By Steve Tuttle
ECU News Services
Rasheeda Taliaferro Monroe ’00 ’05 is associate director of pediatrics at WakeMed Health and Hospitals in Raleigh, which serves a significant portion of Wake County’s uninsured and Latino children. It’s a big plus that she’s fluent in medical and conversational Spanish, the result of a semester studying in Costa Rica during medical school at ECU.
Kevin Monroe ’99 ’05 is a wealth management advisor at CAPTRUST Financial Advisors in Raleigh, where he is responsible for the investments of dozens of professional athletes. After a stellar football career in which he set the ECU record for longest interception return for a touchdown, he stayed to get an MBA. He also moonlights as the color commentator for ECU football games broadcast on the radio.
They’ve rushed home on a weekday to eat a quick lunch and be interviewed for this article. Between bites they finish each other’s sentences and remind each other who is doing what with the kids that evening.
They are almost Norman Rockwell-like in reflecting the dream of a successful young family. They have demanding but rewarding careers, two cute kids and a spacious new home in Cary. After 12 years of marriage they’re still affectionate, happy to share a sandwich and a little down time.
It’s easy to picture how they must have looked as two aspiring Rose High School teenagers who went together to the senior prom.
As they talk about their lives and careers so far, they say so many good things have happened to them that it can’t be mere coincidence. It feels like divine intervention that for every challenge they encountered, a solution soon followed. Everything clicked.
The Monroes know their lives and careers clicked because they’ve always been each other’s best friend. They’ve also had the benefit of supportive families. Her parents moved to Raleigh a few years ago to help them with the children—Marcus, who is 6 now, and Derek, who is 3 and is so cute he’s called “Butter.” Rasheeda’s dad was picking up Marcus that afternoon from day camp.
They’ve had the support of their church. They’ve also experienced the guiding hand of East Carolina in their lives, recognizing the different potential each possessed and launching their careers.
“One of the things that I will forever be grateful to the Brody School of Medicine for is awarding me the Brody Scholarship,” Rasheeda says. “(It) enabled me to graduate with minimal debt and pursue primary care versus feeling the pressure to specialize to make more money and pay back loans.”
“My football scholarship allowed me to not only get a top-notch undergraduate education, it also allowed me to get a year of graduate school for free,” says Kevin.
Rasheeda briefly panics when she is asked to put on her “doctor coat” to have her picture made. She’s pretty sure she doesn’t have one.
“I never wear the white coat when I’m seeing patients,” she explains. “You walk into a room in that white coat, and the child sees that, they immediately tense up. They associate the white coat with getting shots and things that hurt.”
Then she remembers that a colleague left one at their house. After rummaging through two closets, she finds it.
She is a third-generation college graduate, on both sides of her family. Her grandfather, Gabriel Taliaferro, was a WWII veteran who became a pharmacist, among the first African Americans in the profession. Her mother’s father was a teacher and her mother was a nurse. The family originally is from Tallahassee, Fla.
For Rasheeda, getting an education wasn’t hoped for, it was expected.
“I was in the fifth grade when I took the PSAT for the first time and in the sixth grade when I started taking the SAT every year,” she recalls. “My dad’s goal was to make it a normal thing, to take the pressure out of it, so that by the time we were in high school taking the SAT wouldn’t be stressful.”
Their father rewarded them with $50 bills when she and her older brother did well on the SATs. Both later were awarded full college scholarships.
“When I started college, my plan was to be a physical therapist,” Rasheeda says. “It took a bit of encouragement for me decide that medicine was where I truly belonged.”
Two ECU professors pushed her in that direction. “Dr. Mike McCammon and Dr. Tibor Hortobagyi both encouraged me to do my summer internship at Harvard in biomedical research and to pursue medical school.”
Kevin’s parents, James and Rita Monroe of Greenville, instilled in him the importance of education; it was always expected that he and his siblings would go to college. “My parents had my brother and I at a young age and they each worked full-time jobs from the very beginning,” Kevin says. “My father joined the military out of high school in order to provide for our family, and then he used the benefits of the Air Force to go to college and become an officer.”
James Monroe graduated from East Carolina in 1982. He spent 15 years in the Air Force before retiring as a major in 1992, then moving the family to Greenville from Alabama, where he had been stationed. Kevin’s mother has worked in banking for over 30 years and is currently with the State Employees’ Credit Union.
Kevin’s younger sister, Karen Monroe, graduated from ECU in 2009 and now is employed in the finance department at CAPTRUST, where Kevin works. The company was co-founded and is headed by J. Fielding Miller ’82.
Kevin also fell under the influence of two college professors. “Douglas Schneider in the accounting department was a professor and advisor of mine that I really looked up to,” he says. “He took an interest in me as an underclassman and was always there if I needed him. Anne Fisher in the finance department is one of the reasons I am working in finance now. I was a business management major, but she made finance make sense. She was able to make things simple without talking down to her students.”
Having an epiphany
Kevin and Rasheeda fell in love in high school. After graduation, he was offered a football scholarship to ECU but she accepted a full scholarship to Florida A&M. After one year, she came home to Greenville—and Kevin—and a scholarship to ECU. They dated all through college.
Even bad things turned out well for them. During Kevin’s senior year, he was a star on the football team and definitely a Big Man on Campus. Rasheeda was a junior majoring in exercise sports science and on East Carolina’s Pure Gold dance team. They dated exclusively, but the future wasn’t clear.
Then, Rasheeda was involved in a wreck with a 18-wheeler but walked away completely uninjured. Shocked by the experience, Kevin had an epiphany. “I recognized her as the person I wanted and needed to be with. She was going to be the mother of our children, and I needed to commit everything to her.”
“We absolutely believe that our relationship was no mistake,” Rasheeda says. “From us both moving from different states to Greenville to attend J.H. Rose High School within one month of each other in 1992, to my car accident in 1999 that led to Kevin getting baptized, which ultimately led to us getting married, we have seen God guiding us together.”
They feared they would be separated as they began their careers. He had ambitions of playing pro football, which they knew might take him to any NFL city. But he signed with the Carolina Panthers, close enough to drive back and forth to Greenville. He was on the team’s roster through training camp and was among the last players cut when the season began.
As a senior at the Brody School of Medicine, she feared that the residency she would be given on Match Day might be states away, requiring them to be apart. But she was offered a residency at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. She completed her pediatric residency there in 2008.
After that, she joined Raleigh Children and Adolescents Medicine, where in addition to her clinic duties, she was a clinical preceptor and lecturer for medical students. She also will be in charge of the pediatric medical students at WakeMed.
Kevin has been with CAPTRUST since 2003. Before that he was a financial advisor for Wachovia Securities and AXA Advisors. At the Professional Sports Division he works in at CAPTRUST, he oversees the day-to-day financial dealings for more than 75 professional athletes.
He serves on the boards of ECU’s College of Business Advisory Counsel and the ECU Foundation. He also co-founded a nonprofit youth outreach charity in Greenville called Future Inc., where he served as vice president.
And that’s just his short list of volunteer work. “Kevin has more volunteer engagements than I can count,” Rasheeda says. “He works with the Raleigh Rescue Mission, the Salvation Army, the CapCommunity Foundation and the Raleigh Food Bank. He also does numerous volunteer speaking engagements to high school and college students.”
Rasheeda has been involved with the Durham Literacy Center, where she tutors young adults who are studying for the GED. She currently is a family liaison with the Helene Foundation, which helps moms who are fighting cancer.
She’s thrilled about her new job at WakeMed, which she began in September. It took a little negotiating, but the hospital agreed that she will work three-and-a-half long days per week, leaving her time to be at home with her two boys. She had a similar work arrangement at Raleigh Children’s.
“I feel so blessed to not only do what I want to do, but to do it when I want to,” she says.