Bush visits ECU
(Apr. 12, 2001)
When Ricky Hill (Facilities) learned last Thursday (April 5) that he had to go to an important meeting on Friday, he was worried that some details had been overlooked for a campus visit by an accreditation team.
Hill learned the next day that indeed there would be a visit, but the guest would be President George W. Bush.
For the next five days staff members all across the university worked to ensure that the Presidential visit, organized by the Republican Party, would be a rousing success. A capacity crowd in Minges Coliseum came early on Wednesday and cheered its approval throughout a 30-minute address by the President.
Bush was introduced by Chancellor Richard Eakin, who presented the former majority owner of the Texas Rangers an ECU baseball team jersey.
The President used his speech to promote his tax and budget proposals and promised: "Tax relief is on the way."
His visit to the campus was the first by a sitting U.S. president and he drew a record crowd of more than 8,000 to Minges. Twenty -three ticket holders were in line at 7:30 on the morning of the event, even though the gates would not open until 2:45 p.m.
Last-minute preparations had continued through Tuesday night, including the covering of advertising signs on the big-screen TVs in Minges at the request of the White House.
One of the biggest challenges facing planners was parking. A team that included Craig Curtis (Athletics), David Santa Ana and Johnnie Eastwood (Parking and Traffic), Frank Knight (Police) and Scott Alford (Transit) met Tuesday afternoon to draw up the final plan. It was a strategy that had to deal with the regular contingent of Minges student parkers plus a special Olympics event crowd that would be on campus until early afternoon.
"We need to save this plan for the Louisville basketball game next season," Curtis said.
Another big user of services was the white House Corps. More than 60 media representatives travel with the President and they needed electricity, phone lines and writing and filing facilities. The Minges ticket office became an electronic transmission center and the southeast lobby of Minges was a press room. Five satellite trucks and three microwave trucks from national, regional and local organizations were on hand for the event.
And it all seemed to work. Hill was all smiles after the event. Police Chief Teresa Crocker reported no problems. Santa Ana said, "We have happy campers."