Category Archives: Alumni

Prominent magazine editor chosen as 2017 Professional-In-Residence

ECU Student Media and the School of Communication are pleased to announce that magazine editor Joanna Citrinbaum Zerlin has been selected as the 2017 Professional-In-Residence.

Zerlin’s magazine career has included desk-editing positions with Redbook, Teen Vogueand Inside TV.

The Professional-In-Residence is a two-day program that includes visits with School of Communication journalism classes and a workshop with staff members from Student Media.

Zerlin will also be the keynote speaker at the North Carolina Scholastic Media Association Workshop hosted by the School of Communication on Oct. 12. The workshop attracts high school journalists from across the region.

The Professional-In-Residence Program started in 2014 and has included Chris Korman, senior editor at USA Today, and Sara Ganim, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for CNN.

“Joanna’s experience in the magazine industry, including editing and fact-checking, as well as her roots in student journalism, make her a particularly relevant guest this year,” said John Harvey, ECU Student Media director.

Zerlin graduated from Penn State University in 2005 with bachelor’s degrees in journalism and women’s studies. She worked as a reporter and a copy editor at The Daily Collegian, the Penn State student-run newspaper, where Harvey served as her adviser. In her senior year she also served as the editorial intern at Cosmopolitan.

After graduation, Joanna participated in a two-week copy-editing residency at the University of Central Florida in preparation for her Dow Jones Newspaper Fund internship that summer at The Palm Beach Post.

Joanna began her magazine career in 2005 as a freelance copy editor at Inside TV (produced by TVGuide) and later landed a position as copy editor at Redbook. Three years later, then a senior copy editor, she left that publication for, New York City’s official tourism and marketing website. She started out as a freelance copy editor, then served as copy editor and later senior copy editor, and copyedited and fact-checked content for the Webby Award–winning site for more than four years. She returned to the magazine industry to be copy chief at Teen Vogue, a position she held for three years.

For additional information, contact Dr. Mary Tucker-McLaughlin at 252-737-1559 or John Harvey, ECU Student Media director, 252-328-9234.


Contact: John Harvey, ECU Student Media director, 252-328-9234 or Dr. Mary Tucker-McLaughlin, ECU School of Communication, 252-737-1559

ECU unveils official class ring designs

ECU Alumnus, Neil Dorsey, shows off his 1965 ECU class ring (right) compared to the new official signet ring. Dorsey was part of the ring committee that came up with the new designs. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

ECU Alumnus, Neil Dorsey, shows off his 1965 ECU class ring (right) compared to the new official signet ring. Dorsey was part of the ring committee that came up with the new designs. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

When alumnus Ryan Beeson looked into getting his East Carolina University class ring, he wanted something special like his dad, an N.C. State graduate, had.

“All of his friends have the same ring,” said Beeson, who served as 2016-17 Student Government Association president. “It was neat to see them when we’d go to games growing up or when they’d get together for other things, and I’d see every one of them proudly wearing that ring.”

Beeson, who received his undergraduate degree in 2015 and his master’s degree in 2017, wanted a ring that had tradition tied to it. But he learned there wasn’t one official ring at ECU; there were dozens to choose from.

Thanks to the work of a group of ECU alumni, students, faculty and staff, that’s about to change. ECU has unveiled an official collection of class rings.

The group worked with Dowdy Student Stores and a representative and artist from Jostens, the company known for its class rings.

Beeson, who was an accounting graduate student at ECU at the time, was part of the group.

“I think this is an important process that we’re going through and identifying those things that stand out the most across our campus and in the minds of Pirates, looking for things that connect different generations,” Beeson said.

“The official ring program at ECU is one of our most exciting projects, I think really in the last year that I’ve undertaken,” said Heath Bowman, associate vice chancellor for alumni relations.

Two of the three ECU Official Ring Collection designs.

Two of the three ECU Official Ring Collection designs.

The ECU Alumni Association is introducing a new event to accompany the launch of the official ring. Bowman said there was a desire to create a new tradition and lore that would surround the ring.

“What we’re excited about most of all is that this is going to bring not only a ring, but it’s going to bring a storytelling element and a tradition element to our campus,” he said.

Out of months of discussions and mock-ups, three rings have emerged. There will be traditional, signet and dinner rings. Each has a crest on the top with the university shield, a sword and ECU’s motto “Servire.” The traditional and dinner rings can have either a black or purple stone. The signet ring has the option of the emblem being blackened.

The sides of the traditional and signet rings can be personalized with campus landmarks, the skull and cross bones, or the phrases “Loyal and Bold” and “Go Pirates.”

“There’s a mix of academic and athletic options,” Bowman said. “We wanted students to have the ability to make this their ring, but we also wanted to make sure that the things that are featured on the side panels are things that most alumni and students would instantly recognize.”

An artist with Jostens worked with the ring committee to come up the new design.

An artist with Jostens worked with the ring committee to come up the new design.

To celebrate, a December 1 ceremony is planned where all of the rings purchased this fall will be placed in a treasure chest under the cupola to be guarded by ECU ROTC cadets overnight. Then on Dec. 3, those rings will be given out to their owners at an official ring ceremony.

“I think this is something that all Pirates can come together and be proud of as something that unites us together as an ECU family,” Bowman said.

To be a part of the ceremony, rings must be purchased by Homecoming weekend, Oct. 21 and 22.

Even though he already has an ECU class ring, Beeson said he’ll be getting an official one soon.

“I’ll probably trade this one in. I want the standard one so when I’m out there with my buddies in the future … we all have the same thing, that we all are part of this same shared experience at ECU,” Beeson said.

For more information or to buy an official ECU ring, visit a Dowdy Student Store or go to



-by Rich Klindworth

Alumni Association announces new board members

The East Carolina University Alumni Association announced the addition of six new members to its 28-member board of directors.

Karla Jones ’00, ’02 of Charlotte is an adjunct professor at Queens University and an instructor in health and human services at Central Piedmont Community College; Ron Hinton ’14 of Raleigh is an internal sourcing acquisition specialist talent acquisition at TEKsystems; Melissa Adamson ’02 of Greenville is the communications director for United Way of Pitt County and Dr. Shannon Holcomb ’07, ’11, ’15 of Greenville is an associate dentist at Smiles by Shaw.

Other new members include Richard Spain ’10 of Houston, Texas, an assistant director of Rice University’s annual fund and Thomas Robinson ’73 of Casselberry, Florida who served as vice president of national accounts at S&D Coffee and Tea.

The new board members will play an active role in guiding the efforts and initiatives of the association, which reaches more than 170,000 ECU alumni worldwide.

“I love all that ECU stands for and am excited to be back,” Jones said. “This is a great opportunity for me to remain engaged and be able to use my community service knowledge to help make a difference.”

The board plan to engage students and young alumni, along with expanding regional chapters and affinity groups.

“I plan to bring my business experience and talent building relationships to better understand the mission of the association and find my place to provide helpful guidance and practical support,” said Robinson.

Heath Bowman, associate vice chancellor for alumni relations, said the board of directors is critical to meeting the alumni association’s mission to inform, involve and serve members of the ECU family.

“I am honored and excited to welcome a very talented and accomplished group of Pirate alumni in this year’s board. I am confident that each and every one of these alumni leaders will leave their mark on our university and its alumni association throughout their tenure at East Carolina,” said Bowman.

Board members serve three-year terms and meet four times a year. The board strives to maintain a diverse and inclusive membership made up of graduates from the many colleges at the university. The board will help provide leadership through advocacy and education and ensure an environment which is open, inclusive and sensitive to the university’s diverse alumni base.


-by Jamie Smith

Social work faculty member appointed to Pitt County board

Dr. Shelia Bunch, professor and director of the School of Social Work at East Carolina University, has been appointed to the Pitt County Board of Social Services.

Dr. Shelia Bunch (contributed photo)

Dr. Shelia Bunch (contributed photo)

Effective July 1, she will serve through June 30, 2020. Drew Pledger, chair of the North Carolina Social Services Commission, announced Bunch’s appointment on June 30. She was sworn in July 11.

“I am excited about the appointment,” Bunch said. “Our School of Social Work has a great working relationship with the local DSS agency, which employs many of our alumni and serves as a field internship site for our students.”

Bunch received her bachelor’s degree from ECU, a master’s in social work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a doctoral degree from North Carolina State University.

Her research interests include rural domestic violence, rural social work education, issues related to children and families and social inequality.

The Pitt County Department of Social Services is a human services organization that provides many programs including food and nutrition services, adult protective services, child services including child support enforcement, and emergency assistance to residents.


-by Crystal Baity

Brody School of Medicine names associate dean for research and graduate studies

The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University has named one of its first PhD graduates as its new associate dean for research and graduate studies at the Brody School of Medicine.

The appointment of Dr. Russ Price was made following a rigorous national search. Price, who also will serve as professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology, will begin his role on Aug. 16.

Dr. Russ Price. (contributed photo)

Dr. Russ Price. (contributed photo)

As associate dean for research and graduate studies, Price will provide leadership for Brody’s extensive research enterprise. He joins ECU at a time when the university is looking to strengthen its research efforts. Chancellor Cecil Staton has stated that increasing extramural research funding is one of his priority goals for the institution.

Since 2012 Price has served as associate vice chair for research in the department of medicine at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. He has been professor of medicine and physiology at Emory since 1991.

“I am really delighted to welcome Russ Price back to the Brody community,” said Dr. Nicholas Benson, the school of medicine’s interim dean. “He has had a very successful career as a scientist with continuing extramural funding and as an administrator for research programs at Emory University. He will bring a new level of expertise in bench research to us that will greatly enrich the science our faculty do here at Brody and across ECU.”

Price said that he is thrilled to be selected for the position, which represents a homecoming for him.

“During the interview process, I was drawn back to ECU by the palpable renewed commitment to research and the desire of the faculty and leadership to build on the current strong foundation at BSOM,” he said. “I am excited about the partnership between BSOM and Vidant Health and the combined efforts to provide communities throughout eastern North Carolina with access to the most up-to-date clinical trials and health care.”

Having authored more than 100 publications and book chapters, Price is a recognized leader in his field. His research is directed towards explaining the mechanisms that cause muscle atrophy in chronic conditions such as end-stage kidney disease and diabetes. He serves on editorial boards for the Journal of Biological Chemistry and American Journal of Physiology – Renal Physiology. He has previously served on the editorial boards of Kidney International and the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. In addition, Price is on the Executive Council for the International Society of Renal Nutrition and Metabolism.

Price will lead Brody School of Medicine's extensive research enterprise. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Price will lead Brody School of Medicine’s extensive research enterprise. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Before earning his PhD in biochemistry at ECU, Price completed a bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, followed by a post-doctoral fellowship in the Laboratory of Cellular Metabolism at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

Benson thanked Dr. Jeff Smith for his service as interim associate dean for research and graduate studies since March 2016. Smith is professor emeritus of microbiology and immunology at Brody.

Price’s appointment follows Tuesday’s announcement that the Brody School of Medicine has named Dr. Mark Stacy as its new dean. Stacy begins his role on Sept. 1.



-by Angela Todd, University Communication




ECU Club Baseball’s Tanner Duncan signs contract with MLB’s Houston Astros

Tanner Duncan has been on a whirlwind ride during the month of June. The ECU Pirate has experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows.

On June 1, Tanner led the ECU Club Baseball team to a World Series National Championship, winning 1-0 in ten innings over Central Florida. He was almost perfect in the World Series, surrendering no runs and only five hits in 18 innings pitched. He won both games and was named the NCBA World Series Most Valuable Player.

“I can’t describe the feeling of winning that championship,” said Duncan. “These coaches, my teammates and the ECU Club baseball program just came together and worked so hard to make this dream come true.”

ECU Club Baseball won the Club Baseball World Series. (Contributed photos)

ECU Club Baseball won the Club Baseball World Series. (Contributed photos)

Tanner Duncan rode that wave for about 10 days while he waited for the Major League Baseball draft on June 12-14. Like hundreds of baseball players around the country, he hoped his phone would ring and a professional baseball organization wanted him.

But the phone didn’t ring any of the three days.

“I was sitting on my couch thinking the dream was over. I had completed all my course work for my kinesiology degree and was trying to figure what in the world I was going to do with my life. I just kept thinking, I am a baseball player. I want to play baseball.”

Then, the game changed. His phone rang.


Lifelong Dream

At three years of age, Tanner Duncan knew what he was going to be when he grew up.

“I was going to be a professional baseball player,” Duncan said. “I always thought I was good enough even when others didn’t agree.”

Duncan started playing t-ball in his hometown of Tabor City, North Carolina. His parents, Greg and Wendy Duncan, spent the next 15 years taking Tanner from ball field to ball field, from Little League and Summer Travel Leagues to the high school diamonds.

Tanner found success at pretty much every level as a hitter and fielder. He received a few offers to play college baseball from some Division III schools, but chose to attend East Carolina University and try his best to walk on and make the team.

Duncan was named Player of the game.

Duncan was named Player of the game.

“I tried out as a shortstop during my first year at ECU, but I just didn’t make the cut,” Duncan said. “I just knew that I was good enough if I could just get a chance to prove it.”

Tanner Duncan had heard about ECU’s club baseball team and thought it would be a great way to keep his dream alive. He converted from shortstop to pitcher during that first season. Duncan’s goal was to work as hard as he could and try out again the next season.

“The guys on our club team were just special. They work their tails off in every practice and every game and wanted to win a championship.”

A championship didn’t come and neither did a spot on the team after trying out again the following season. But Tanner wasn’t going to stop.

“My parents always believed in me,” said Duncan. “They told me anything was possible if you were willing to work at it. So, I kept working.”

During his junior year, Tanner Duncan and the ECU Club baseball team made it to the World Series but lost in the championship game to Nevada. In 2017, the team was back in the World Series and entered as the number one ranked team in the country.

Tanner had an amazing season on the mound. He won nine games, only losing one. He pitched 75 innings, striking out 132 batters and garnered a stunning 0.84 earned run average. That means every time he pitched the opposing team averaged less than one run per game.

“The ECU Club Baseball program was a blessing for me,” Duncan said. “I am so appreciative to the folks in Campus Recreation and Wellness, the club sports organizers and everyone that helped this team win a championship.”

And so after the MLB draft, Tanner Duncan thought the end of his baseball career may be here. Then, while sitting on his couch contemplating his future, the phone rang and he was offered a chance to pitch in front of professional scouts.


Three Days of Craziness

Tanner hopped in his car and drove to Richmond, Virginia to showcase his talents for pro scouts. It was his one true chance to demonstrate his skills, his passion and his desire to become a professional baseball player.

Tanner Duncan signs with the Astros. (contributed photos)

Tanner Duncan signs with the Astros. (contributed photos)

“It was a lot of pressure, but I just believed that I could do it. When I was done, I just didn’t know if it would be enough.”

It was enough. Less than an hour later, as he was heading back home to North Carolina, his phone rang. He was being offered a spot with the Houston Astros organization.

“There wasn’t much time to celebrate. I was on a plane the next morning at 6 a.m., headed to West Palm Beach, Florida to join the Gulf Coast League Astros.”

On June 23, he officially signed a contract with the Astros organization and was assigned to the Rookie League. He pitched two innings of shutout relief on June 27 and is expected to see his first action as a starting pitcher on July 3.

And while you can’t wipe the smile off his face right now, he hasn’t forgotten there is still more to accomplish.

“Becoming a pro baseball player is great, but it’s only step one. Now I have to work hard enough to move up. Level by level, I will keep working. And even if I make it to the big leagues (Major League Baseball), I will not quit working.”

Tanner said he learned that from playing Club Baseball at ECU.

“Resilience, persistence and relentless. That’s what I learned at East Carolina and those same words are going to keep the fire in me burning.”



-by Chris Stansbury, Student Affairs 

ECU Honors College alumnus to work with National Weather Service

This fall, East Carolina University Honors College alumnus Thomas Vaughan ’15 will join the National Weather Service in Wichita, Kansas as one of 31 new hires by the federal agency that is responsible for providing weather, water and climate data, forecasts and warnings across the country.

ECU Honors College alumnus Thomas Vaughan ’15 stands in front of the National Weather Service Station. Vaughan will start his career with the NWS this September. (Contributed photos courtesy of Thomas Vaughan)

ECU Honors College alumnus Thomas Vaughan ’15 stands in front of the National Weather Service Station. Vaughan will start his career with the NWS this September. (Contributed photos courtesy of Thomas Vaughan)

Vaughan, who has nearly completed his master’s degree in meteorology from Florida State University, said he had his choice of going to the NWS offices in Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and Michigan. Vaughan ultimately chose Wichita.

“I picked Wichita because I knew I would get a lot of severe weather experience there,” Vaughan said. “I knew Wichita would be more beneficial in the long run to my career because they have severe weather all the time, and I’ll get to experience all four seasons.”

Vaughan gives a weather briefing at the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

Vaughan gives a weather briefing at the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

Vaughan was one of 31 hired out of 850 applicants. After not being referred to the final pool of applicants the first time he applied, Vaughan said he was relieved to have his choice of four stations this time.

“It is pretty competitive to get into and I knew I would have better chance to get in with a masters, so that is why I went to Florida State,” he said. “This is something I have been wanting to do for a long time.”

While the official title for Vaughan’s position is meteorologist intern, it is the entry level staff position for the NWS. In his first couple years, Vaughan said he will be learning how to complete NWS forecasts, train on the NWS computer systems and radar, launch weather balloons and help manage his office’s social media accounts.

Vaughan after graduation from ECU in May 2015.

Vaughan after graduation from ECU in May 2015.

Vaughan hopes to move through the ranks of the NWS and eventually make it back to the NWS station in Honolulu, Hawaii where he completed a summer internship while at ECU. Other “dream” stations for Vaughan include Guam, or one of the stations in Florida.

“I’d say my dream job would be to be the meteorologist in charge at one of those stations, but that is a long time away,” he said, laughing.

For now, Vaughan is focusing on defending his master’s thesis on historical rainfall variability in the Sahel and Guinea coasts of Africa before moving to Kansas in September.



-by Cole Dittmer, University Communications

Wounded Warriors recharge relationships at ECU

Tuesday was Meranda and Rusty Baggett’s 19th wedding anniversary. They spent it working on their relationship while helping other military members, veterans and their spouses work on theirs.

East Carolina University’s Campus Recreation and Wellness partnered with the Wounded Warrior Project to host a Project Odyssey Retreat at the Belk Building rope course. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

East Carolina University’s Campus Recreation and Wellness partnered with the Wounded Warrior Project to host a Project Odyssey Retreat at the Belk Building rope course. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

The Baggetts were one of 14 couples in which one or both spouses were active duty or retired servicemembers and one was dealing with a traumatic brain injury, combat stress or a post-traumatic stress disorder. They were at East Carolina University as part of a Wounded Warriors Project Odyssey Retreat to help military couples learn to rebuild trust in their relationships affected by combat stresses and experiences.

ECU provided a low ropes course at the Blount Complex on Tuesday and planned a canoe trip along the Tar River for Wednesday.

Jenna Potter, combat stress recovery specialist for Project Odyssey and a 2015 recreation therapy graduate of ECU, contacted university staff members last fall about hosting a Wounded Warrior event. After talking, they decided it was a natural fit.

The group makes it way through a spider web in a cave while maintaining group contact.

The group makes it way through a spider web in a cave while maintaining group contact.

“It just kind of clicked in my head,” said Potter, whose parents were in the Air Force. “I knew Pirate Nation is a strong community and has so much love no matter what. Within weeks, we had a great relationship going.”

“It was really a no-brainer to offer the collaboration,” said Adrienne Fike, assistant director for adventure leadership with Campus Recreation and Wellness, whose husband was wounded while on duty with the Marine Corps. “Wounded Warrior is a project that was looking for something really specific. The fact we got to be that is really great.”

Rusty Baggett was a master sergeant and medical operations specialist in the 18th Airborne Corps. After serving for 16 years from Hawaii to Iraq to Afghanistan, it was a routine training flight out of Fort Bragg in November 2010 – a month before he was to ship out for another mission to Iraq –that ended his military career.

People balance on a wooden surface.

People balance on a wooden surface.

He remembered being in the plane. The next thing he remembered was being in a hospital a month later. In between, he jumped from the plane, and experts pieced together that apparently a gust of wind caused his parachute to collapse about 100 feet from the ground. He crashed, broke his pelvis and had two brain bleeds. Sixteen of the 30 jumpers were injured during the exercise.

Meranda Baggett recalled rushing to the hospital after getting the call that he was critically injured.

“When I got there, what broke my heart the most was he didn’t know who I was,” she said. “That broke my heart.”

Months later, something else would bother her husband.

“I was still bitter that I wasn’t going to Iraq for the second time,” he said. “That was my job. That’s what I did.”

Meranda Baggett lifts a rope high to keep tension on it.

Meranda Baggett lifts a rope high to keep tension on it.

Seven years later, he still has short-term memory loss. Thus, they plan each day with an online calendar, right down to what they’re having for each meal. And he says the civilian world lacks the camaraderie and organization of the military.

“I had to find out where I fit in,” he said.

The couple, who met when they were 14 and have an 18-year-old daughter, found that together with the Wounded Warrior Project. After participating in a few odysseys, they are now peer mentors – helping other active and retired servicemembers. The camaraderie is back.

“We have the same pains and things we can work through, and we can do it together and learn from each other,” said Rusty Baggett, who graduated in May from Methodist College with a degree in health services administration.

This week’s event was the first Project Odyssey at ECU. Another one is scheduled for July, and more are tentatively planned for next year.



-by Doug Boyd, University Communication

Four sworn in as ECU police officers

Four new ECU Police officers were sworn in alongside their family and friends on June 21. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

Four new ECU Police officers were sworn in alongside their family and friends on June 21. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

The East Carolina University Police Department gained four new officers as Adrian Baker, Jonathan Bryant, Meagan Johnson and Megan Johnson were sworn in during a ceremony held on Wednesday, June 21 at the Greenville Centre.

Megan Johnson with her brother Chase Johnson.

Megan Johnson with her brother Chase Johnson.

Joined by friends, family and fellow officers, the newest members took an oath before everyone and received their badge.

Lt. Chris Sutton gave advice to the recruitsin saying, “Service is the rent that we pay for the privilege to live on this Earth,” a quote made famous by Shirley Anita Chisholm.

“That’s a quote that I use when teaching students as they go through their basic law enforcement training (BLET),” Sutton said.

Bearing the same name with different spellings (and no relation), Meagan and Megan Johnson graduated from ECU with bachelors’ degrees in criminal justice. Meagan Johnson completed BLET training at Beaufort County Community College, and worked two years with the Greene County Sheriff’s Office before joining ECU.

J. Bryant and his sister Latara Johnson listen to Vickie Joyner during the swearing in.

J. Bryant and his sister Latara Johnson listen to Vickie Joyner during the swearing in.

“It’s good to be back. I feel like it’ll be a really good fit for me and I love everybody on the staff already,” Meagan Johnson said. “I’ve wanted to be in law enforcement ever since I was little.”

Megan Johnson completed law enforcement training at Pitt Community College. She holds an associate degree from Louisburg College.

Meagan Johnson with her father Darren Johnson.

Meagan Johnson watches her mother Gail Johnson pin her badge.

After the ceremony, Bryant explained that it was a great feeling to be sworn in. He completed law enforcement training at Craven Community College, where he also earned an associate degree in business. Bryant worked during the past year with the Winterville Police Department. He is also pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business at ECU.

Baker worked with the Kinston Department of Public Safety two years before joining ECU and completed basic law enforcement training at Lenoir Community College.

“They’re going to be great assets for the police department and when we have great assets for the police department, then we have great assets that we can offer to East Carolina University,” Sutton said.

“The service aspect for the job that we do sometimes gets overlooked,” he added. “We need to be mindful of the service role that we play within our communities and never feel like we’re above or beyond being able to offer someone help.”

B. Richardson pins a shield on Adrian Baker.

B. Richardson pins a shield on Adrian Baker.


-by Bre Lewis for ECU News Services

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