Endowment to bring more renowned speakers to ECU

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Colson Whitehead, underwater explorer Jean-Michael Cousteau, primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson have all come to East Carolina University to share their unique perspectives, and such luminaries will continue to be a staple thanks to an endowment for the Voyages of Discovery Series.

The series is an ongoing showcase of distinguished speakers with thought-provoking messages from every field. Humanitarians, authors, activists and astronauts have all been featured since the series was established in 2007 by the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences. The Voyages of Discovery Series has become the premier intellectual event for students and faculty of ECU as well as the citizens of eastern North Carolina.

The 2017-2018 season ended Thursday with a performance by the political satire group The Capitol Steps at ECU’s Wright Auditorium.

Harvey Wooten attends the 2017 Voyages of Discovery premier lecture with Dr. Robert Ballard, who discovered the Titanic, and friend Vik Sexton. (Contributed photo)

Harvey Wooten attends the 2017 Voyages of Discovery premier lecture with Dr. Robert Ballard, who discovered the Titanic, and friend Vik Sexton. (Contributed photo)

The Ms. Harvey S. Wooten Voyages of Discovery Endowment is the first endowment for the series. Wooten is one of the founding members of the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Advancement Council and has been involved in the series since its beginning.

“I just feel so strongly about this lecture series,” she said. “It’s a way to bring intellectual stimulus to the university and the community with big names that might not ever come here otherwise.”

Wooten, a Kinston native, has lived in Greenville for nearly 40 years. She served as the co-chair of the THCAS Advancement Council for 10 years. As an active member of the council, Wooten has provided generous funding for the college and established the Harvey Sharp Wooten Study Abroad Scholarship and the Harvey Wooten Social Sciences Scholarship.

“Harvey Wooten is, without match, our most loyal and generous supporter of the Voyages of Discovery Series,” Dean William M. Downs said. “For years, she has contributed funds that have enabled Harriot College to bring some of the world’s foremost scientists, authors, policymakers, and world-changers to Greenville. By creating the Wooten Endowment, she has laid a solid foundation for the series’ future. As we endeavor to elevate the prominence of the speakers we bring to campus, we will look to grow the endowment so that generations of future Pirates will continue to benefit from the wisdom, wit and inspiration of those showcased by eastern North Carolina’s most important lecture series.”

Series director Jeffrey Johnson echoed that sentiment. “Harvey is a person of wide-ranging interests in the arts and sciences, and her appetite for intellectual inquiry and exploration embodies this series,” he said. “All of us who are involved with the series are deeply grateful to Harvey.”

Wooten said she never misses a lecture. Her favorites over the years have included renowned paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey, writer and journalist Walter Isaacson, and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. Above all, Wooten said she hopes the endowment will encourage more people to give to the lecture series and show others what a gift ECU is giving to the public.

“You can bring rock stars and country singers here and that’s great entertainment for one night, but these speakers that come give you insight into their mind and their world and give you something inspiring to take away from it.”

For additional information about the Voyages Series, visit www.ecu.edu/voyages.


-by Erin Shaw, University Communications