Category Archives: Alumni

Chancellor’s Roadshow visits the Queen City

The East Carolina University Chancellor Roadshow pulled into Charlotte Oct. 18 to visit alumni and university supporters. About 50 people came out to the Duke Energy Center to meet Dr. Cecil Staton and hear firsthand his vision for ECU’s future.


“I loved the opportunity to be able to hear what he had to say, his new vision for the university, the boldness of his statements – which I think pirate pride can match,” said ECU alumna Michaelina Antahades.

“We need for every pirate to make an investment in this institution. It’s only when we can come together and do this as a team that we’re going to be able to make sure East Carolina University can be all that I believe it can be in the days ahead,” Staton said.


Chancellor Staton shares his vision of ECU with those gathered for his roadshow.

During his remarks, the chancellor noted that he believes East Carolina is on the cusp of becoming America’s next great university. His plans include increasing the university’s national profile, increasing research, expanding international studies and preparing for a comprehensive campaign.

“The chancellor talks about increasing research, and we have philanthropic partnerships with corporations that help further research,” said Vice Chancellor for University Advancement Chris Dyba. “Duke Energy is a great example of that. They’ve given hundreds of thousands of dollars to our engineering program and other programs at ECU to advance our research and do collective work for the citizens of North Carolina.”

Linda Thomas, Chancellor Staton, Wanda Montano, Jon DeFriese, and David Fisher

Linda Thomas, Chancellor Staton, Wanda Montano, Jon DeFriese, and David Fisher

The view from the 46th floor of the Duke Energy Center where the Chancellor’s Roadshow was held.

The view from the 46th floor of the Duke Energy Center where the event was held.

A big focus of the night was the importance of corporate support for the university. While corporate funding can help the university increase its national footprint in research and scholarships, it also helps students prepare for the future through internships and job placement.

“Anytime you talk about a true partnership, it goes beyond the financial commitment,” said ECU alumnus Mike Hughes who is also the vice president of community relations for Duke Energy in North Carolina. “You’ve got to develop opportunities for young people to get integrated into your workforce. I think we can find things that we need at Duke Energy and that East Carolina can absolutely deliver on and provide those kind of opportunities for students.”

These roadshows also give alumni and supporters a unique opportunity to speak with the Chancellor in one-on-one conversations.

“I definitely want to hear his ideas about these challenging times, but exciting times, and celebrating diversity and where we go from here,” said Steven Carmichael, a 2000 ECU graduate and co-founder of the Black Student Union at ECU.

Ronald Ellis, Chancellor Staton, and Roni Ellis

Ronald Ellis, Chancellor Staton, and Roni Ellis

Staton began his roadshow in August at the Murphy Center on ECU’s campus and plans to visit nearly a dozen locations in North Carolina and along the East Coast. The chancellor’s next roadshow event is planned for New York City in early December. For more information, contact ECU Advancement at 252-328-9550 or visit

–Rich Klindworth

Chancellor Staton takes a selfie with a guest.

Chancellor Staton takes a selfie with a guest.

“All Hands on Deck” in Response to Hurricane Matthew

As the ECU family continues to come together in communities across the region in the wake of Hurricane Matthew and the resulting floods, many of you have been asking how you can help.

Matthew Flooding

The East Carolina Alumni Association has partnered with the ECU Students’ Treasure Chest and the American Red Cross to provide information on how you can volunteer, give, or donate toward their efforts to help thousands of people affected by the recent storms in our area. Whether you live in eastern North Carolina or on the other side of the country, you can do your part to pitch in and help our neighbors and fellow Pirates.

“Hurricane Matthew has devastated our communities and recovery will be a group effort. Volunteers, partner organizations, and state and local officials will work together day and night until every need is met,” said Barry Porter, regional chief executive officer of the Red Cross in Eastern NC. “And while the storm has passed, we’re not out of the woods yet. We expect most of the rivers to crest mid-week and cause additional flooding. Red Cross will be on the ground for weeks to come.”

Here is how you can help, Pirate Nation!

  • Volunteer.
    Red Cross is also seeking nurses and disaster mental health volunteers to assist in shelters. Volunteering is easy. To sign up to assist, visit and click on “volunteer” to start your application.
  • Give.
    In parts of the country unaffected by the storm, the Red Cross needs eligible individuals to please give blood or platelets now to help ensure we have a readily available blood supply for patients in need. Even before the threat of Hurricane Matthew, there was an urgent need for donors of all blood types, especially type O. Appointments can be made by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting, or calling 1-800-RED CROSS.
  • Donate to help support ECU students in need.
    The Students’ Treasure Chest at ECU helps support students who may be facing difficulties, including those caused by Hurricane Matthew. You can give online at – selecting our “Students’ Treasure Chest Assistance Fund” or email to get in touch with someone who can take your gift over the phone.
  • Donate to the Red Cross.
    The Red Cross depends on donations to provide immediate relief. You can donate by visiting, calling 1-800-RED CROSS, or texting the word MATTHEW to 90999 to make a $10 donation.


Do you need shelter? Download the Red Cross Emergency App on your smartphone, or call 1-800-768-8048 to find a shelter near you.

Matthew Flooding

Alumna celebrates 104th birthday

Lillie Hammond ’36 has seen 18 U.S. presidents in her lifetime, and all 14 leaders of her alma mater, East Carolina University.

Lillie recently celebrated her 104th birthday at Cypress Glen Retirement Community, where she is now the oldest resident ever to have lived, according to staff. She is not the oldest living alumnus of East Carolina, but she is one of the top five.

She was born Lillie Dare Brown on September 13, 1912, just outside Bethel. She celebrated with friends and family on September 18 at Cypress Glen.

Lillie Hammond

Lillie Hammond

Lillie’s fellow resident and “care buddy” Doris Reed interviewed her for the occasion and shared her story with the East Carolina Alumni Association.

After graduating from East Carolina Teachers College in 1936, Lillie began teaching school in Bethel. She married Carey Edward Hammond in 1939. He fought in Normandy in WWII but returned home safely. He worked as a hardware store manager. She took a few years off to raise their two children, a boy and a girl. She went on to teach for a total of 31 years in Bethel and Williamston.

“I don’t know why I was singled out to be 104; I am just an ordinary person,” Lillie told Doris. “I have always believed that life is a journey, and I am content to follow this journey as long as the Lord plans.”

Lillie moved to Cypress Glen in 2006 shortly after her eyesight began to fail due to glaucoma. She lost her sight completely in 2011, but remains alert and active.

She said, “I have always tried never to complain and just deal with whatever life sends me, so I searched for retirement communities and found Cypress Glen. I wanted to enter in time to memorize my apartment and thus stay independent.”

“She just has such a positive outlook on life,” said her daughter-in-law Jana Hammond ’84. “Her new goal is to make it into the Guinness Book of World records. Even at this age, it’s like starting over new. It’s so fun to see this new spark in her.”

Lillie Hammond

Lillie has fond memories of her life in Bethel. She recalls a bustling downtown, and gas being 15-25 cents a gallon. Her teaching salary was $100 a month. While she was not active in politics, she was active in her community, including Bethel Methodist Church and Bethel Book Club. As a young teacher, she was friends with a fellow teacher, Edith Warren, who went on to enter the NC Legislature. The two are friends to this day. Lillie has six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

“We’re an ECU family,” said Jana, who got a teaching degree from ECU like Lillie. “My husband Edward didn’t go to ECU but he is a big Pirate football fan.”

Two of Lillie’s grandchildren are current students at ECU.

“I knew ECU was a great school because not only did my grandma (I call her Memaw) go there, but so did my mom and two of my older siblings,” said Jana’s daughter Jackie Hammond, a senior communication major.

“My grandmother Lillie is a very strong, kindhearted lady, and even in her old age is not afraid to speak her mind,” says Jackie’s younger brother Jordan Hammond, who is a freshman. “Having lived so long, she has been through a lot and therefore has a lot of wisdom. It’s crazy to think how long ago 1936 was and all that has happened since then. From her stories it’s also really interesting to hear how different this university was when she was attending it.”

“It’s an incredible feeling knowing that I have someone so special in my life that has been through so much and seen so much change in her life,” said Jackie. “I love to hear stories from her life, including her time at ECTC. Just to hear about the changes that ECU has undergone from someone who was there back in the 1930s is such a special experience. I feel very blessed to still have my Memaw in my life and I never take for granted the stories she has to tell.”

–Jackie Drake

Update (Monday, Oct. 10): Lillie and Doris are safe at Cypress Glen. They have moved up to the third floor while the first floor is being evacuated due to anticipated flooding from Hurricane Matthew. Family members, friends, and volunteers are assisting. Doris says Lillie is adjusting to her new room pretty well.

Chancellor’s Roadshow excites ECU supporters

East Carolina University’s reach extends well beyond North Carolina which is why Chancellor Cecil Staton took his roadshow across the state’s northern border. The third round of his meet and greets was in Norfolk, Virginia.

“I think it is fantastic. It makes me feel that he [Staton] understands how important we are as a body of alumni,” said ECU supporter Gail Englert.

“We appreciate you, we appreciate your loyalty to ECU,” Staton said as he addressed the crowd of about 60 people who came out to the Norfolk Yacht and Country Club.

The alumni and supporters heard firsthand Staton’s vision for ECU’s future. That vision includes increasing the university’s national profile, increasing research, expanding international studies and preparing for a comprehensive campaign. However, one of the main points of focus on this trip centered on the power of the Pirate alumni.

Shirley Byrd Slaughter, Chancellor Staton

ECU supporter Shirley Byrd Slaughter speaks with Chancellor Staton at the Norfolk Yacht Club.

“[Staton] being able to reach out and ask for our opinions and suggestions – we all love East Carolina, we all want to make it better – and it means so much to us for him to come up here for this visit,” said Class of 1985 graduate Neal Crawford.

“We want them [alumni] to be involved. Of course financial support is always welcomed but it’s the day in and day out, life-long relationships that are so very important as well,” said ECU Vice Chancellor for University Advancement Chris Dyba.

The Pirate alumni and supporters who came out said they are proud to be ambassadors of the university and will continue to spread the word as to all that ECU has to offer.

“I think it’s an obligation of ours to let people know [about ECU],” Englert said.

Bill Burnette, Joe Covington, Michelle Burnette, Neal Crawford

Bill Burnette, Joe Covington, Michelle Burnette, Neal Crawford

“We’re going to need our alumni to stand up and say ‘yes, we believe in the future of our university and we’re going to support it,’” Staton said. “I know a lot of you have already done that and I want to thank you very, very much for your investment in East Carolina University.”

Staton began his roadshow in August at the Murphy Center in Greenville and plans to visit nearly a dozen locations in North Carolina and along the East Coast. The chancellor’s next roadshow event will be on Oct. 18 in Charlotte. For more information, contact ECU Advancement at 252-328-9550 or visit

–Rich Klindworth

Alumnae Spotlights: An entrepreneur and a mobile crisis director

At the age of five, Dana McQueen knew that she wanted to become an interior designer and her passion has helped her continue a family legacy.

McQueen earned a degree in interior design in 1992 and decided to return to her family’s business at McQueen’s Interiors in Morehead City.  She admits a family business can sometimes be complex but said the knowledge gained from earning her degree helped with a successful ownership transition.

Dana McQueen

Dana McQueen

“My passion for my clients and interior design coupled with my staff have kept this long-standing business alive,” McQueen said.  Since taking the helm, McQueen has improved business practices including adding a barcode system for inventory and hiring additional designers. She has also expanded the showroom, adding 4,000 sq. ft. of space.

Named Business Women of the Year in 2014 by Crystal Magazine, McQueen said her favorite class at ECU was space planning.  “I still use this knowledge every day,” she said.  “I know the world of computers has opened up so many opportunities with computer-aided design, but it is always best to know the basics with a pencil, paper, and a scale.”

As a successful business owner, McQueen knows firsthand the time involved in building a clientele and communicating with them regarding their wants and needs.  The best part of her job is seeing a project completed and a happy client she said.

Another successful College of Health and Human Performance alumna is leading the largest mobile crisis management service in the state.

Mona Townes, who earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in social work, oversees mobile crisis services to 23 eastern North Carolina counties provided by Integrated Family Services, PLLC.

“My passion is intervening when people are at their worst and to help them see that things can get better,” Townes said. Her team delivers integrated crisis response, crisis intervention and prevention 24/7 to any location in the community, according to the website. Townes said crisis intervention is challenging.

Mona Townes

Mona Townes

“The reward is when you work with a person who admits that without our support, without our ability to provide them with hope, they had planned on taking their life,” she said.

It was Townes’ time at ECU that helped shape her leadership skills.  “I learned that no matter what my background is or where I came from, I could be successful,” said Townes.  “I saw several highly educated and experienced women that looked like me.”

Her favorite course was Human Behavior and Social Environment taught by Dr. Lessie Bass.

Among her many accolades, Townes received the ECU School of Social Work 2015 Rising Star Award.  She serves as a member of the National Association of Social Workers and assists as a training instructor for the local Crisis Intervention Team.  She is a licensed clinical additions specialist associate and is certified by the National Council on Behavioral Health as a facilitator for Youth and Adult Mental Health First Aid.

–Kathy Muse

ECU laboratory named in honor of alumnus

East Carolina University’s College of Health and Human Performance dedicated the Psychophysiology and Biofeedback Laboratory in the Carol G. Belk Building in honor of alumnus Max Ray Joyner Sr. on July 20.

The laboratory was named in honor of Joyner’s generous support of HHP’s Center for Applied Psychophysiology (CAP).

“Few people realize what ECU is doing with wounded warriors,” Joyner said. “If (my contribution) can help one man get back to normal, it will be the best investment I’ve ever made.”

Joyner addresses attendees (Photos by Chuck Baldwin)

The center uses an innovative combination of gaming technology and biofeedback techniques to help U.S. military personnel recover from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

Glen Gilbert, dean of HHP, welcomed faculty, Joyner’s family and acquaintances, including members of his “coffee club,” who wore yellow jackets. Chancellor Cecil Staton began the recognition with remarks.

“I am proud of this college and the important role that it plays at East Carolina University,” Staton said.  “I thank Max and his family for all the many ways they interact with ECU. Max your generosity and contributions over a long period of time are very significant.”

Before graduating in 1955 with a degree in business administration, Joyner served in the U.S. Army for two years during the Korean conflict. He is known for his longtime leadership and legendary service to ECU and the community. He served on numerous boards and foundations including the Board of Trustees and the East Carolina Alumni Association.

HHP dean Glen Gilbert, Max R. Joyner, Sr. and Chancellor Cecil Staton

HHP dean Glen Gilbert, Max R. Joyner, Sr. and Chancellor Cecil Staton

Carmen Russoniello, director of CAP, and Chris Dyba, vice chancellor for University Advancement, also took to the podium thanking Joyner for his support.

–Kathy Muse

Meet fellow alumni in Charlotte, Wake County or Washington, D.C.

Ahoy there, Pirates! Do you want to meet fellow East Carolina University alumni in your area this summer? The East Carolina Alumni Association has several events this month around the Pirate Nation!

The Charlotte Chapter is holding an interest meeting this Thursday, July 14 at 6:30 p.m. at Old Mecklenburg Brewery located at 4150 Yancey Rd. No registration is required. If you’ve been looking for ways to get more involved and stay connected to ECU, this is a great way to start! If you can’t make it and still want to be involved, e-mail or follow the Charlotte Chapter on Facebook.

The Wake County Chapter is holding a casual meetup next Thursday, July 21 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Blackfinn Ameripub in Morrisville. These meetups are held twice a month alternating between Morrisville and Raleigh. There’s no need to sign up ahead of time but e-mail  or follow the Wake County Chapter on Facebook for more information.

Finally, join us for a professional happy hour in Washington, D.C. on July 28 from 6-7:30 p.m. at Flight Wine Bar located at 777 6th St NW. Be sure to follow the DC Metro Chapter on Facebook!

All of the alumni association’s upcoming events can be found here.

–Jackie Drake

Women’s Roundtable event set for Oct. 13 at ECU

The fifth event in the Incredible Women Series will focus on leadership, service and philanthropy while also recognizing the careers and community service of several East Carolina University alumnae. 

Eleven women will be honored during the Oct. 13 event that will begin at 11 a.m. at the Greenville Convention Center in Greenville. Their backgrounds are varied – from the the two college friends who started a worldwide public relations firm to a museum director whose goal is to inspire students through art. 

“It’s very humbling for me to look at this group of women. They’re giants in their fields,” said Gail Herring, chair of the Women’s Roundtable.

Gail Herring

Gail Herring

During the event, the following women will be inducted into the “Incredible ECU Women” group, joining the 117 previous inductees:

  • Angela Allen ’81, Raleigh, retired IBM Executive;
  • Alta Andrews ’74, Ayden, director of Community Partnership and Practice in the ECU College of Nursing;
  • Charlene Bregier ’82, Charlotte, director of the Hinson Art Museum and Visual Arts coordinator at Wingate University;
  • Mary Chatman ’90, ’96, ’12, Savannah, Georgia, chief operating officer and chief nursing officer at Memorial University Medical Center;
  • Karen Evans ’80, Washington, D.C., lawyer partner with The Cochran Firm;
  • Sarah Evans ’01, Darien, Connecticut, partner at J Public Relations and 7th and Wit;
  • Paulina Hill ’04, Charlestown, Massachusetts, principal at Polaris Partners;
  • Annette Peery ’96, Greenville, associate dean of the undergraduate program in the ECU College of Nursing;
  • Jamie Sigler, ’01, San Diego, California, partner at J Public Relations and 7th and Wit;
  • Cathy Thomas ’79, ’86, Raleigh, branch manager with Community and Clinical Connections for Prevention and Health for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services;
  • Linda Thomas ’81, Charlotte, retired director of Human Resources Business Partners at Duke Energy.

The proceeds of the event will benefit ECU students through the Women’s Roundtable Access Scholarship Endowment Fund and the Women’s Roundtable Honors College Endowment Fund.

“We promise that you will be inspired, you will be motivated; you’ll hear from students who have benefitted from these scholarships and what it has meant in their lives and how it has changed their lives, because many of these students are first generation college students in their families,” Herring said.

Updates on university initiatives and an opportunity to connect with community and university leaders and volunteers will also be available during the event.

The Women’s Roundtable at ECU was founded in 2003. Its mission is to support ECU and create a culture of giving by raising money for its scholarships and to build a sense of community through leadership, service, networking, mentoring and philanthropy.

Tickets are on sale now for the event. Individual tickets cost $100 and sponsorship opportunities are still available. Visit for ticket and other information. 

“Ultimately we’re raising money for scholarships and providing an opportunity for someone to earn a college education who otherwise would not have that chance,” Herring added.

To make a charitable gift to The Women’s Roundtable, Access Scholars or Honors College, or East Carolina University visit

–Rich Klindworth

ECU alumnus nominated for Tony Award

An East Carolina University alumnus will be honored at the 2016 Tony Awards this Sunday for his work on the Broadway smash hit “Hamilton.”

Hamilton Playbill

Howell Binkley is nominated for best lighting design for a musical. The show, which received a record-breaking 16 Tony nominations, has become one of Broadway’s biggest critical and commercial successes in its ten-month run.

“It’s an honor to be involved with such a hit show,” said Binkley, who has been a Broadway lighting designer since 1992. This is his seventh nomination; his last win was for “Jersey Boys” in 2006. “It’s still as exciting as the first one.”

Binkley has worked with “Hamilton” creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda and his team before, on a production called “In the Heights,” Miranda’s Broadway debut.

Howell Binkley (contributed photo)

Howell Binkley (contributed photo)

“We have a history of working together,” Binkley said. “It’s a very collaborative process.”

“Hamilton” uses rap and hip-hop music to tell the story of Alexander Hamilton and the founding fathers. This is just one of the many things that make the show unique, from the diversity of the cast to the non-stop pace. There are 50 songs that move immediately from one to the next, Binkley said, and his lighting helps keep the show moving. Instead of traditionally fading to black at the end of each scene, there’s only one blackout at the end of the first act for intermission.

“The show is continuous,” Binkley said. “We work to keep it seamless and keep it vibrant.”

Binkley has been with the show since its beginning, participating in weeks of technical rehearsals before the show premiered off-Broadway at The Public Theater in February 2015. Putting sets, costumes, music and lighting together is “a layered process” that takes about three weeks, Binkley said. “It’s like any other business or product; you have to perfect it before the audience sees it.”

Now, Binkley checks in on the show about once a month to make any needed adjustments, as the house staff at the Richard Rodgers Theater execute his lighting design in sold-out shows.

Howell Binkley

Lighting designer and ECU alumnus Howell Binkley joins the cast and crew on stage for curtain call after a production of “Hamilton.” (contributed photo)

Growing up in Winston-Salem, Binkley participated in both high school and community theater. He wanted to pursue a degree in architecture, for which ECU accepted him. But once he got involved in the theater program, he never looked back. He studied theater at ECU until 1977, but left before graduating to work in New York. He started out doing lighting for rock ‘n roll concerts, until he met renowned director Harold Prince of “Phantom of the Opera.” His first Broadway show was “Kiss of the Spider Woman” in 1992.

“ECU totally prepared me for my career,” Binkley said. “It gave me a great foundation that took me to where I am now. I’m very proud I went to ECU, and more proud every year as I watch the school grow.”

For the last three years, Binkley has brought a senior theater student from ECU for a summer internship with him in New York.

“I’m happy to open new doors for them and see where they all go,” he said. “School was a new community for me. I introduce them to a new community just like ECU did for me. ECU absolutely contributed to my success. I love giving back.”

Howell Binkley

Howell Binkley in stage lighting. (contributed photo)

–Jackie Drake

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