Dennis and Barbara Pelletier have been in eastern North Carolina for nine years, but they’ve been supporters of education their whole lives. Earlier this year, they decided to start an endowment for a scholarship in the College of Education at East Carolina University that will benefit local students who want to become teachers.
The Pelletiers came to North Carolina after retiring from lifelong careers in education in Maryland. Dennis began his career in the community college system and then worked for 26 years at the University of Baltimore, retiring as the vice president for student affairs and enrollment management. Barbara worked for many years as a second-grade teacher in Howard County.
When it came time to retire, they looked at five states before deciding on North Carolina and then searched all over the state before settling in Chocowinity, 30 minutes east of Greenville.
“We wanted university culture, continuing education opportunities and, of course, the medical school was a big draw,” Dennis said.
“At the time, both of our children were living in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.,” said Barbara. “Now our son is in Charleston, and our daughter is in Richmond. It’s great to be so close to family while enjoying the community here. It’s remarkable, and we’re very fortunate how everything worked out.”
The Pelletiers wanted to stay active during retirement, so they looked to ECU for opportunities.
“One of the things we saw that was needed at ECU was more options for continuing education,” Dennis said.
ECU had offered free classes for seniors before, but they were discontinued during budget cuts. So, Dennis helped start the Lifelong Learning Program at ECU. The Lifelong Learning Program provides affordable courses, seminars and trips to local adults 50 and older so they can continue to enjoy learning without tests or grades. Dennis served on the program’s board for three years.
Then he got an email saying the College of Education was looking for volunteers to evaluate scholarship applications.
“That was a natural fit for me,” Dennis said. “That was what started the idea to fund a scholarship.”
The first scholarship from the Dennis and Barbara Pelletier Teacher Education Scholarship Fund will be awarded in the 2016-2017 school year, thanks to an additional contribution from the Pelletiers while the original endowment grows. The scholarship will go to an upperclassman first-generation college student in financial need from North Carolina who wants to stay and teach in the state.
“We were able to customize it to how we wanted to help,” Dennis said.
The Pelletiers were the first in their families to graduate from college. Originally from New York, they met at State University of New York at Oneonta. Like ECU, Oneonta started as a state normal school for teachers.
“We have an appreciation for what our education gave us. We’re both products of public education,” Dennis said.
“We know how tough it is to be a public school teacher,” Barbara said. “We like the idea of helping someone get started. It’s so important to have good teachers. If we can help them get ready for their careers, we can also help so many children that way.”
Though they did not attend ECU, the Pelletiers have enjoyed supporting and getting involved with the university. Many of their neighbors in Chocowinity are also involved with ECU.
“It’s important for the community to support the university,” Dennis said. “The community gains so much from the university, it’s only fair to give back.”
I would recommend getting involved with the university,” Barbara said. “It helps current students and enriches life here. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
Drake, J. (2016, Winter). Dennis and Barbara Pelletier Endow Education Scholarship. EAST, the Magazine of East Carolina University, page 46. Retrieved from http://www.ecu.edu/cs-admin/mktg/east/Philanthropy_Winter16.cfm