Apr 172015


Thursday, April 16, 2015

In a storied acting career that has spanned more than 40 years and included countless roles in live theater, television and film, John Lithgow has only one project that is based on his own, real life experience.

In “Stories by Heart,” Lithgow intersperses the telling of his personal story with two favorite stories from his childhood, acting out all the characters in “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs and “Uncle Fred Flits By” by P.G. Wodehouse.

The one-man show, which takes place on Saturday at East Carolina’s Wright Auditorium, serves as the centerpiece for the S. Rudolph Alexander Performing Arts Series 2014-2015 season. Lithgow — a Tony, Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning actor —starred in the television series “3rd Rock from the Sun” as well as countless movies, and has most recently played the title role in The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park production of “King Lear.”

It never occurred to him, though, to write or perform something based on his own experience. But in 2002, he began retelling the stories from his past back to his father.

“I took care of my parents when my dad was old and ill,” Lithgow said in a phone interview. “He was very despondent and had just had a major operation and sort of given up on life. I knew immediately that my job was beyond just taking care of him — it was cheering him up and giving him a reason to go on. I got the idea of reading him bedtime stories from a book that he had used to read bedtime stories to me and my siblings when we were all kids.”

He took the big, old book of short stories and asked his father to choose one.

“He picked this hilarious story by P.G. Wodehouse called ‘Uncle Fred Flits By,’ which I vaguely remembered, but only dimly,” he said. “I read it to him and it so delighted him and made him laugh, in my mind it brought him back to life and he lived for another 18 months.”

The reaction that the storytelling got from his father stuck in Lithgow’s mind, and when he tried it out on a group of friends, they were as enamored with his connection to the stories as they were with the stories themselves, and so he decided to work his own story in and make a one-man show. Since the actor first performed it at New York’s Lincoln Center in 2008, it has grown and evolved bit-by-bit.

One of the changes Lithgow has made is the replacement of one of the initial stories he told with another, which resulted in the show being a better fit for a broader audience.

“There was a very challenging and dark story which I decided to replace with a very, very scary story, “The Monkey’s Paw,” a wonderful horror story — and kids love that,” he said. “The fact is, the two stories that I do — the very scary “Monkey’s Paw” and the very funny P.G. Wodehouse — those were the two favorite stories for all four of us siblings when we were kids. We just loved being scared to death, so that’s how I begin the evening, and then I end the evening with laughter.”

Amid filming movies and television shows, performing “Stories By Heart” represents another chance for Lithgow to perform on stage.

“I do think that performing live for a live audience in a theater is at the very heart of what I do as an actor,” he said. “That’s not true of all actors, but I consider myself a theater actor first. I love that transaction. I love being in the same space with the audience as they’re receiving the story. Movies and TV are all very well, but you’re not there — you did it a year before.”

A one-man show, however, presents a different sort of challenge for an actor who is more accustomed to being surrounded by fellow cast members, whether on stage or in front of a camera.

“It’s a big challenge. On the most elemental level, it’s just lonely,” he said. “One of the great things about theater is the group experience, the company experience. I just came off of two plays in New York, ‘King Lear’ and ‘A Delicate Balance.’ They were both wonderful ensemble groups and I left with great new friends. The whole experience of preparing for opening night and performing it for the last time — they’re so sentimental and heartfelt. It really is wonderful and that’s all missing when you’re doing it by yourself. You have your stage manager and your road producer and you have your audience, you just rely on them.”

He said he gives “Stories by Heart” all he’s got.

“I play all the characters. I treat it as a kind of magic act, creating a whole world, just me alone on stage. The whole evening is about my experience in stories, from when I was a child, but growing up, I became an actor, which in my mind is a storyteller. …

“I grew up in a theater family with a great tradition of storytelling. It’s very much an evening about the act of storytelling and why all of us want, need and love stories.”

Apr 172015


Posted: Apr 17, 2015

By Erica Anderson, Associate Producer

GREENVILLE, N.C. – Students at East Carolina University will come together to remember Kenyan university students killed a massacre.

ECU’s African Student Organization is holding a “Grace for Garissa” vigil on Friday night.

The vigil will take place at the Student Memorial Garden at 8p.m.

The vigil is in remembrance for the 147 people killed in an attack at Garissa University in by Al-Shababb on April 2nd.

Apr 172015


By Jane Stancill


Scott Ralls, president of the state’s 58-campus community college system, will leave North Carolina to lead Northern Virginia Community College.

In September, Ralls will become president of NOVA, a six-campus community college with 75,000 degree-seeking students in the Washington suburbs. The appointment was announced Thursday by Virginia Community College System Chancellor Glenn DuBois.

Ralls’ departure means that North Carolina’s two public higher education systems will be looking for new leaders in the coming months. Last week, the UNC Board of Governors named a search committee to find a successor to UNC President Tom Ross, who will step down in early 2016.

Ralls has led the North Carolina community college system since 2008, just as the recession hit and the state’s unemployment began to soar. During the first three years of his presidency, displaced workers flocked to the state’s community colleges to upgrade their skills or change careers. The system had phenomenal growth – 28 percent from 2007 to 2010.

At the same time, the system experienced a budget crunch, all while embarking on a strategy to revamp curriculum, improve completion rates and forge new transfer agreements with the state’s university system.

A former president of Craven Community College in New Bern and Havelock, Ralls, 50, said he had always intended to return to a campus setting, where he could interact with students and faculty.

“That’s who I am and where my heart is,” Ralls said Thursday. “I’ve always aspired to go back to a campus.”

In Northern Virginia, he’ll be at the helm of the second-largest community college in the United States. It awards more associate degrees than any other community college and, like the North Carolina system, has focused on not only enrolling students but also graduating them.

That makes the new job the right opportunity at the right time, Ralls said. Northern Virginia Community College has echoed Ralls’ mantra that access to higher education is not enough for students; successful completion is the key.

“NOVA has been a leader in making those statements and living those statements in what they do,” Ralls said.

DuBois said Ralls would enhance NOVA’s impact.

“I’ve known Scott Ralls for a long time,” DuBois said in a statement. “His passion, knowledge and leadership are among the reasons the North Carolina Community College System is so highly regarded.”

N.C. system’s reach

North Carolina has one of the nation’s largest community college systems, and its reach is extensive. Most state residents live within 30 miles of one of the 58 colleges. Today, 40 percent of the state’s wage earners have received education or training at a North Carolina community college in the past 10 years, Ralls said.

In recent years, community colleges put more of a focus on helping students overcome what has traditionally been a low graduation rate – 41 percent of students who entered in 2004 finished within six years.

Colleges have reduced the number of academic offerings and designed clear pathways for students so they won’t waste time on their journey to degrees or career certificates. Some campuses have also streamlined remedial education, started intensive advising programs, and required orientation and student success courses for first-year students.

Elected officials and others praised Ralls’ leadership Thursday.

Republican Gov. Pat McCrory issued a statement thanking Ralls for his leadership at a time when community colleges took a central role in getting many residents back to work.

“He has been an extremely valuable partner in our efforts to prepare the next generation with the skills they will need to compete for jobs and careers,” the statement said.

U.S. Rep. David Price, a Democrat who represents the state’s 4th District, said Ralls had been an exemplary leader.

“He guided the system through the economic downturn and state budget cuts and oversaw a period of remarkable growth,” Price said in a statement. “Thanks to his tireless efforts, thousands of North Carolinians have had the opportunity to obtain the education and training they need to realize their full potential.”

Search begins

Linwood Powell, chairman of the system board, said he would appoint a search committee on Friday. An interim president is likely, he said, because the search could take months. Ralls will be in the North Carolina job until Labor Day.

“We certainly don’t want him to leave, but at the same time we support him 100 percent,” said Powell, who was on the search committee that chose Ralls seven years ago.

He praised Ralls for being a leader who worked in the field, traveling the state. Ralls also won friends in the legislature during tough times, Powell said.

Now it’s time to find another leader for a system with 321,000 students in degree, certificate and curriculum programs and nearly 498,000 students taking continuing education classes.

“Hopefully we can find Scott’s twin out there someplace – someone who can work with the 58 community college presidents, someone who can establish good rapport or already has it with the legislature … and who has a vision to continue to make this system even better than it is.”

Apr 172015


By Chase Jordan April 16 at 3:28 PM

Chase Jordan, a senior at William & Mary, responded to a story about the death of Paul Soutter, a sophomore at the elite public university in Virginia. As at many schools, such as MIT, the University of Pennsylvania and Yale, mental health issues surged to the forefront of concerns and debate on campus after students ended their own lives. Jordan, a government major from Bethesda, is a student senator and president of TEDxWilliam&Mary — and he needed to take a break, too. Here are his thoughts, offered as an individual student, not as the representative of any organization with which he is involved:

By Chase Jordan

I’ll never forget the moment I opened that e-mail. My heart raced, my skin stung, a reminder of my humanity and that I was still alive. It is never easy to receive the news of a classmate, friend and tribe member’s death.

This marks the fourth suicide this year, three of which were during the academic year. After each death, our campus’s administration provides a safe space of reflection and mourning for all students at a memorial service.
Chase Jordan (Photo by Danny O’Dea.) Chase Jordan (Danny O’Dea.)

A suicide on campus is something that affects every student but isn’t always properly understood or studied. The public is quick to make broad generalizations without empirical facts, and occasionally the stories we hear may stray from the events that occurred. While academic studies on suicide have improved in recent years the taboo and stigma remains.

The major body of current academic research posits that suicide and academic rigor do not have a tight correlation. When tragic events such as the one we suffered this week occurs, it is vital to remember that correlation is not causation. And while these events may happen at academically rigorous institutions, they do not necessarily cause them.

Victor Schwartz and Jerald Kay in their 2010 Inside Higher Ed article “Suicide Realities” states that “Academic competition and pressures are not frequent precipitants of suicide in undergraduates. ”

This is not to negate the deleterious glorification of stress and overexertion that exists within elite academic institutions.

Today, Paul’s parents and family joined our students on campus in memorial of their son. Their love, dedication and passion were immediately apparent. They encompassed Paul’s beautiful theatrical skill and embraced his “weirdness.” They, like their son, were also capable of brilliant insight in moments where others were left speechless.

In the depths of their grief, they were able to recognize the two sides of their son, the tortured depressed soul and beautiful brilliant artist (the two of course not being mutually exclusive). They spoke of his four-year struggle with mental health issues and his last remarks in his private journal.

He knew he was loved, he knew there were people that wanted to help, and he cherished his eternal alma mater. However, ultimately his demons overpowered him.

The love felt by Paul was also felt by his family. They thanked the dean of students, the campus police and the student body as a whole for their compassion and love.

These incidents and the outcry for support have not fallen on deaf ears. Our administrators have heard and are responding. Our vice president has called for a town hall forum next week for students and administrators to come together and have a constructive dialogue around mental health and suicide prevention.

In the meantime university officials have extended counseling center hours. They are in the process of hiring a full-time psychiatrist and are promoting resilience training as part of our mental health program.

These issues do not pass us by without leaving scars and the weight of our responsibility to the student body is not one we take lightly. Our students are also working as a community of peers to create initiatives to address these issues.

Our Student Assembly hosts an annual mental health week focused around destigmatizing the counseling center and encouraging students to explore campus resources.

However, this is not enough. There will never be enough.

I am confident that our campus leaders, both student and administrative, have student health and safety as their highest priority. One student had a negative interaction with a professor when requesting a delayed examination. Within four hours of this denied request our provost wrote a campus-wide email strongly urging faculty to “provide this flexibility and, when in doubt, ‘err’ on the side of generosity and sympathy.”

I can comment with confidence on the accommodativeness of high-level administrators because I have personally experienced it.

Last semester I teetered on exhaustion. I had overextended myself with both academic and extracurricular responsibilities. I approached my professors and was able to reach an alternative schedule and course load that would allow me relief without compromising my high scholarly goals.

Every student at some point in his or her undergraduate career feels overwhelmed, overworked and under-prepared.

It is important to recognize in times like these that you are not alone.

A student’s well-being is the foundation upon which success is built.

It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help because ultimately we are One Tribe, One Family.

Apr 172015


By Brenda Cronin
April 16, 2015 9:38 p.m. ET

In 2013, Jon Krakauer was at a Missoula, Mont., sentencing hearing for a college football player accused of rape. Transfixed by the victim’s steely testimony, the author of “Into Thin Air” and the classroom staple “Into the Wild” had a eureka moment: This might be a book. During a break, he approached one of the victim’s friends in the crowded courtroom.

“She was very, like, ‘Uh-oh, there’s this creepy old guy,’” said Mr. Krakauer, who just turned 61, in an interview. But she agreed to pass along a note to the victim. After Mr. Krakauer scribbled his name, the woman remembered “Into the Wild,” and blurted out: “They made us read your stupid book in high school!”

Mr. Krakauer’s “Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town,” due Tuesday from Doubleday, tracks a number of sexual-assault cases involving students at the University of Montana. The publisher plans an initial run of 500,000 copies, reflecting the timely matchup of a best-selling writer and a hot-button issue.

“Missoula” lands just weeks after a scathing report from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism on Rolling Stone’s now-discredited article alleging a gang rape in a University of Virginia fraternity.

The book goes beyond the drumbeat of news reports and statistics, examining the subject through the prism of picturesque Missoula, a small city dominated by a university with a popular football team. Mr. Krakauer dissects several sexual-assault cases that happened between 2010 and 2012 and tracks their progress through the University of Montana, the Missoula Police Department and the Missoula County Attorney’s Office. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice began investigating how the university and local authorities were handling sexual-assault cases, leading to changes in procedures. In Mr. Krakauer’s book, the outcomes of the cases for the accused rapists ranged from being dropped for lack of evidence to prison.

While he was a student at Hampshire College during the 1970s, a girlfriend told him she had been raped, Mr. Krakauer said. At the time he grasped neither the breadth of the problem nor its consequences. But in 2012, after learning that a friend had been preyed upon as a teenager and again as a young woman, he began reading up on sexual assault. He hadn’t intended to write about the problem, just to get a sense of its frequency and effect.

“I’m kind of an obsessive type,” Mr. Krakauer said. “Once you just start digging, if you just tell yourself ‘No, just keep digging, another few shovel holes,’ you find that inevitably there’s always stuff there buried deep.”

Relying on police reports, recordings of university disciplinary proceedings, court documents and other material, Mr. Krakauer knits diverse—and often conflicting—memories and motivations into a narrative. He depicts victims and the accused, their families and friends, university officials, law-enforcement authorities, lawyers and health professionals. Through heated exchanges among officials, Mr. Krakauer portrays the pressures on institutions and authorities to respect the rights of both accuser and accused in complex cases with life-destroying consequences.

Mr. Krakauer also talked to psychologists and scholars about the trauma of rape, exploring the corrosive toll of sexual assault on a typical American college town. “Missoula” revisits how the encounters unfolded, the victims’ anguish about coming forward and the alleged rapists’ horror and disbelief at being accused. One victim and the man accused of raping her had been friends since first grade, but never romantically linked.

One takeaway from “Missoula” is that every incident of alleged rape is different, and ambiguities abound. Mr. Krakauer provides no sweeping conclusions. The age-old problem of rape by nonstrangers can only be solved incrementally, he said, and recent improvements in how cases are handled are encouraging.

“I write these books for things that I become obsessed with. I don’t delude myself into thinking I’m going to change the world,” he said.

Campus rape isn’t a recent epidemic, Mr. Krakauer added, but rather “a scourge that’s always been there and it’s just now coming to light because women are being emboldened” to come forward.

“Into the Wild,” Mr. Krakauer’s first best seller, was about a young adventurer who expired in the Alaskan wilderness. Published in 1996, the book is a perennial on high-school and college syllabuses. The author followed with “Into Thin Air,” a first-person account of an Everest expedition in which a number of people died. He then wrote “Under the Banner of Heaven,” about murder among a Mormon splinter group, and “Where Men Win Glory,” on the life and death of football star turned Army Ranger, Pat Tillman. At first, the shift in subject flummoxed his publishers, Mr. Krakauer said. An editor asked: “Jon, where are the mountains?” But readers gobbled these up, too.

Despite his success, Mr. Krakauer doesn’t strive to be a public figure and is seldom recognized. “Missoula” has been kept under wraps, and no book tour is in the works. But he has one appearance on his calendar—in Montana, where some saw their community as unfairly singled out.

“I felt I needed to do something in Missoula to allow my critics to confront me,” he said. Fact & Fiction, a local bookstore, is organizing an event next month, said Eamon Fahey, the store’s chief operating officer. To allow for a big audience, the event will be held not at the store but a nearby hotel.

Asked which schools now deal effectively with sexual-assault complaints, Mr. Krakauer said, “Ironically, I think the University of Montana probably has it somewhat right because the DOJ forced them to get it right.”

According to a statement from the University of Montana, the school is “stronger, safer and better aligned with best practices because of our continuing work on policies, training and programs—both those implemented before the federal government’s investigations and since.”

Apr 172015


APRIL 17, 2015

Nearly 20 years after they first met, Karen Keyes and Muffet McGraw shared a telephone conversation that neither could have imagined when they arrived at Notre Dame together, just trying to adapt to their unfamiliar surroundings.

Keyes was a freshman guard on McGraw’s first Fighting Irish women’s basketball team in 1987. Keyes scored more than 1,500 points in her career and served as a graduate assistant under McGraw for two years while earning a graduate degree in business. When Keyes married her husband, Kevin, in 1995, McGraw attended the ceremony. They remained close, even when Keyes moved to the East Coast and McGraw built the Irish into a top national program that lost to Connecticut in the national championship game last week and has made the Final Four in each of the past five seasons.

During their talk in January, Keyes told McGraw that she and her husband had donated $5 million to endow the women’s basketball head coaching position at Notre Dame. Under the typical arrangement, the money is invested by the university, and any interest earned helps pay for a portion or all of the coach’s salary.

Kevin Keyes, a former Notre Dame tennis player and longtime investment banker, is president of Annaly Capital Management, a mortgage real estate investment trust based in New York. Even though McGraw knew the athletics department had recently reached out to donors, she still could not believe the generosity of the Keyeses.

“That was so incredible,” McGraw said. “Her and her husband are big supporters of our program and of Notre Dame. She was such a great role model when she was here and continues to be a great representative of our program.”

It was the first coaching endowment gift in Notre Dame’s history, although other universities have been recipients for several years. Seven of the eight Ivy League football coaching positions are endowed, as are those at Michigan, Stanford and Northwestern. There are also endowments for head coaches for nonrevenue sports and even assistant coaches.

The Notre Dame athletic director, Jack Swarbrick, said the university was seeking donors to endow head and assistant coaching positions and athletics scholarships in all sports, a strategy he said was closely related to changes in college athletics. He said Notre Dame’s athletics department contributes a significant amount of money each year to help finance university initiatives and undergraduate scholarships for nonathletes. For the 2015-16 school year, tuition will cost $47,929.

Swarbrick said the athletics department’s business model would be altered and expenses would increase in the coming years because of N.C.A.A. legislative changes and potential ramifications from court cases.

In August, the N.C.A.A.’s Division I board of directors granted autonomy to the five largest conferences — the Southeastern, the Pacific-12, the Atlantic Coast, the Big 12 and the Big Ten — allowing them to create their own rules in some areas. In January, they voted, 79-1, to cover the full costs of attendance for scholarship athletes. Swarbrick said he supported the cost-of-living adjustment, even though it could add a few thousand dollars each year per athlete.

Swarbrick also cited the federal antitrust lawsuit the former U.C.L.A. basketball player Ed O’Bannon brought against the N.C.A.A. Judge Claudia Wilken of United States District Court in Oakland, Calif., ruled in favor of O’Bannon in August, issuing an injunction against rules that prohibit athletes from earning money from the use of their names and images in video games and television broadcasts. Last month, N.C.A.A. lawyers asked a federal appeals court to overturn the decision.

“From the university perspective, it’s very important that athletics not only not be a drain on the university’s resources as it is at some other places, but that athletics be a net contributor to the university,” Swarbrick said.

He said of the endowments: “It’s a little bit of trying to ensure that we can maintain the same financial relationship to the university that we’ve had now for decades. This will help us manage those in a way that ensures we’re able to do it ourselves without resorting to university dollars.”

Swarbrick is working closely with Sara Liebscher, Keyes’s former teammate, who oversees Notre Dame’s athletics fund-raising. They have studied endowment structures in place at Stanford, Duke, Southern California and other universities.

When Liebscher approached Kevin Keyes about endowments, he thought of the gift as a way to honor McGraw and give back to his alma mater, which has helped him both professionally and personally — he met Karen while playing pickup basketball at Notre Dame. Early in his career at the former investment bank Dean Witter, Kevin Keyes received valuable advice from the executives Bill Smith and John Schaefer, both Notre Dame alumni.

Before completing the endowment details, the Keyeses wanted to make sure McGraw would be all right with the arrangement and the attention. Karen Keyes called her in January.

“When I told her, I said, ‘Out of all the people in my life, besides Kevin’s parents and my parents, you’ve had an incredible impact on who I am as a person,’ ” said Karen Keyes, the girls’ basketball coach at Ridgewood High School in New Jersey. “She was pretty emotional, and so was I. It was just special to be able to do that for somebody that I respect so much. We’re kind of humbled that we’re in this position to do it.”

Apr 162015


By Nathan Summers
April 16, 2015

East Carolina became a new frontrunner in the American Athletic Conference’s quest to compete with the big boys of the Power Five conferences of college athletics, and director of athletics Jeff Compher knows the impact could be substantial.

Now in his third year guiding the university’s athletic teams, Compher and ECU announced on Wednesday afternoon their plan to fund the entire cost of attendance for all sports teams.
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The two-year blueprint aims to match what teams in the Power Five — the top-revenue leagues in the NCAA framework — can offer in terms of benefits to student-athletes. The cost-of-attendance plans enacted by the Power Five schools and now by ECU equate to thousands more dollars in annual funding than traditional scholarships.

“We’re in uncharted territory … but we’re confident that we’ll have the support of our fans, we’ll have the support of our season ticket holders, our students on campus who attend our games, and they want us to win. They want us to be competitive, they want us to be at the top and they want us to be leaders, and I think having a plan and implementing this plan shows that we can do all those things,” Compher said on Wednesday afternoon, moments after the school released its plan.

In it, members of the ECU football team and men’s and women’s basketball teams will have their entire cost of attendance paid for by the university beginning Aug. 1.

All of the school’s 19 teams will get some benefit beginning then, but the long-term goal is to have all teams fully funded by the start of the 2016 sports calendar.

The NCAA voted to increase the value of scholarships for institutions in the Power Five (Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Big Ten, Pacific-12 and Southeastern conferences) in January, but it does not require the remainder of Division I schools to distribute the additional stipend, which in ECU’s case amounts to an allowance of $4,025 on top of traditional annual scholarship funds.

The plan and its rapid execution were the product of some serious forward thinking.

“We really started thinking about this a year ago,” Compher said of the plan, which identified the total cost of attendance for an in-state ECU student-athlete next year to be $20,694 and $36,268 for out-of-state students. “We understood that it was likely there would be reorganization changes to the NCAA structure, and knew that was probably going to be the first piece of legislation they would want to deal with, and that (providing additional funding) was permissive but that we weren’t required to do it. We felt like we had to start planning how we would address it.”

The first step was figuring out what total cost of attendance even meant, Compher said. The additional allowance for student-athletes is designed to help with academic supplies, transportation, loan fees and other incidental expenses.

Compher said ECU leaned heavily on the AAC to help identify what constitutes cost of attendance, and said he knew early that the American supported the plan, so it became a matter of making it work within the university.

After meeting final approval from the ECU Board of Trustees on Wednesday, Compher announced the blueprint that he thinks could become a model not only for other AAC schools but for all members of the Group of Five not associated with the Power Five.

“I think we’ve probably set a bar, especially for the Group of Five conferences,” Compher said, noting that the Power Five leagues are likely to go with full implementation of funding across the board for all sports immediately. “Every one of our programs benefits immediately from this, so it’s having a direct impact on every one of them right away. We’ve at least laid out our plan in a way that others will look at it and ask, ‘How have you done it, what’s the financial impact and how have you come to this conclusion?’”

Like with most things college sports, a major goal of the ECU plan is to target recruits and maintain as much of a level playing field as possible with the Power Five.

“We wanted to get something out so that people saw our commitment to full cost of attendance and understood what we were trying to do, and today seemed like a good day to do it,” Compher said, noting that Wednesday was a national signing day for prep athletes in numerous sports, including men’s and women’s hoops. “It’s a good time of the year for it, and it kind of takes away the questions that people may have had about how this might affect their scholarship in the future. We needed to make our mark and let people know that this is our full commitment right away.”

Apr 162015


April 16, 2015

Mr. Robert Brinkley, chairman of the East Carolina University Board of Trustees, explained in lengthy detail in his March 12 public letter the reason for scratching the name of Charles B. Aycock from an ECU dorm. According to Mr. Brinkley, the motive was for the betterment of education and higher learning at ECU, and Gov. Aycock’s legacy is most appropriate in the new Heritage Hall.

This quote pretty much sizes up the theme of his letter: “The board was unanimous in its support for transition of recognition of Aycock to Heritage Hall in large measure because it is an educational approach we felt was especially appropriate for an institution of higher learning.” Not one word was mentioned about the white supremacy controversy that has been brewing for months.

Sometime before the above quote, there appeared this news report: “The ECU Board of Trustees met Friday morning and approved renaming the Charles B. Aycock Residence Hall on the ECU campus.” This came after Chancellor Steve Ballard and a 10-person committee comprised of students, faculty and staff voted unanimously in December that Charles B. Aycock’s name should be removed, citing Aycock’s involvement in white supremacy movements.

One wonders if Mr. Brinkley in his quote was fence straddling in avoiding the real facts of this controversy.

I guess this is a good start for the legacy destroyers and political correctors, but they have a bumpy road ahead. Washington, Jefferson and thousands who sacrificed for this country while owning slaves and practicing white supremacy are going to keep the Dudley Do-Rights busy.



Apr 162015


By Jim Goodnight

04/15/2015 4:24 PM

America’s students still lag behind their global peers. Congress has the chance to reverse this trend by reauthorizing and strengthening the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

America ranks a dismal 16th in literacy, problem-solving and math skills of top-performing “millennials” – those between ages 16 and 24 – in 22 affluent countries, according to a new study from the Education Testing Service. That puts our students well behind the likes of Germany and South Korea. The picture becomes even grimmer when researchers expanded their focus to millennials across the world: America ranked dead last in math and problem-solving.

While our young people are lagging, industry demand for these skills has never been higher. This gap threatens the long-term health of the American economy.

When it comes to math, Massachusetts has the highest-achieving public school students in the country. Yet they are a full two-and-a-half years behind their counterparts in Shanghai. Overall, only about 3 in 4 American children are proficient in “Level 2” math, defined by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development as necessary to “participate effectively and productively in life.”

Meanwhile, the domestic supply of “STEM” jobs – in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – is expected to grow to 9 million by 2022. These are the positions of the future, offering sturdy employment, engaging work, and significantly higher wages than jobs in other sectors.

There is a yawning disconnect between the capabilities of America’s young workers and the skills sought by America’s employers. I have witnessed this gap firsthand.

STEM-trained employees are crucial to my company’s business. In our home state of North Carolina, which has actively fostered high-tech research corridors, the local supply of STEM jobs is expected to jump by 24 percent this decade.

But the local public schools are not equipping students with the skills needed to secure these positions. Indeed, fewer than half of graduating high school students even qualify as college-ready. As a result of this tension between employer demands and worker qualifications, it sometimes takes up to two years for us to fill a job opening.

In reauthorizing ESEA, Congress has a chance to strengthen our education system, while helping to close America’s STEM skills gap. To this end, there are a several important principles lawmakers should adopt.

First, states should establish clear expectations for what students need to know in each grade. Those expectations should be internationally benchmarked, so that students can compete head-to-head with their global peers, and ensure that each high school graduate is prepared for success in college and, ultimately, in a career.

States should also set realistic student-achievement goals and develop their own tests and metrics for monitoring progress. I understand there is too much testing today. However, requiring only 17 tests throughout the entire K-12 years is not “over-testing.” To understand how students are learning, assessments should be conducted annually in grades three through eight and at least once in high school for math and reading. For science, students should be tested once in elementary school, middle school and high school.

Reliable, easily understood performance data should be available to parents so they can make sound educational decisions for their children, understanding if their children are on track to graduate from high school with the needed preparation for a career, the military or college. Solid performance data will also help policymakers identify students and schools that are struggling. Such data will also enable states to reward educators and schools when improvement targets are met and take action when they are not.

By following these principles, Congress, through ESEA, can give states the support and flexibility they need to help students achieve greater educational success, while still holding schools, teachers and administrators accountable. Doing so will also help close the STEM skills gap and put us on a path of sustained economic growth. America’s CEOs urge Congress to ensure American workers do not slip even further behind their global competitors, and strengthen ESEA through its reauthorization.

Apr 162015


By Melinda Beck
April 15, 2015

The essay section is out and sociology is in, and test-takers will need to be as familiar with psychology terms, such as “reciprocal determinism,” as they are with organic chemistry.

The 8,200 aspiring doctors expected to take the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT, this week will find a very different exam than their predecessors took.

The new test, the first major revision in 25 years, is longer (by 3 hours), broader (covering four more subjects), and more interdisciplinary than past versions. Throughout, students will need to demonstrate not just what they know, but how well they can apply it, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, which develops and administers the MCAT.

The changes are designed in part to mirror the evolution of health-care delivery and even the nature of illness, the AAMC says.

“One hundred years ago, all you really needed to know was the science. We were all looking for the magic bullet that would cure disease,” said Catherine Lucey, vice dean of the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine and a member of the MCAT review committee. “Now we have problems like obesity and diabetes that require doctors to form therapeutic alliances with patients and convince them to change their lifestyle.”

To that end, a large new section—one quarter of the test—covers psychology, sociology and the biological foundations of behavior. Official review material includes concepts such as social inequality, class consciousness, racial and ethnic identity, “institutionalized racism and discrimination” and “power, privilege and prestige.”
Medical-school hopefuls taking the Medical College Admissions Test on April 17 will find it longer, broader and more interdisciplinary than in the past. WSJ’s Melinda Beck reports. Photo: Adrienne Grunwald for the Wall Street Journal

Other new sections test critical-thinking skills and statistical reasoning; students might be given data from mock experiments and asked whether the conclusions drawn are valid. Physics and general chemistry will be tested—but only as they relate to biological systems, like the chemistry of stomach acid.

The writing section—which asked test-takers for two essays, responding to given statements—was dropped in 2013 amid planning for the new MCAT.

In all, students will have more questions—a total of 230—but more time to do each one. Including breaks, the test lasts over seven hours.

Scores will be very different, too: The old range was 3 to 45. The new range is 472 to 528, with 500 as the midpoint. Scores for each of the four sections will be reported separately so medical schools can emphasize or de-emphasize some parts if they choose.

Competition for admission is as fierce as ever, despite new schools opening and others expanding in recent years. More than 85,000 students from around the world took the MCAT last year. Last year, a record 49,480 applied for approximately 20,300 first-year places in U.S. medical schools; another 18,000 students applied for 6,700 places in 30 schools of osteopathic medicine, which also require the MCAT.

The revised test is the result of prodigious planning, the AAMC says. The review committee held 90 outreach events and surveyed 2,700 medical-school faculty, students and residents, soliciting input on the most important things aspiring doctors should know. The committee also consulted pre-med advisers and perused undergraduate course offerings to make sure the new material was available.

More than 113,000 MCAT-takers in 2013 and 2014 tried out new questions, and some 2,000 medical students took prototype exams to see how scores correlated with success in medical schools.

The committee considered making the test pass/fail. “There was some sentiment that a person’s future shouldn’t rest on a mathematical score,” said Dr. Lucey. But it was ultimately decided that reporting scores gave admissions committees more flexibility.

Reaction to the new test has largely been positive, though experience is limited.

In MCAT prep classes, when students take their first full-length practice test, “they come out a little shell-shocked about just how long the test is,” said Owen Farcy, director of academics for pre-med programs for Kaplan Inc. “But many of these students have wanted to be doctors since they were in elementary school. They won’t let a more challenging test deter them from the path.”

A Kaplan survey of medical-school admissions officers found 80% in favor of the new version.

“This is not science. [It’s] agenda-driven garbage,” said Ronald Hansing, a pathologist in Columbia, Mo., who earned his M.D. in 1975, of the sociology material posted online by the Khan Academy, which worked with the AAMC to create 900 free videos to help students prepare.

“Change is hard,” said Dr. Lucey. “We are trying to send a message that in order to be a highly effective physician, you need to have a foundation in a broad section of domains.”

Undergraduate pre-med advisers have been adjusting their curricula to prepare for the new test since 2012.

“Fear of the unknown creates anxiety, so we work very hard to give students the information they need,” says Bobbi Knickerbocker, pre-health adviser at the University of Florida in Gainesville, where some 900 students apply to medical schools each year.

Some test-takers are apprehensive. “People tell me, ‘I’m so sorry you’re taking the new MCAT—it’s going to be so hard,” says Nicole Vesely, a 20-year-old junior at the University of Florida who plans to take it in May, one of 14 possible test dates this year.

“Eat. Sleep. Study. Repeat,” tweeted Joseph Vander Linde, 26, who is taking the test on Friday. His typical study day now is up to 12 hours now, he says.

Apr 162015


APRIL 14, 2015

The Yale University School of Medicine and 2U, an education technology company, have been denied accreditors’ permission to offer a physician assistant master’s degree online as an expansion of an existing campus degree program.

Yale’s announcement of the program in March was heralded as evidence that even the nation’s most prestigious universities were moving toward online degrees. It was to be the first to offer the same Ivy League degree from an online program as from the campus version.

But as the Yale experience shows, getting a campus degree program online and accredited is not simple.

The university was hoping to start the online program with 12 students in January, and to eventually enroll 350 students. The campus version enrolls about 40 students a year.

According to a statement from a university spokeswoman, Karen N. Peart, Yale applied for accreditation as an expansion “because the on-campus and online programs would be equivalent in admission criteria, student curriculum and assessment, clinical placements and summative student assessment.” Still, Ms. Peart said, the accreditors’ response, which came last month, was “reasonable.”

The timing for the new program to start now depends on full accreditation and state licensing, Ms. Peart said.

The Yale Daily News was the first to report that Yale’s application for the expansion had been rejected.

Over the last three years, elite universities have rushed to offer free online courses, known as MOOCs, that do not carry credit or lead to a degree.

“All academic environments are looking at online for new and better ways to teach,” John McGinnity, president of the American Academy of Physician Assistants, said. “There’s a huge demand for physician assistants that has to be met, but to take a P.A. program, which has over 2,000 hours of bedside clinical training, and put it online — a lot of us were curious to see how they would do that.”

Admission to the nation’s nearly 200 physician assistant programs has become highly competitive, with an average of eight to 10 applications for each seat. The Yale program receives more than 1,000 applications a year.

Yale and 2U, which would split the revenue from the program, expect to bring three groups a year to the 28-month program, which costs $83,000 on campus and would cost the same online.

The program would bring the online students to Yale at the beginning and end of the first year, and at the start of the second year. The clinical rotations that make up the second year of training, though, could be done at sites near the students’ homes.

According to The Yale Daily News, students and alumni had expressed concern that the online plan could undercut the quality of Yale’s program and dilute the value of the degree.

Even before it went public a year ago, 2U had been a leader in the push toward online professional degrees, forging partnerships with more than a dozen prominent universities. It is a partner in the University of Southern California’s teaching and social work degrees; Northwestern’s master’s in counseling; the online M.B.A. at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Georgetown’s nursing degree; and more.

Chip Paucek, the chief executive, said the company expected to introduce five new online programs a year, many of which, like its nursing, social work and teaching programs and the Yale physician assistant program, would include field placements.

Accreditation, he said, is a hurdle in each new field.

Mr. Paucek said his company had handled more than 20,000 site placements in its online degree programs, employing 100 people who handle nothing but those placements.

“One of our disciplines at Georgetown is midwifery, and no one would want to go to a midwife who delivered virtual babies,” he said. “The students in our Georgetown program have delivered 3,653 babies.”

Another point of pride, he said, is that the Georgetown nursing program had a 100 percent first-time board pass rate for its family nurse-practitioner graduates in 2012 and 2013, the latest years for which data are available.

Not all of the company’s online efforts have been so successful. In 2012, 2U created Semester Online, in which Duke, Northwestern and other universities would offer online courses to their own students and students elsewhere, who would have to pay more than $4,000 in tuition per course. Duke pulled out before the program ever got going, and it was disbanded last year.

Apr 162015


By Susan Svrluga
April 15

Thursday was supposed to be opening night, when Paul Soutter, a sophomore at the College of William & Mary, would be on stage in a student-written play about how the stresses college students face can break them.

People instead will gather for his funeral at a church in Arlington, where he grew up.

Soutter took his own life early Monday, according to officials at the esteemed liberal arts college in Williamsburg, Va. Those who knew and loved him described Soutter as an outstanding student and a brilliantly funny friend, and his death resonated deeply in this close-knit campus community, raising concerns about the challenges college students handle on a daily basis and the mental health struggles students can face.

It was the fourth suicide at William & Mary this year and the eighth since 2010, a relatively high number for a school that has 8,400 undergraduate and graduate students. Soutter’s passing seemed a tipping point for many students and alumni, who asked why yet another high-achieving young person has been lost, and whether there weren’t better ways to ease stress and help people in emotional crisis.

William & Mary is among numerous elite U.S. campuses now struggling with this issue, with high-profile ongoing conversations at Yale, MIT, the University of Pennsylvania and many others.

“I don’t know what he was dealing with,” said Tess Higgins, a senior who spent the past two years working on the play in which Soutter was a principal actor, and she probably never will truly know, she said. But she hopes the themes of the play might help bring some light to the crushing stresses some students feel. Attempts to reach Soutter’s family through the university and family friends on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

On Wednesday, students, faculty and others gathered for an emotional campus memorial, remembering Soutter’s kindness to friends, his theater roles, his funny improv performances, his unexpected insights. They plan to have another gathering next week, with counselors available.

There was an e-mail widely shared on campus, Higgins said, in which a grieving student asked for an extension on a test and the professor responded with sympathy, but no extra time. Her own professors were wonderfully accommodating, she added, and a school spokesman shared an e-mail the provost sent to faculty urging them to be compassionate. Still, it was symbolic of the kinds of pressure she worries about.

“We should be encouraged to take risks and fail gloriously,” Higgins said. “If we can’t do it here, then where can we do it?”

Many students and alumni had similar reactions.

“I don’t even attend William and Mary anymore, and I still feel like I’m holding my breath everyday, waiting for the next death,” Noa Nir, a 2013 graduate who works at the Institute of Medicine, wrote in an e-mail to The Washington Post. “I don’t know — I cannot presume to know — why these students chose to take their own lives.

“But maybe, just maybe, it had to do with a feeling of worthlessness, of suffocation, of loneliness. This is what I felt, to a lesser extent, during my time on campus. I felt the need to constantly prove myself — the need to show that I belonged to this renowned college and was worthy of both its academics and its people. I know what it’s like to have to keep up — and to feel like a failure when I don’t.”

Kelly Crace, associate vice president for health and wellness at the college, cautioned that it is easy to over-connect academic stress and the risk of suicide; he said it is actually a low predictor of suicidal feelings. The best predictor is a long history of mental health issues, he said.

Crace said the school has been adding more resources for students who are struggling with mental health issues, with thousands of students taking advantage of resiliency training, as one example. Crace said the school received additional funding from the Virginia General Assembly to add services such as an after-hours call center and a full-time psychiatrist.

Gregg Robertson, the principal of Arlington’s Washington-Lee High School, said Soutter was talented and smart, quiet and very funny: “Paul was a terrific student!”

Bill Chamblee, a physics teacher at Washington-Lee, called Soutter a “renaissance man,” who studied intensified physics and AP Physics and excelled at theater. “He had a broad spectrum of interests and likewise a broad spectrum of friends,” he said.

Higgins, still shocked and overwhelmed, said the play at William and Mary that Soutter was to perform in certainly won’t happen this week.

But his friends might, if Soutter’s family agrees, honor him by staging a reading with counselors on hand as a means to spark conversation about these issues and asking for help.

“He had one of my favorite lines in the play,” she said, when his character tells another,

“Be the best at everything. Get this internship, have these grades, that leadership position, these goals. Getting only one hour of sleep is a badge of pride because you worked so hard. But it’s not. Maggie, you want all these pride badges that mean nothing. I like you without your trophies and your test scores; I like you in your sweatpants! But you don’t like that girl. And to me, that is a tragedy.”

“It really breaks my heart,” Higgins said, “that he’s not here to say them.”

Apr 162015


By Melissa Korn
April 16, 2015

The higher-education wealth gap is growing—not just between those who do or don’t have college degrees but among colleges themselves.

The coffers of the nation’s 40 wealthiest universities, including Harvard University, Stanford University and the University of Michigan, are filling at a faster rate than those of other schools, thanks to particularly strong investment performances and generous donors, according to a report to be published Thursday by Moody’s Investors Service.

“It’s really a tale of two college towns, if you will, or cities,” said Karen Kedem, vice president and senior credit officer at Moody’s. “Looking ahead, the expectation is that this [gap] will only widen.”

The 10 richest institutions held nearly one-third of total cash and investments at four-year schools in fiscal 2014, while the top 40 accounted for two-thirds. Wealth was concentrated among elite schools at similar rates before the financial crisis, but the gap shrunk as top schools lost big on more-volatile investments in 2008 and 2009.

They have more than recovered since then. Schools on Moody’s top-40 list saw assets grow by 50% between fiscal 2009 and fiscal 2014, significantly outperforming other schools with strong credit ratings but smaller asset bases.

Moody’s rates the debt of more than 500 public and private schools, which enroll about 80% of all four-year students.

The 40 wealthiest public and private schools had a median $6.3 billion in cash and investments in fiscal 2014, compared with $273 million for the rest of group Moody’s rates.

Those large endowments draw the top investment advisers and provide access to less-liquid, but potentially higher-yielding, investments. As a result, said Pranav Sharma, a Moody’s analyst and the report’s lead author, it is unlikely that schools not already in the top bracket can catch up, “unless financial leaders make some big mistakes.”

Wealthy schools also have a leg up when it comes to collecting charitable gifts, with the 40 “financial leader” schools capturing 59% of all gift revenue in fiscal 2014. Those with weaker balance sheets, with debt rated Baa and below, brought in just 3% of the gifts.

Harvard last year secured a $350 million gift from the family of Hong Kong investor Gerald Chan, its largest ever, and topped the list of higher education donations in fiscal 2014 with $1.16 billion in total gifts.

Those schools with the brightest prospects generally rely little on tuition revenue. Rather, their income streams are diverse, including philanthropic gifts, investments, research funds and, for public schools, state support.

Broadly, private colleges collect about three-quarters of their revenue from student-related charges, and public schools get 46% from students. The 20 richest public and private nonprofit schools got 15% and 30% of their funds from student charges, respectively.

“It’s not like they’re doing well just because of one factor,” Mr. Sharma said. “Everything’s going well for them.”

Apr 152015


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The East Carolina University School of Music Chamber Singers became the first American choir ever to win the 13th International Maribor Choral Competition Gallus held Friday through Sunday in Maribor, Slovenia.

The competition is part of the European Grand Prix for Choral Singing, an annual contest between the winners of six European choral competitions of very high artistic quality. Despite its name, the European Grand Prix for Choral Singing is not limited to European choirs; invited ensembles from many countries participate.

The ECU Chamber Singers were the only choral group from the United States invited to the Maribor competition this year. Other participants came from Latvia, Ireland, Sweden, Germany, Indonesia and Slovenia.

With the win, the ECU Chamber Singers qualified for the finals of the European Grand Prix competition in Varna, Bulgaria, in 2016.

“It is a true honor to be invited to represent the United States in an international choral competition at this level,” said Andrew Crane, Chamber Singers director. “The other invited choirs had very impressive professional resumes, and I imagine they thought of us as underdogs. Our victory is a testament to the hard work, intense preparation and dedication of this special group of ECU students.”

The ECU Chamber Singers were selected to compete in Slovenia, a small country in south-central Europe near Italy, because of their outstanding performance at the Tolosa International Choral Contest in Spain last year. Owing to the high profile of the competition and the honor of being invited to compete, the competition funds the cost of lodging and food for the singers while in Maribor.

ECU’s choral group consists of auditioned undergraduate and graduate students, and is the select choral ensemble at the university. They maintain a rigorous rehearsal and performance schedule and focus predominantly on unaccompanied choral literature suitable for advanced chamber choir.

As the winner, ECU’s School of Music receives a 2,500 Euro cash prize, about $2,664 in American dollars, to be used for choral activities, and the Chamber Singers receive a first place medal, the flag of the competition and a sculpture of Jacobus Gallus, the Slovenian Renaissance composer for whom the contest is named.

Apr 152015


Priscilla Ann Gamage “Prill” Waters

Priscilla Prill Ann Gamage Waters passed away April 9th at 5:30 am with her husband and sister by her side. Prill had a 30 year fight with five different types of cancer, however, throughout this time she stayed positive and never lost her sense of humor or caring for others. The family would like to thank Community Home Care and Hospice for making her past two weeks as comfortable as possible. Everyone there was caring and extremely helpful. Prill was born in Damariscotta, Maine on November 24, 1948 to Edward Thomas Gamage and Bernice Bunny Bellefontaine Gamage. Prill attended grade school in Damariscotta and high school at Lincoln Academy, Newcastle, ME where she graduated in 1966. After Graduation she attended the University of Southern Maine in Gorham, here she graduated in 1970. In 1999 she graduated from the University of Southern Maine with a Masters Degree in Instructional Leadership. She taught school in Standish, Bristol, South Bristol, Damariscotta, Edgecomb and Gorham, Maine and Leesburg, VA where she retired due to her health. Prill was married on April 11, 1978 to Louis A Waters. They resided in Damariscotta until 1984 when they moved to Lowell, Ma. They moved back to Maine and resided in Gorham and Portland until 2000 when they moved to Northern Virginia until moving to Greenville, North Carolina in 2008. Prill loved teaching and hated to retire. While in Gorham Prill was a member of the Gorham Fire Department Auxiliary and in 1994 joined the Civil Air Patrol in Portland where she was the Aero Space Educator to the cadets, obtaining the rank of Major. She also assisted with the Color Guard team for three years. After moving to Greenville, NC she volunteered to work on the Coast Guard Auxiliary Archives that were maintained at East Carolina University. Prill was also a volunteer with the Pitt County Sheriffs Office Citizens on Patrol Program. Prill is predeceased by her father, Edward and survived by her husband, Louis; two sons, Charles and wife, Theresa and Patrick and wife, Sharmaine; several grandchildren and great grandchildren; mother, Bernice; sister, Jacalyn Fraser and husband, Linwood; and several aunts, uncles and cousins. A memorial service will be held at Salem United Methodist Church in Simpson at a date to be determined. There will be a service in Damariscotta officiated by Rick Newell also at a later date. Arrangements by Smith Funeral Service & Crematory. Online condolences may be expressed at www.smithfcs.com.