Jul 282014


July 26, 2014

An anonymous gift of $1 million will enable the Family Autism Center at East Carolina University to increase professional staff and expand services for people with autism in eastern North Carolina.

“We look forward to adding colleagues from psychology and social work, as well as experienced therapists (speech-language and occupational therapists) to our current physician and nursing staff,” said Dr. Michael Reichel, a developmental and behavioral specialist in ECU’s pediatrics department and the center’s director. “Providing interdisciplinary evaluations and services will mark yet another step in fulfilling our mission to serve children and families in our region.”

Marcy Romary, interim president for ECU’s Medical & Health Sciences Foundation, said the recent gift was motivated by the donor’s close relationship with grandparents of a child on the autism spectrum.

“They saw firsthand how early diagnosis and treatment was so beneficial to this family, and wanted to ensure that families throughout the region would have access to first-rate diagnosis and care through the Brody School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics,” Romary said.

Autism spectrum disorder refers to a group of developmental disabilities that affect how a person understands what they see, hear or sense, according to information published by the Autism Society of North Carolina. People with ASD typically have difficulty understanding verbal and nonverbal communication and learning appropriate ways of behaving and interacting socially.

The prevalence of autism in North Carolina continues to increase, with more males than females being identified, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.

Despite ongoing research, no one knows exactly what causes ASD, and there is no single test to diagnose it, Reichel said.

“Accurate diagnosis is made by a team of multidisciplinary professionals who have observed a person’s communication, behavior and developmental levels – combined with caregiver input and developmental history,” he said. “It’s a process, not a one-stop shop.”

Interventions for ASD should involve multiple disciplines, as well, Reichel said. That is why he and other organizers envisioned the center as an interdisciplinary hub for autism supports, treatment, advocacy, training and research to benefit the community and region.

“We are so grateful for this major gift to help us expand staffing and clinical services,” Reichel said. “With additional private and public support, we’ll be able to attract other clinicians who can support and advocate for older individuals with autism. These kids do grow up. Our goal to emphasize needs across the lifespan will make our center truly unique.”

Sharon McLawhorn, of Chicod, said her 5-year-old son, Christian, has made unbelievable strides since being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder a little more than two years ago, thanks to Reichel and the Family Autism Center.

“This place is a safe haven for the kids and their families,” she said. “It’s where parents can learn from other parents and staff. Where they can get the knowledge and tools to help their child and to advocate for their child. Where they can get support, but mostly hope.”

Since May 2013 the center has been providing developmental testing and screening tools that can identify children who might have autism spectrum disorders, developmental delays, pragmatic communication disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other significant neurobehavioral conditions. The center is located at 108-B West Fire Tower Road in Winterville. For more information visit www.ecu.edu/cs-dhs/ecuphysicians/locationinfo.cfm?ID=55.

The ECU Medical & Health Sciences Foundation is the official charity for ECU’s Division of Health Sciences. Funds acquired and managed by the foundation are designed to enhance education, teaching, research and service within that division. For more information contact Romary at 744-3057 or romarym@ecu.edu.

Jul 282014


By Tony Castleberry

July 26, 2014

Participants in Ruffin McNeill’s fantasy football camp who thought they were just going to jog through a couple of drills, hear coach McNeill and his East Carolina assistants give a couple of speeches and collect a T-shirt found out quickly that Friday’s camp offered much more.

More running, more sweating and much more football than fantasy.

McNeill and his staff put the 50 or so campers through workouts that left them exhausted, and in some cases limping, and delivered film room and offensive and defensive scheme study that they later put into practice under the tutelage of Pirate coaches at the Cliff Moore practice facility.

“You’ve got a lot of weekend warriors out here who are All-Americans in their memories from probably a couple of decades ago, but all kidding aside, it’s really impressive to see what the actual football players go through wearing 20 or 30 pounds of pads,” Greenville Mayor Allen Thomas said after the morning session that featured offensive and defensive drills at four different stations with campers rotating to each one. “We’re out here running three or four sets, but it’s nothing compared to what the elite athletes at East Carolina have and what they run.”

McNeill was a near constant presence on the field and in the film and study rooms, occasionally offering pointers or some good-natured ribbing as camp participants were put through their paces.

Entering his fifth season in charge at ECU, McNeill began holding fantasy camps during his time as an assistant at Texas Tech along with Pirate offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. While he wanted the campers to have fun, McNeill was very clear about which segment of the camp was going to be the most challenging.

“Coach C is always the most feared portion of this camp,” McNeill said, referring to the intense afternoon workout directed by strength and conditioning coach Jeff Connors. “He called me the other day and asked me how many kids we were going to have in camp. I said, ‘105.’ I thought he was talking about our players. He said, ‘Not that camp. Fantasy camp.’ He’s been planning for these guys since Monday.”

Following a lunch break, Connors did not waste his chance to push camp participants to their physical limits, from footwork drills in a sand pit nicknamed The Beach to a grueling weight push of 50 yards that prompted Connors to shout, “Somebody call the doctor!” as campers moved the 180-pound contraption.

When Connors was finished punishing their bodies, the campers moved inside to watch film with Riley, defensive coordinator Rick Smith, special teams coordinator Kirk Doll and other ECU position coaches. The Pirate assistants taught basic offensive and defensive techniques, then transferred those to the field where camp participants ran plays until the conclusion of camp.

Riley said he enjoys the interaction with the campers and recognized that the fantasy camp is a sure sign that East Carolina camp is right around the corner.

“We’re creatures of habit and we’re all on our clocks,” Riley said. “Getting out here and coaching these guys and going through some of the film with them and just kind of getting that feeling again, it’s great. … You know it’s time now. It kind of gets the excitement going and gets your blood pumping.”

He also noted that going from the fantasy camp with common men of all shapes, sizes and ages to guiding ECU players who are in in peak physical condition is like upgrading from a moped to a Porsche.

“That’s the great thing about bringing these guys in first,” Riley said. “It’s like before you bat (in a baseball game) and you put the weight on the bat. When you get to the plate, you take the weight off. Hopefully we’ll get the weight off (when the Pirates report to camp).”

Jul 282014


By Abbie Bennett

July 28, 2014

It was a sea of purple and gold, tightly laced running shoes and ball caps.

And lots of pony tails.

About 150 women and girls poured into the Murphy Center at East Carolina University’s Dowdy Ficklen Stadium on Saturday for head coach Ruffin McNeill’s Ladies Football Clinic. Many were toting water bottles, and spirits were high.

Black and purple T-shirts emblazoned with the “Real women love football” slogan and the head coach’s name were the designer wear of the day. Makeup was exchanged for eye black and temporary pirate tattoos.

The ladies of Pirate Nation were ready.

Posing for photos, taking selfies and sitting around tables labled purple, gold, white and black, women of various ages watched highlight reels set to upbeat music and cheered for exciting plays. The ladies rubbed elbows with players, coaches and staff at lunch as they awaited the guest of honor.

A standing ovation greeted McNeill when he entered the room.

McNeill discussed the schedule, talking at length about his pride in the university’s football program and especially its fans. He introduced his staff, praising and telling anecdotes about each in turn, including their wives and family members in the audience. He teased his family in the audience and stopped mid-word to hug every child that walked past him during his speech — family or not.

“We’re running things as a family,” McNeill said. “I don’t know any other way.”

The women in the audience got the chance to ask a few players questions after McNeill handed over the mic. Some wanted to know about the student-athletes’ schedules, which can run from about 6 or 7 a.m. to about 11 p.m., according to inside receiver Isaiah Jones.

Defensive end Randall Anderson told the women about his time spent with elementary school students after being asked if the team makes appearances at local schools.

“I like to get out there with them at recess when I’m not here to help them stay active,” Anderson said.

The women also wanted to know if they could expect any more trick plays from the team.

“Then it wouldn’t a trick play, would it?” quarterback Shane Carden asked.

When asked what their plans were for playing the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill this season, inside receiver Justin Hardy had two words for the ladies in the audience: “Beat ’em.”

The women were led in several cheers and chants by coaching staff and players before heading downstairs to break into groups for weightroom workouts, then headed to the field for basic rules and strategies of football, coaching instruction, offense, defense and special teams “inside scoop,” and on-field drills.

Barbara Smith, 61, wife of defensive coordinator Rick Smith; Smith’s daughter-in-law, Beth Kurnat, 38; and granddaughter Kaitlynn, 13, came to the football clinic for the comraderie and spirit.

“It’s fun to come out and see the other ladies that participate,” Smith said. “It’s all in good fun.”

Kaitlynn said she was there to see the coach.

Kurnat said Kaitlynn’s first game was when she was about 8 months old.

“And she’s probably been every Saturday since then,” Kurnat said.

District 1 Greenville City Councilwoman Kandie Smith also attended the clinic. Smith said she was there to support the team and “to kick butt and take names.

“I don’t like to kick butt without taking names,” Smith said with a laugh.

Melissa Russell, 34, and Jenny Wiggins, 33, said they have been to the football clinic before.

“I’ve probably been the last four years,” Russell said. “It’s like a pep rally before football season. It gets you fired up and excited.”

Wiggins said this is her second year on the field.

“My favorite part is when we can get out there and tackle the dummies and kick the field goals,” she said.

Both women agreed they enjoyed the strength and conditioning part of the clinic, but they most looked forward to getting down and dirty on the field.

“It’s by far the best part because it’s not something you get to do every day,” Russell said. “It really gets you in the spirit for the season.”

Jul 282014


By Ronnie Woodward

July 27, 2014

Longtime J.H. Rose baseball coach Ronald Vincent remembers when coaches — especially ones in tobacco-rich eastern North Carolina — used smokeless tobacco without being fully aware of the harm associated with the habit.

Education about smokeless tobacco is better than it was when Vincent started coaching in the 1970s, but East Carolina head athletic trainer Zac Womack suggests that some college and pro baseball players aren’t too concerned about the risks and still use the products because “they think they are invincible.”

The attention on tobacco use in baseball hit a possible all-time high this summer when San Diego Padres legend Tony Gwynn died at age 54 from oral cancer, which could help lead to tobacco being banned across all major levels of baseball. Gwynn attributed chewing tobacco, commonly referred to as dipping, as a leading cause to the cancer.

Smokeless tobacco is already banned by the NCAA and minor league baseball during games, and it was announced during last week’s Major League Baseball All-Star break that a similar ban could be discussed when the MLB Players Union’s labor contract is renegotiated in two years.

As it stands now, MLB permits smokeless tobacco use, but players are not allowed to carry packages or tins in their pockets when fans are in stadiums or dip during televised interviews.

One of Womack’s best educational techniques is to inform players, especially freshmen, about the chemicals and other ingredients in smokeless tobacco. For reinforcement, a sign breaking down the ingredients is on a wall above one of the training tables inside the ECU locker room.

“There’s a lot it can do to your body,” said Womack, a 2000 East Carolina graduate who spent seven years as an athletic trainer in the minor leagues before returning to ECU in 2008 to primarily work with the baseball team. “As much as I hated the Tony Gwynn situation to happen, it obviously brings this whole issue to a head right now and allows people to discuss it and talk about it.”

During minor league, NCAA, National Junior College Athletic Association and North Carolina High School Athletic Association games, players and coaches caught by an umpire using or possessing tobacco on the playing field or in the dugout are subject to ejection. In the minors, fines are also dished out and they can reach $1,000.

The NCAA rule was established in 1994 but not made a major point of emphasis until 2003. Vincent said he’s noticed an increased awareness by coaches at high school games in the past decade as well.

Although bans during contests are in place, research has shown that players still use off the field.

As part of the NCAA’s quadrennial survey on substance abuse, a 2009 study revealed that 52.3 percent of baseball players acknowledged using smokeless tobacco at least once a month, which was about a 10 percent increase from the 2005 results. According to The Associated Press, the full 2013 results are not yet available, but preliminary returns indicate that percentage is likely to drop.

Womack said he’s noticed that the percentage of players who dip off the field varies from team to team and year to year.

In practices, he said pro and college players have learned to be deceiving.

“I think if you have a big chew in and it’s obvious and you’re spitting all over the place, then that’s not really allowed,” said Womack, who lauded minor league baseball’s emphasis on the subject and pointed out that players are required to take part in oral exams in an attempt to show them any physical harm that is taking place. “There’s so many situations and things going on that a lot of times it’s like a kid being told they can’t chew gum in class. They’re going to sneak it in and they’re going to find a way to do it.

“I think the biggest thing is the staff, the administration or the organization that you’re working with has to push education and understanding what they’re putting in their mouth and why they shouldn’t do it.”

At the high school level, because players are teenagers and peer pressure is often prevalent, Vincent said coaches generally try to urge players that they are too young to dip.

Labels on cans warn about gum disease and cancer and state that using smokeless tobacco is addictive and not a safe alternative to smoking. Like cigarettes, it’s illegal for someone under the age of 18 to buy smokeless tobacco.

“It’s difficult to quit,” Vincent said. “They get into it and the next thing you know, they can’t put it down.”

Jul 282014


Sunday, July 27, 2014

By Grace Toohey

For some, five days straight of pulling teeth might sound like torture. But each summer, Dr. Fiona Vismans looks forward to doing just that.

Vismans, a dentist, traveled to El Cercado, Dominican Republic, in early July for the second year in a row with the Dominican Dental Project. This organization works to provide oral health services in one of the poorest regions of the country. Led by the organizations’ president, Steve Pohlhaus, and local priest Father John, a group of dentists and dental students set up a temporary office inside a schoolhouse and treated about 250 patients over the week.

“It’s really rewarding,” said Vismans, who works at the Damascus Dental Group. “They are so grateful. They walk for miles, then sit in the heat, then let us pull their teeth, then walk home. It’s really their only opportunity.”

Before the group visits, the church hands out tickets for people to come see the dentists from all over the rural, mountainous area. Vismans said the most common procedure is pulling teeth, which is often the best option for infections, decay or pain, but they also make some partial dentures for patients, do some fillings and give out toothbrushes. On average, the group of five dentists and four dental students treated about 50 patients each day, ranging from children as young as five to the elderly; “We see everybody,” Vismans said.


Fiona Vismans (left) Matt Morrone (ECU dental student) treating a patient.

“There’s a need to fill, and dentistry is unique because you can go into a situation like that and fill the need, a one stop shop,” Pohlhaus, a dentist at Baltimore Center for Laser Dentistry, said. “It’s very effective, you can treat a lot of people for one week.”

The local church in El Cercado provided the group housing in barracks and three meals a day, which Vismans said was pretty nice compared to where some of their patients live. The American volunteers even had electricity for a few hours a day and a shower, though no hot water. It’s quite different compared to the U.S.

“We’re so privileged here, and you don’t realize it,” she said. “It makes you appreciate things when you come back.”

The University of Maryland Dental School enticed Vismans when she was starting out because it offered the opportunity for students to complete an externship on a global trip. She traveled to Vietnam with Operation Smile.

“From the beginning I thought that was something important to do,” she said, and after that first trip, she was hooked.

“You have a lot of freedom to treat and help as many people as possible…they are so grateful,” Vismans said.

Later, during a her residency, where she worked with Pohlhaus’ wife, she learned that dentists were needed on the Dominican trip and she jumped.

“It takes a certain type of person (to come on these trips), it’s dealing with the environment,” Pohlhaus said. “Fiona came along, and she was a perfect fit, a great asset to the trip. Technically, she’s as good as they get.”

Though Vismans enjoys working on patients, she said her favorite part of the trip comes after the weeklong dentistry. The local youth group holds a party for the volunteers. They eat dinner together, then the teenagers bring out music and teach them the merengue, cha cha, and sometimes the salsa. That night the church also announces how many patients were treated and how many teeth were pulled.

“Our goal is to try to treat the patients and try to get them out of pain,” Vismans said. “We try to make them feel like they aren’t forgotten. They have a pretty hard life, and I think that’s important for the community to know.”

Vismans said it can be tough to communicate because she doesn’t know Spanish, but with pointing, a few key phrases and some bilingual peers, she said they all make it work. Sometimes though, her job can be disheartening, especially when young children need all of their molars pulled and there’s not a better option. Most of the dentures they make are for anterior teeth which means these kids are left without back teeth.

“There’s definitely a lot of unmet needs left behind, people still have teeth that need to be taken out,” Vismans said, adding that she plans to go back next year. “But you try to focus on the people that you did help, you do what you can.”

Jul 282014


Paul C. Barton

July 26, 2014

WASHINGTON – Coming into 2014, the word “vulnerable” was used often in association with North Carolina Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan.

And the fall of Hagan, many said, would be one of the key dominoes returning the U.S. Senate to Republican control.

At mid-year 2014, though, all the talk is about Hagan clinging to a consistent, if small, lead in her re-election campaign against Republican Thom Tillis, the speaker of the North Carolina House.

It also focuses on how Tillis continues to be bogged down in an extended summer legislative session that was supposed to have ended weeks ago.

Where the race goes from here is anyone’s guess, but all signs point to continued spending like there is no tomorrow and a fight to the finish.

“This is looking to be a modern version of the Helms-Hunt race in 1984,” said Tom Eamon, political analyst at East Carolina University. He was referring to the titanic struggle that year between incumbent Republican Sen. Jesse Helms and then-Democratic Gov. James B. Hunt Jr., which Helms won.

Earlier this year and “behind the scenes, many Democratic strategists worried that Hagan would be far behind by now,” Eamon added.

Republican optimism was fed in large part by President Barack Obama’s low approval ratings and Hagan’s association with Obama’s health care law.

Now the GOP is finding out “it is extremely difficult to defeat an incumbent,” said Nathan Gonzales of the Washington-based Rothenberg Political Report.

That’s especially true of an incumbent who can fundraise like Hagan, who had $8.7 million in campaign cash at the beginning of the month, compared with $1.5 million for Tillis.

And a poll released Tuesday by Public Policy Polling of Raleigh shows Hagan leading Tillis 41 percent to 34 percent, with Libertarian Sean Haugh at 8 percent. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percent.

“Tillis is forced to contend with incredibly low approval numbers, both personally and in terms of the statewide perception of the Legislature,” the firm said.

The Legislature, which has a 57 percent disapproval rating, enacted a two-year budget in 2013 that left school spending at $500 million less than what was needed to keep up with inflation and population growth.

The repercussions of that have angered many.

The budget is the focus in this summer’s session as well, one marked by snarling over teacher pay raises and Medicaid spending.

“Let’s see what happens when the Legislature goes out,” Jennifer Duffy, of The Cook Political Report, said of the race.

Tillis campaign spokesman Daniel Keylin said his candidate is not the least bit worried.

“Senate campaigns in North Carolina almost always break late,” Keylin said.

And Gonzales said Hagan needs to push her poll numbers closer to 50 percent — at least.

“For an incumbent, it’s not good to be polling in the low 40s,” he said.

In the meantime, though, it’s nice to own a North Carolina television station.

For the 16-month period from Jan. 2013-April 2014, N.C. stations sold 14,870 political ads related to the Senate race alone, reaping an estimated $6.3 million in revenue, according to the Wesleyan Media Project at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

And 90 percent of it was from groups independent of the two candidates but with a fervid interest in the race.

And those TV-ad figures have continued their stratospheric climb. Earlier this month, the Charlotte Observer, citing interviews with strategists for both campaigns, estimated outside groups had already spent close to $26 million.

And an analysis by the Sunlight Foundation, a Washington watchdog group, said that over the past 18 months, just one Charlotte station — WBTV Channel 3 — has sold 4,086 ads for $3.8 million.

What’s worrisome, said Kathy Kiely of the Sunlight Foundation, is that an overwhelming amount of the ads are purchased by “dark money” groups that don’t have to disclose their donors to the Federal Election Commission.

“What voters need to understand is that their elections are being influenced by groups with agendas that could be quite different from the agendas of North Carolinians,” she said.

Duffy, of The Cook Political Report, said spending from outside groups has been significant on both sides of the Senate race.

And while Tillis is ensnarled in Raleigh with an unpopular legislature, Hagan continues to be associated with the problem-plagued rollout of the Affordable Care Act.

“There is quite a bit of footage of her saying if you like your plan and like your doctor, you can keep it,” Duffy said, adding that North Carolinians have been particularly hard hit by insurance plan cancellations.

Despite all TV ad buys, the race will probably hinge on factors like the fall political climate and turnout, analysts say.

And the latter, they add, has to be worrisome for Hagan because Democratic voters don’t turn out as well in non-presidential election years.

Overall, Eamon said, the competitiveness shows how North Carolina has evolved from a red to a “purplish state.”

Jul 282014


July 27, 2014

Digging for history

Ten rising high school juniors and seniors got busy this summer digging and sifting through 18th century dirt behind a standing slave cabin in Grimesland.

That is because Charles Ewen, professor of anthropology and director of the East Carolina University Phelps Archaeology Laboratory, mentored the students in the Summer Ventures project at the Grimes Plantation. He and two ECU anthropology graduate students are searching for “activity areas and deposits” from slave life before the Civil War.

“Archaeology has showed us a lot more about slave life than ever gets written down,” Ewen said. “The owners rarely write anything about how the slaves are living. The slaves are illiterate, so they don’t write much about themselves. The only way we’re going to find out about these guys is through archaeology.”

Summer Ventures gives academically advanced high school juniors and seniors interested in science and math a month-long opportunity to engage in research and intensive study. When they weren’t off campus unearthing artifacts, the students had a chance to experience residence hall life and campus amenities.

The state-funded program, which operated from June 23 through July 18, also is offered at Appalachian State University, North Carolina Central University and University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Eleventh-grader Yong Su An, from Northwest High School in Greensboro, said Summer Ventures allowed him to further explore his interest in anthropology and archaeology.

“I’ve always loved history, so digging to find stuff about the past really intrigues me,” he said.

This is Ewen’s 10th year with the Summer Ventures program.

“If you had asked me when I first came to ECU, 20 years ago, ‘Would you like to take a dozen high school kids out to dig in the hottest part of the summer?’ I’d say, ‘Are you kidding me? I don’t even want to be out there,’” he said.

But he said he has been pleasantly surprised by the experience.

“Most of the kids, when they got out there, had never used the business end of a shovel. But they get into it, and honestly, it is hot and it is dirty, but they don’t complain,” he said.

After the students finished their field work, they wrote a research paper about archaeology and their excavation.

“They really do contribute,” Ewen said. “They’re doing real research, so it’s not just a made-up dig that I’m having them practice with. It’s real data that I need.”

Mariah Menanno, an 11th-grader from Research Triangle High School in Raleigh, said she could not wait to start.

“When I was little, I was really interested in dinosaurs, so I’ve always wanted to dig to see what I could find in the ground,” she said.

“One of the unfortunate things about high school is that students don’t get to learn about archaeology or anthropology,” said C.J. Idol, an ECU anthropology graduate student from Kernersville. “Summer Ventures is a chance for them to learn something beyond what they would get in regular high school classroom. Even if we don’t turn them into archaeologists, we can turn them into supporters of archaeology.”

The excavation units Ewen opened this summer are based on shovel tests Summer Ventures students dug last year.

“Shovel tests are just shovel holes where you’re looking to see if there’s stuff in it or not. It’s to narrow down the areas that are going to be productive for excavation units,” Ewen said.

So far, mostly 19th and 20th century artifacts such as glass, pottery and buttons have been found on the plantation, but Ewen is hoping to find the refuse pits where four other slave quarters once stood.

“It’s really cool that we still have one of the slave quarters standing because usually they get knocked down since they weren’t (considered) that important,” Idol said.

The Grimes Plantation is on the National Register of Historic Places and was the home of Civil War Major General Bryan Grimes. The estate was started by Grimes’ grandfather in the 1790s and primarily was used to produce cotton until Grimes’ death in 1880.

Ewen said there probably were more than 100 slaves working on the plantation at its peak. He hopes to find out more about their daily lives, including their diet and how much of their African heritage they had retained.

Since joining ECU in 1994, Ewen has directed projects at Tryon Palace Historic Sites and Gardens in New Bern, Fort Macon State Park in Carteret County, Hope Plantation in Windsor, Somerset Place near Creswell, and conducted a long-term archaeological study of historic Bath.

“For being a relatively small department, we’ve got a very active archaeological program. We do prehistoric, historic, forensic and Middle Eastern archaeology,” he said.

Internships give students experience

ECU students are applying the skills they have learned in the classroom at a myriad of internships this summer. Many hope the contacts they make will give them an edge for future job placements.

Below is a roundup of a few of these hard-working Pirates:

  • Dameshia Brown, a senior criminal justice major, is helping women transition from prison to careers at the Center for Community Transitions in Charlotte, a nonprofit employment readiness agency.
  • Margaret Craig, a recent graduate in communication and English, is selling season ticket packages and providing customer service at the Washington Redskins’ home stadium in Landover, Maryland.
  • John Gillespie, a senior communication major, is also at the Washington Redskins but in the public relations department, interviewing and writing for the team’s website.
  • Ashley Lamb, a senior double majoring in fashion merchandising and textile design, is at the GIII Apparel group in New York City working in the sales group for Jessica Simpson’s dress line.
  • Kelly Dixon, a senior fashion merchandising major, is maintaining the showroom for women’s clothing designer Trina Turk, also in New York City.
  • Jessica Jewell, a senior communication major, is logging press conferences and writing news packages at the Washington, D.C. bureau of NBC News Channel.
  • Karla Baker, a graduate student in occupational therapy, is completing the first of two 12-week fieldwork rotations at the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center at Camp Lejeune’s Naval Hospital.
Jul 282014


July 28, 2014

Neal Crawford of Norfolk, Va., has been elected chairman of the East Carolina Alumni Association Board of Directors for 2014-15.

Crawford graduated from ECU in 1985 with a bachelor of science degree in business administration. He has been the president of Monarch Bank since 2003.

“I am honored and excited to represent the alumni of East Carolina as chair of the alumni association board this coming year,” Crawford said. “It is our goal to increase alumni involvement and strengthen the university. I look forward to working with my fellow board members and serving all alumni. I am grateful to be part of a wonderful future here at ECU.”

Crawford joined the alumni association board in 2011 and served as treasurer for 2012-13 and vice chairman for 2013-14. As chairman, he will help lead an organization that reaches more than 155,000 East Carolina alumni worldwide.

“Neal brings executive experience and financial expertise that will serve the association and the university well in this important role,” said Dr. Richard R. Eakin, interim associate vice chancellor for alumni relations. “I thank Neal and all our board members for their commitment to serve East Carolina.”

Three other board members were elected to executive committee positions: Glenda Palmer-Moultrie of Derwood, Md., owner of L&L Travel and Tours, will serve as vice chairwoman; Dean Browder of Winston-Salem, senior vice president at Federal Savings Bank, will serve as treasurer; and John Israel, retired from the U.S. Air Force, will serve as secretary. The immediate past chairwoman is Angela Moss of Raleigh, director of investments at UNC Management Co.

Four new or returning members will be joining the board: Joy Stroud Ruhmann of Raleigh, founding president of Level Up Leadership Inc.; Tyna Sloate of New York, executive producer of Blueprint NYC; Harry Stubbs of Greenville, retired federal government employee; and Oliver “Tim” Willis Jr. of Durham, quality assurance engineer with Fidelity Investments.

The East Carolina Alumni Association Board of Directors is comprised of 28 members who serve three-year terms, with executive positions held for one year. The board meets four times a year.

The mission of the East Carolina Alumni Association is to inform, involve, and serve members of the East Carolina family throughout their lifelong relationship with the university.