursing’s back lobby in the Health Sciences Building was transformed with purple and gold balloons, sheet cake and the traditional melody of “Happy Birthday to You.” In the front lobby, students picked up Pirate Nurse buttons, pins and viewed a display showcasing the history of the college since 1960.
Dean Sylvia Brown and Vice Chancellor Phyllis Horns, PeeDee Pirate and ECU nursing student cheerleaders welcomed guests.
“It’s hard to believe about this time 50 years ago, we were just starting,” Brown said. The story goes that state leaders at the time had been debating whether to buy an airplane or start a nursing school. “To our good fortune, they decided to start a nursing program.”
Horns, former dean of nursing, brought greetings and best wishes for another 50 years from Chancellor Steve Ballard, who she said recognizes the leadership of students, staff and faculty within the college.
“When we graduate students from this college, they go out and take on leadership roles worldwide,” Horns said. “It’s remarkable the work and growth that has gone on in this college.”
The College of Nursing, ECU’s oldest professional school, provides the state with more nurses than any other four-year institution in North Carolina. A National League for Nursing-designated Center of Excellence, the college has more than 1,100 students enrolled in baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral programs. There are more than 6,500 ECU nursing alumni “making a difference in the lives of people, and that’s what being a Pirate nurse is all about,” Brown said.

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Nurse anesthesia graduate students listen as Dr. Sylvia Brown, left, dean of the ECU College of Nursing, welcomes students, faculty, staff and alumni on Thursday to the college’s 50th birthday party, the first of many celebratory events planned this academic year. The College of Nursing provides the state with more nurses than any other four-year institution in North Carolina. Enrollment in all programs tops 1,100 students.

This story appeared originally in the Sept. 24, 2010 issue of Pieces of Eight. An archived version of that issue is available at