ECU Child Development Center named for alumna

The ECU College of Human Ecology dedicated the Nancy W. Darden Child Development Center April 21. Attendees included (left to right) Judy Siguaw, Dean of the College of Human Ecology, and Darden’s family and friend, Robin Newton (niece), Wilbur Douglas Whitfield (brother), Fran Whitfield (sister-in-law), Carla Mangum (niece), Robert “Bobby” Whitfield (brother), and Dr. Dorothy Pruitt (friend).


The East Carolina University Child Development Center has been named in honor of an alumna who graduated in 1956.

The estate of the late Nancy Whitfield Darden donated a substantial gift to establish the first endowed professorship in the ECU Department of Child Development and Family Relations in the College of Human Ecology.

On April 21, the college celebrated Darden’s life and generosity by naming the Nancy W. Darden Child Development Center in her memory. The naming coincided with the 100th anniversary of the ECU’s Home Economics Education and Family Consumer Sciences program, from which Darden graduated.

The Darden bequest qualifies for state matching funds from the Distinguished Professors Endowment Trust Fund created by the North Carolina General Assembly. Remaining funds from the gift will be used for scholarships for undergraduate students preparing for careers working with children and families.

Darden was born and raised in Creedmoor, N.C.  Following her graduation from ECU, she taught high school home economics in Durham for several years. She then co-owned and operated “L’Nanz,” a fashion design company in Durham. From 1978 to 1998, she managed the Creedmoor office of a Durham real estate company, eventually opening her own firm, Darden Real Estate, in Creedmoor.

Darden also founded the Ruth Home, a transitional home for women with drug and alcohol abuse problems, and Angel Spirit, a nonprofit organization that provided financial backing for the Ruth Home.

In 2007, Darden established the Nancy W. Darden Scholarship in Criminal Justice to provide financial support to ECU students majoring in criminal justice.

ECU Women’s Roundtable named Darden one of the 100 Incredible ECU Women in 2007. She was honored as one of the 100 Legacy Leaders for the College of Human Ecology in 2009. Darden died in January 2011.

Dr. Dorothy Pruitt, a life-long friend and ECU classmate spoke of Darden’s generosity to her community, family, and friends. “Nancy worked tirelessly to help others improve their lives. She felt blessed and sought to share her blessings with others,” said Pruitt.

Cynthia Johnson, chair of the Department of Child Development and Family Relations, said, “Nancy’s main concern was the welfare of children and families, and her generosity will continue in perpetuity to enrich the education of our students. We’re so proud to have Nancy’s name beside the door of ECU’s Child Development Center.”

ECU’s Child Development Center, located in the Thomas W. Rivers Building, has been a part of the university for over sixty years, providing students of child development and early education the opportunity to gain practical experience with children and their families. All birth through kindergarten teacher education students and child life majors complete practicums and/or internship experiences in the Center.  The Center is accredited by the Association for the Education of Young Children.