Oct 302012

Published: October 30, 2012


Associated Press
The HMS Bounty, seen in 2010, went down southeast of Hatteras, N.C.

Heavy Seas Claim Famous Tall Ship

By Cameron McWhirter

PORTSMOUTH, Va.—A ship’s captain remained missing Monday after the crew of a replica of the HMS Bounty abandoned the vessel in stormy seas, leaving the ship built as a prop for a Marlon Brando movie to sink off Hatteras, N.C.

The 180-foot, 412-ton sailing ship—which appeared in films from “Mutiny on the Bounty” to “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”—went down about 90 miles southeast of Hatteras.

The U.S. Coast Guard rescued 14 crew members via helicopter. Another crew member, Claudene Christian, 42, was later found unresponsive, while the captain, Robin Walbridge, 63, remained missing Monday evening, according to Coast Guard Lt. Commander Jamie Frederick.

It was unclear why the ship was sailing in a gigantic storm. Tracie Simonin, director of the HMS Bounty Organization LLC, which owns the ship, couldn’t be reached for comment. The Associated Press reported her as saying the crew had been “in constant contact” with the National Hurricane Center and had been trying to “make it around the storm.”

Those rescued escaped the ship in two lifeboats, radioing a distress call Monday morning to the Coast Guard before abandoning ship, said Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Michael Patterson. They were taken to a Coast Guard base at Elizabeth City, N.C.

Survivors told rescuers the ship was taking on water, and the crew decided to leave after the generator was flooded. While attempting to leave in lifeboats, three crew members—the captain and Ms. Christian among them—were swept into the ocean. One of the three made it to a lifeboat, but Capt. Walbridge and Ms. Christian didn’t, Lt. Cmdr. Frederick said.

After the vessel was abandoned, it was hit by 40-miles-per-hour winds and 18-foot waves, which caused it to fill with water and sink.

On Monday afternoon, Coast Guard crews using a HC-130 Hercules airplane and a helicopter found the body of Ms. Christian. She was unresponsive when pulled up and didn’t revive when taken to the hospital in Elizabeth City, he said. The search for Capt. Walbridge continued.

The ship was built for 1962′s “Mutiny on the Bounty”—which starred Mr. Brando—about a famous revolt by British seamen in 1789. The replica has had several owners, including MGM film studio, which based it in St. Petersburg, Fla., as a tourist attraction.

In 2001, the HMS Bounty Organization, in Setauket, N.Y., bought the ship. Under its new owner, the vessel toured ports, charging for visits. This year it went up the Atlantic coast, stopping at ports along the way.

 The waters off North Carolina’s coast, for a host of environmental factors including sharp winds, shifting currents, hurricanes and a large shoal off shore, make it particularly dangerous for shipping. Its depths hold anywhere from 6,000 to 8,000 shipwrecks, according to Lawrence Babits, professor emeritus and retired director of maritime studies at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C.

“It’s a place where bad things can happen, that’s for sure,” he said.

Mr. Babits, who had been aboard the HMS Bounty replica several times and has sailed on other tall-mast ships, said he didn’t understand why the ship entered the path of a large storm that everyone knew was coming. Whatever happened on board, he said, it had to be very serious.

“It has to be pretty bad before you give the order to abandon ship,” he said.

Write to Cameron McWhirter at Cameron.McWhirter@dowjones.com

Oct 302012

By Jane Dail

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The ECU Police Department this week expects to announce new developments and possibly release surveillance footage in the Oct. 21 Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium vandalism.

Lt. Chris Sutton said the department is planning to release information after Halloween unless there is breakthrough in the case before then.

The university announced last week that suspect William Banks, 18, no longer was enrolled as a student. Police continue work to identify two more people involved in the incident.

Police say three people climbed the stadium walls early on that Sunday morning, drove three utility vehicles onto the field and crashed the vehicles under the stands, causing about $35,000 in damage.

Investigators are reviewing surveillance footage from the stadium and dormitories. Sutton said he is hoping to release still images and video footage of the suspects.

“They are going to help us … so hopefully we’ll have some more information at the end of the week,” he said.

Banks was charged with breaking and entering, first-degree trespassing and multiple counts of injury to property in connection with the incident.

Sutton said additional charges against Banks are possible.

“If there’s any extra (charges), then that will probably come out when we get together later on in the week,” Sutton said.

The department has not had contact with Banks since last week, Sutton said.

“I’m not aware of any contact we’ve had with him since last Tuesday,” he said. “He came in and was interviewed and moved his stuff out of the dorm room.”

Anyone with information about the vandalism is asked to call ECU police at 328-6787.

Contact Jane Dail at jdail@reflector.com or 252-329-9585.

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via The Daily Reflector.

Oct 302012

Published: October 30, 2012

 David Shannon   None

David Shannon

Life of UNC freshman remembered

Police say investigation proving alcohol use, possible hazing issues

By Tammy Grubb – tgrubb@newsobserver.com

CHAPEL HILL — A memorial service was held on campus Monday for a UNC-Chapel Hill freshman who police said died this weekend from a 17-foot fall.

Students and others gathered inside the Student Union to remember David Palmer Shannon, 18, of Charlotte. Carrboro police said he fell off an elevated conveyor at the Ready Mixed Concrete Plant on Guthrie Lane. Other students looking for Shannon found him and called police about 10:30 p.m. Saturday, spokesman Lt. Chris Atack said.

Witnesses told police Shannon was seen drinking alcohol Friday night and early Saturday morning, Atack said. He may have been alone at the plant and appears to have fallen from the machine to the concrete surface below, he said. Alcohol could have been involved, he said.

Police are also investigating weekend activities and possible hazing at the Chi Phi fraternity, where Shannon pledged, Atack said. An official cause of death won’t be released until the state medical examiner’s office in Chapel Hill completes an autopsy, he said.

The 2012 graduate of Charlotte’s Myers Park High School was majoring in business administration. Family friend Bryan Joyner said Shannon was accepted into Chi Phi. Monday would have been the end of his pledge period.

A Chapel Hill Florist van was parked in the fraternity’s driveway Monday afternoon. The driver carried several bouquets to the house. A fraternity member who answered the door said it was too soon to comment about Shannon or his death.

“As we grieve David’s loss as a campus community, our thoughts are with his parents, family and friends,” UNC-CH Chancellor Holden Thorp said in a weekend news release.

Memorial funds

Joyner said the university and Shannon’s family have set up a memorial fund in his honor. A separate fund is being set up at his high school in Charlotte, he said.

University administrators referred questions Monday to the Carrboro Police Department.

Aaron Bachenheimer, director of Fraternity and Sorority Life and Community Involvement, declined to answer questions about whether Chi Phi was being investigated.

It would be “just not appropriate for me to make any comments related to an ongoing investigatory process,” Bachenheimer said. Shannon’s brother, Stephen, and parents, Katy and Hugh Shannon, gathered with friends Sunday at the family’s home in Charlotte. Stephen Shannon, 21, is a senior at Elon University.

“Obviously, the family is devastated,” Joyner said. “I know there are a lot of questions that they have that they’re hoping to find the answers to.”

‘Well liked … well loved’

It’s hard to think about all the good memories he has of Shannon, Joyner said. He was very active at Carmel Baptist Church in Matthews. He was a leader in the youth group, taught Sunday school and served as a church camp counselor.

He also played defensive end for the Myers Park High School football team and won several DECA competitions. DECA is an international association of marketing students.

Joyner said his classmates voted him “Most Eligible Future Husband.”

“He could have easily been a conceited, elitist jock,” Joyner said. “He had a truly loving and friendly personality. He made friends easily. He wasn’t just well liked, he was well loved. Everyone adored David.”

A funeral will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at Carmel Baptist Church, 1145 Pineville-Matthews Road in Matthews. Visitation will follow the service.

Anyone with information about Shannon’s death is asked to call Sgt. Mike Metz at 919-918-7409 or Lt. Anthony Westbrook at 919-918-7417. Staff writer Jane Stancill and The Charlotte Observer’s Elisabeth Arriero contributed.

Grubb: 919-932-8746


Oct 302012

Published: October 29, 2012

Sandy prompts some colleges to push early-application deadlines

By Nick Anderson

For many high school seniors, the massive storm that struck the East Coast on Monday not only raised the possibility of days without transportation, classes or electrical power; it also threatened to wreak havoc with their college applications.

The reason for students’ fears: Thursday marks a key annual deadline for many colleges to accept early applications. Authorities in northeast and mid-Atlantic states expect millions of people to be without power this week in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, making it extremely difficult for some students to meet the Nov. 1 target without the use of computers or Internet access.

As a result, several colleges announced Monday that they would push back their deadlines.

The University of Virginia said it would accept applications for early-action admissions through 11:59 p.m. Sunday. Early action is a program that allows students to secure an early-admission offer — in U-Va.’s case by January — without being required to make a decision until later in the school year. Last year, about 11,700 applicants sought early action at U-Va. Of those, about 3,200 were admitted and about 1,500 enrolled, said Greg W. Roberts, dean of admission at U-Va. Those students made up about two-fifths of the entering class.

With Sandy wreaking havoc on the Eastern Seaboard, Roberts said U-Va. wanted to give families more time “if in fact this is going to be as devastating to some areas as some people think.”

At the University of Maryland, which gives priority to applications submitted by Nov. 1, officials announced that the deadline would be extended, but they did not set a new one.

“We will, of course, work with prospective students and our school counselor colleagues to be as flexible as possible in helping them to complete the admission process,” Barbara Gill, U-Md.’s assistant vice president for undergraduate admissions and enrollment planning, said in an e-mail.

Johns Hopkins University extended its deadline for early-decision applications, which had been Thursday. Early decision, unlike nonbinding early-action programs, requires students to enroll if admitted. Johns Hopkins has not set a new deadline but will as soon as officials assess the storm’s impact.

“Students have a lot of anxiety about applications,” said David Phillips, vice provost for admissions and financial aid at Johns Hopkins. “The more you give them an extended deadline, the more they may pore over [an application], and edit it and re-edit. We don’t want students agonizing too much about it. We want to close the loop.”

At Washington and Lee University, which also has an early-decision program, officials said they would be flexible. “We’re asking them to get us their materials as soon as possible and to do their best to submit what they can before any possible power-related interruptions to Internet service,” said Jonathan Webster, associate dean of admission at Washington and Lee.

Similar deadline extensions were expected at many other schools.

Georgetown University officials plan to announce that their early-action application deadline will be bumped to Monday for those in storm-affected areas, a spokeswoman said.

College admission counselors said that Nov. 1 is perennially one of the biggest days on the application calendar. The days leading up to that deadline are some of the most stressful.

“I always encourage kids to work ahead of time,” said Bruce Vinik, an education consultant in Montgomery County. “You never know if something’s going to come up at the end that somehow throws a wrench into the process. This is a great example of why kids need to work ahead.”

Nina Marks, another Montgomery-based education consultant, said the storm could disproportionately affect applicants who have modest means. Those who are rushing to complete their applications, she said, often have fewer resources at home. For that reason, she said, it is crucial to extend the application deadline for students who may be affected by Sandy. “It’s one of the most urgent moments of the year,” Marks said.

Oct 302012

Published: October 30, 2012

U-Va’s Sullivan was hired as an interim, ex-board member says

By Jenna Johnson and Donna St. George

University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan was hired as an “interim” president and thus was never fully engaged by the historic school’s governing board before her ouster over the summer, according to a new account of events that preceded the leadership crisis in Charlottesville.

In a lengthy interview with The Washington Post, Randal J. Kirk, who recently stepped down from the board, broke the silence that has hung over U-Va’s board since it forced Sullivan out in June and then reinstated her 18 days later.

Kirk traced leadership problems back to 2009, saying the university’s search for a new president did not net the best result. Kirk was not on the search committee, but he said that he was told the committee varied in its support for Sullivan, who was then provost at the University of Michigan.
Sullivan was the only person the committee recommended to the full board, which then voted unanimously to hire her.
“There was an attitude of, ‘Here’s someone who is pretty good and will do for a while,’ ” Kirk said in a telephone interview from his home in Florida. “Teresa Sullivan was sold to this board as an interim. . . . The fact that she was presented to us in this way, we didn’t really engage with her and share what we expected.”
One person who served on the board with Kirk agreed that Sullivan was not seen as a long-term president, while seven former and current board members said Kirk’s account was wrong. Many who were on the board during the June controversy did not return phone calls or e-mail messages requesting comment. Board Rector Helen Dragas did not respond directly to Kirk’s assertions about the hiring of Sullivan.
Kirk’s account is one of the few public explanations from a member of the governing board about what triggered the unprecedented turmoil. Many in the U-Va. community — and across higher education — continue to ask for more explanation, but Kirk’s version is likely to raise as many questions as it answers. Kirk was an ally of Dragas, who led the effort to oust Sullivan.
Sullivan declined to comment, but the university released a statement Monday that said “the crisis of the summer was very difficult” and “took a toll” on the university community, but since Sullivan’s reinstatement “everyone has been working hard to restore trust” and move U-Va. forward as a leader in higher education.

“There is much good will and commitment to focusing our collective energies on critical issues,” the statement said. “The only way to foster trust in these efforts is to embrace partnership.”

Timothy B. Robertson, one of the three board members who called the special meeting at which Sullivan was reinstated, declined to speak about confidential board matters but reaffirmed his support for Sullivan: “We believed and still believe that she was absolutely the right person to be the president of the University of Virginia at this time.”

Several former board members who were part of the board that hired Sullivan rejected the idea that she was anything less than the full-fledged leader U-Va. needed.

The search process took more than five months, and search committee members worked with a respected higher-education headhunter, conferred with other university presidents and sought out the brightest lights in higher education, they said.

Sullivan was on the short list.

She was hired by the board in January 2010, given a five-year contract and paid $680,000 a year in salary and other compensation. Former board member L.F. Payne said he recalls Sullivan being presented as “the best person in America to be president of a major university who wasn’t already the president of a major university.”
Austin Ligon, another former board member and search committee member, said: “Terry was our first choice because she was the most qualified candidate.”
Sullivan was 60 when she was hired, so it was not expected that she would lead the university for as long as her predecessor, John Casteen III, who held the position for 20 years.
“Our goal was always five to 10 years with a preference for 10,” Ligon said. “It is absolutely not true that we discussed Terry as a short-term president.”

Daniel R. Abramson, then vice rector and a search committee member, said the goal was “at least 10 years,” adding: “Our discussion was 10 years plus.”

John O. “Dubby” Wynne, the former leader of the board and the search process, declined to comment.

Virginia’s governor appoints board members to four-year terms, and the 16-member board that asked Sullivan to step down in June included only eight people who voted her into the job — including Dragas and Kirk.

Kirk, 58, grew up in Virginia, graduated from Radford University and earned a law degree at U-Va. in 1979. He has started several biotech and pharmaceutical companies and has been identified by business magazines as a self-made billionaire.

He served on U-Va’s governing board since his appointment in 2009 by then-Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D). Though not on the presidential search committee, he was part of the board that voted to hire Sullivan.

Kirk said he found Sullivan’s aspirations for the flagship university lacking and thought that she failed to set priorities and quickly enact change. He said U-Va. should be “a public example of a Harvard or a Stanford.”

Sullivan’s reports to the board were “facile and lame” activity logs, Kirk said, lacking the strategic vision he expected from a “CEO” overseeing a multibillion-dollar education and health-care enterprise.

Kirk said he and other board members grew increasingly frustrated, and this spring decided that Sullivan needed to leave before her five-year contract was up. At least 15 of the 16 board members firmly backed that position, he said.

“All of us felt the university needed a better president,” Kirk said. “That was for sure.”

Other board members, who would not speak on the record because of the sensitivity of the matter, disputed Kirk’s portrayal.

They say they heard no discontent about Sullivan in public meetings or private board sessions — and they did not think she had a flawed presidency. They say they were told of plans to oust Sullivan shortly before it happened and without full and accurate information.

“I just don’t see it that way,” one board member said of Kirk’s account. “And I don’t know how he would know. He wasn’t there half the time.”

Since joining the board, Kirk participated in 11 of 21 meetings, two of which he attended via telephone, according to a university spokeswoman. He missed all four annual retreats. Kirk said he attended all meetings during the crisis in June.

Dragas, in a brief written statement, said she and the vice rector agreed it was best not to elaborate on Kirk’s account: “As I have previously and publicly stated, I believed that the request had the support of 15 of 16 board members who, as far as I knew, made their own independent decisions about how best to proceed.”

Kirk and other board members who spoke with The Post agreed on one thing: The board should have met as a whole before accepting or forcing Sullivan’s resignation.

“Frankly, I was surprised that she resigned. I thought she would say, ‘Can I have a meeting of the board to discuss this?’ ” Kirk said. “We should have met with Terry Sullivan and been more open with her.”

At a meeting on Oct. 19, the board began the process of adding a policy that would require such a meeting.

Kirk was not at that meeting, as he announced his resignation from the board to the governor the day before. Kirk said his resignation had nothing to do with the events of this summer and instead followed his permanent move to Florida, which could disqualify him from serving and made it difficult to attend meetings.

Several former and current board members described Kirk as seemingly unengaged in board responsibilities.

“You don’t agree to be on a board just for the piece of it that is convenient for you,” said Susan Y. “Syd” Dorsey, a Richmond businesswoman who was on the board until last summer. “I don’t know how he would know what the other board members were thinking because he rarely came to a board meeting.”

More recently, Kirk appears to have been in regular e-mail contact with the board’s top two leaders, Dragas and Mark Kington, according to e-mails released by U-Va. after public-record requests.

Three days before Sullivan was asked to step down, Kirk and Dragas exchanged e-mails about a New Yorker magazine story. Kirk wrote: “Well, your leadership is certainly already paying off. And even though we are perhaps not blessed with the best people we possibly could have on the board, I am fairly certain that most of them know that the time in which we could be deferential toward an administration that is mostly bent on the preservation of the status quo is at an end.”

Kirk has continued to stand up for Dragas, who was reappointed to the board this summer despite numerous calls for her resignation. Dragas, he said, was simply holding firm to doing the right thing.

“The press so rapidly fell victim to the idea that there has to be a hero and a victim in every story,” Kirk said. “There is no victim. And there’s only one hero, and that’s Helen Dragas.”

Kirk said that most faculty — who as a group have vocally supported Sullivan — don’t understand the role of the board, rushed to unfair conclusions about what had happened and are now doing “as many victory dances as they can.” He said the faculty acted like Sullivan was a “union employee” who was demanding to know which “violation of the shop rules” had warranted her firing.

“I just disagree with that philosophy,” he said. “Why wasn’t there ever a presumption that you had a board that wanted better? Why didn’t this ever pass anyone’s mind?”

He also added that the wave of faculty, alumni and student support that erupted for Sullivan this summer was unexpected: “Obviously she’s a stronger leader than we initially believed.”

Oct 302012

Published: October 30, 2012

Matthew Ryan Williams for The New York Times
The location of an extension campus that Northeastern University is planning to build in Seattle.

In Seattle, Virtual University Will Have a Physical Campus, Too


SEATTLE — With name tags clipped on and PowerPoint at the ready, officials from Northeastern University invited prospective students in one night last week for a peek at a new extension campus, 2,500 miles from the school’s home in Boston and about as far northwest as you can get in the lower 48 without swim fins. It is a trend that many colleges and universities have embraced in recent years — remote campuses to extend the brand and the flow of tuition checks.

But there was more going on here. And all the new dean, J. Tayloe Washburn, had to do to demonstrate that was walk to the bank of windows in the meeting room where the prospects and the staff had congregated and throw wide his arms: the headquarters buildings of the tech giant Amazon.com filled the view under a gray Seattle mist.

“We’re very aware we’ll be sitting across the street from 12,000 Amazon workers,” said Mr. Washburn, a prominent Seattle lawyer and former chairman of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce.

Remember the notion that technology would destroy the idea of place, creating work forces of telecommuters and disembodied companies — or universities, for that matter — that were no longer anchored anywhere because they did not have to be? Turns out to have been entirely wrong, say Northeastern officials, who are enthused over what they see as a post-recession technology boom in the making in places like Seattle, and one where postgraduate science and technology workers are in particularly short supply

Being where the action is, with a smile and shoeshine and the reputation of a 114-year-old research university to back it all up, they say, is more important than ever. Starting in January, Northeastern will offer online graduate-level courses here, taught by instructors back East, alongside real classroom courses in a Seattle neighborhood called South Lake Union, once more known for warehouses than Wi-Fi. In recent years, a cluster of health science research and computer science companies have also gathered to rub shoulders with Amazon.

“You have to be present on the ground, you have to understand the community, you have to become part of the community,” Northeastern’s president, Joseph E. Aoun, said in a telephone interview. A reliance on remote learning alone does not, he said, build relationships, a word he used repeatedly. “It’s mutually reinforcing — the virtual is going to lead you to have the need for a physical presence and physical contact,” he said, “and the physical contact is being supplemented by the virtual dimensions.”

Economists and urban affairs experts say that in a strange way, the Great Recession intensified the concentration of technology workers here that Northeastern is aiming for. Industries like finance and construction, which had been big local job generators before the crash, fell away sharply, but Seattle-area stalwarts like Amazon, Boeing and Microsoft continued to grow, or at least hold stable.

At the same time, the University of Washington — the dominant higher education institution in Seattle, and also a neighbor to Amazon — got battered by years of deep budget cuts and tuition increases during the recession, as did many other public universities across the nation.

“What the recession did is it froze a lot of people in place,” said Margaret O’Mara, an associate professor at the University of Washington who teaches American urban history and has written widely about technology centers, especially Silicon Valley. “But it also, in a way, entrenched the geography of innovation, in part because people weren’t selling and buying homes with such quickness and it was a little harder to change jobs.” And all that compounded the larger trend, she said: “In a digital world, place matters more than ever.”

The president of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Maud Daudon, said that having Northeastern in town, especially in the emerging hub around Amazon, could itself be a new draw to the area. “Northeastern’s presence will help to close the gap between businesses trying to fill positions, and trained, qualified candidates available to go to work,” she said.

She said that with thousands of people expected to move into the area in the next few years, there is even talk of a South Lake Union area public school. As of the middle of this year, 20 residential apartment and condominium projects were under construction downtown, up from three in 2010, according to the Downtown Seattle Association, a nonprofit economic development group.

But prospective students dropping in to check out Northeastern’s new digs mostly had to imagine it. The classrooms are still virtual, as in still under construction.

“I’m the new dean of a campus that doesn’t exist yet,” Mr. Washburn said in welcoming the attendees as they munched on sandwiches.

Oct 292012


Nathan Rimpf, a 2010 graduate of East Carolina University who lost the lower portion of both legs in an injury sustained in Afghanistan in July, receives instructions from an official prior to the coin toss at Saturday's ECU game against visiting Navy at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville.

Rob Taylor/The Daily Reflector

Nathan Rimpf, a 2010 graduate of East Carolina University who lost the lower portion of both legs in an injury sustained in Afghanistan in July, receives instructions from an official prior to the coin toss at Saturday’s ECU game against visiting Navy at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville.

Nathan Rimpf has seen this crowd brought to its feet before. As a kid, he would make the trip from Raleigh to East Carolina University to root for his brother, Brian.

But on Saturday, the cheers at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium were for Nathan — not applause for an athlete, but a salute to a soldier.

Nathan Rimpf, a 2010 ECU graduate, was among those honored during Military Appreciation Day. Fitted with prosthetic legs and feet, the Army first lieutenant stepped out onto the field for the coin toss less than four months after stepping on an explosive device in Afghanistan.

Rimpf, 24, is making incredible strides toward recovery at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. A week ago, he pedaled Washington, D.C.’s Army Ten-Miler on a hand cycle. He plans to be able to run it again by next year. In the meantime, he is relearning scuba and taking up kayaking.

“There was one week where I tried almost all the sports at the hospital that I was remotely interested in,” he said in a recent phone interview. “I’ve got to stay busy or I’m going to go crazy or just Facebook my life away.

“I want to wear my legs around and climb mountains and stuff and sky dive.”

What Rimpf credits for helping him want to aspire to those heights is his Christian faith and a strong foundation of support from family, friends and even strangers.

“God continuously put people in front of me at the right time,” he said. “I would start being negative, and then all of a sudden somebody would show up and change my attitude or nudge my attitude back in the right direction.”

Messages have come in through the website caringbridge.org, which his mother, Cindy, updates with progress reports and prayer requests. More than 2,000 people have “liked” the Nathan Rimpf Support Fund page on Facebook.

“I got cards from an entire church in Minnesota, and I’ve haven’t even been to Minnesota,” Rimpf said.

“Everybody’s praying for me. It’s not really the metal and plastic of my prosthetics that’s holding me up. It’s all the support I’m getting from across the country.”

Closer to home, supporters are wearing “1 LT NATHAN RIMPF” wristbands to show their support. An ECU professor has dedicated a furniture exhibition and sale to the wounded warrior.

Steve Duncan, ECU’s assistant vice chancellor for administration and finance and military programs, is not surprised to see Rimpf bolstered by the response he has received. Still Duncan, who knew Nathan as an ROTC cadet and attended his commissioning ceremony, said Rimpf possesses an amazing inner strength as well.

“He’s what you put out there as a poster child for ROTC,” Duncan said. “He’s got that attitude, that mental toughness.

“He’s been a top cadet,” he said. “He’s a lieutenant that stepped on the wrong spot, but that hasn’t changed his mind.”

Being a soldier has been on Rimpf’s mind since childhood. Though his family was not steeped in military service (only one great uncle had been in the Army before Rimpf enlisted), Rimpf had always seemed drawn to it. Cindy Rimpf recalls Nathan Rimpf being fascinated by the military since he got Army men and a G.I. Joe at age 8. When Rimpf got to high school, he let his parents know that his interest was more than child’s play.

His school had no Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, so Rimpf enrolled in a program at a nearby school, dividing his day between Leesville Road and Wake Forest high schools. After a semester, the school asked Rimpf to be its JROTC leader.

The pattern continued at ECU, where Rimpf attended on an ROTC scholarship, turning down offers from North Carolina State and Kentucky. After graduation, he was commissioned and went to Ranger school. When he arrived on post at Fort Riley, Kansas, he got his own platoon.

via The Daily Reflector.

Oct 292012


Andrew Bates talks about the bench he made in honor of Nathan Rimpf, an ECU grad who was injured in Afghanistan. (Rhett Butler/The Daily Reflector)
Andrew Bates talks about the bench he made in honor of Nathan Rimpf, an ECU grad who was injured in Afghanistan. (Rhett Butler/The Daily Reflector)

By Kim Grizzard

Saturday, October 27, 2012

When East Carolina University graduate Nathan Rimpf was injured in Afghanistan, support for the Army first lieutenant came out of the woodwork.

A charity golf tournament was organized in his honor. Thousands of wristbands were sold to help provide for his family.

Among all the contributions that have been furnished, a gift from woodworker Andrew Bates is unique. He decided to dedicate a furniture exhibition to the fellow alumnus he did not know.

The exhibition, set to open Friday at the Pitt County Arts Council at Emerge, uses purpleheart wood and spent shell casings to symbolize the sacrifice made by Rimpf, who lost both legs in an explosion in July. Rimpf, 24, is being honored during ECU’s home football game today against Navy as part of Military Appreciation Day. It will be the first time he and Bates, who teaches English at ECU, have ever met.

For Bates, it was the loss of part of his thumb in a workshop accident that helped point him to the wounded warrior.

“I was in the (doctor’s) office looking at it,” Bates, 35, recalled. “I was feeling sorry for myself, but then I realized, you know, it’s the tip of my thumb. There are people who give so much more.”

As the opening of Bates’ furniture exhibition drew nearer, he inquired at the university about ways he could use the proceeds to help an injured service member. Steve Duncan, ECU’s assistant vice chancellor for administration and finance and military programs, met with Bates just days after receiving word of Rimpf’s injury.

“Having been in the military during Vietnam, I said, ‘Who would have thought that an English professor would have said, ‘Let me do something to help a soldier?’” Duncan said.

Though Duncan did not serve in Vietnam, he recalls an entirely different attitude toward the military on college campuses at that time.

“It was not a popular time to be a soldier. You kind of kept your head down and didn’t tell anyone you ever served,” he said. “So here is this whole transformation in our country. Nathan goes off, serves his country as a volunteer. He gets injured, and the ‘Pirate Nation’ rises up and says, ‘What can we do?’”

A number of Bates’ students have brought wristbands to show support for Rimpf. Emerge is waiving the commission it generally would receive from the portion of the exhibit honoring Rimpf so that all the proceeds can be given to his family.

“The military takes care of the (service) member,” Duncan said, “but the family comes in. They’ve got to find a place to lodge, they’ve got gas driving back and forth. Many of them will take leaves of absence from their jobs.”

Rimpf received word of Bates’ efforts through the website caringbridge.com, where his mother, Cindy, has been posting updates of his recovery. He was surprised by Bates’ interest.

“I could see like sending me an iTunes gift card or something like that,” he said, “but to dedicate an exhibit to me and have me be the benefactor of the proceeds? It was different. I didn’t expect it. I’ve never met the guy.”

Cindy Rimpf kept Bates informed of her son’s progress. Bates saw pictures and video, which became the inspiration for his work.

Bates chose imported purpleheart to symbolize both Rimpf’s love for ECU and the fact that he is a recipient of the Military Order of the Purple Heart’s badge of merit. As Rimpf began work at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to learn to stand on prosthetic legs and feet, Bates worked to design a bench to symbolize his accomplishments. It is called Demons 4-6, for Rimpf’s radio call sign. He also constructed shadow boxes featuring spent shell casings arranged in the shape of hearts and military support ribbons.

Inspired by his mother, who knits hats for troops serving overseas, Bates has donated his creations to benefit a number of causes. While he has given work to Emerge, the local ALS Association and the Hope Lodge, the exhibition for Rimpf is his largest effort. He hopes to generate $3,000 to support the soldier.

Rimpf, who hopes to be able to attend Friday’s opening, is humbled by the gesture.

“It’s a saying with most of us wounded warriors,” he said, “we don’t feel we did enough to earn what we’ve gotten in terms of the support from people.”

Bates would beg to differ.

“I can walk out into the workshop and make a table, and no one’s shooting at me,” he said. “I can go home and tuck my daughter into bed. I’ve still got it pretty good, and it’s because guys like Nathan go out there.

“It doesn’t really matter if I could have known him or not,” Bates said. “It’s something that deserves to have the support of the community.”

Contact Kim Grizzard at kgrizzard@reflector.com.

or 252-329-9578.

via The Daily Reflector.