Category Archives: ECU People

Chief Lewis takes oath for ECU Police



ECU Police Chief Gerald Lewis Jr. takes the oath of office during a ceremony May 8. Lewis joined the university in January. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

ECU Police Chief Gerald Lewis Jr. takes the oath of office during a ceremony May 8. Lewis joined the university in January. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)


By Jeannine Manning Hutson
ECU News Services

With his wife Michelle holding the Bible, Gerald Lewis Jr., officially took the oath of office as chief of the East Carolina University Police Department in early May.

Lewis has been on the job since mid-January, but took the oath during a campus ceremony May 8. Annette Parker, accreditation officer for ECU Police, administered the oath.

Calling it “an honor to be the chief here,” Lewis thanked the department’s administrators and officers, especially Deputy Chief Jason Sugg, who helped ensure a smooth transition.

Lewis has some new ideas, he said, “about not only keeping the East Carolina University campus safe but also Greenville and Pitt County. That’s very important to me. I want to be a part of this community.”

Before coming to ECU, Lewis held the rank of major and was commanding officer of the New Jersey Police Office of Community Affairs before retiring in December with 26 years of service.

Working on a university campus is different from his former beat as a New Jersey state trooper but not unwelcome.

“One of the great joys I have is actually walking around campus, meeting students and faculty and bus drivers,” he said. He added that he’s ridden the student transit buses and eaten in the Mendenhall Student Center food court to learn more about campus. “I’m around campus, and I want to be a visible leader.”

Sugg called Lewis “a breath of fresh air for me personally” since the department went without a full-time chief for several months during the search and hiring of Lewis.

The university police force has 60 full-time officers, 10 reserve officers and 20 staff members.

Nursing honors Hall of Fame inductees

Pictured from left to right are Dr. Sylvia Brown, Linda Siegrist, Barbara Pendergrass (attended in honor of her aunt, inductee Barbara Adams), Dr. Marie Pokorny, Anne Suggs (represented her mother, inductee Joanne Suggs), Michelle Brooks, Dr. Robin Webb-Corbett, Dr. Cheryl Duke, Helene Reilly and Debra Wallace.

Pictured from left to right are Dr. Sylvia Brown, Linda Siegrist, Barbara Pendergrass (attended in honor of her aunt, inductee Barbara Adams), Dr. Marie Pokorny, Anne Suggs (represented her mother, inductee Joanne Suggs), Michelle Brooks, Dr. Robin Webb-Corbett, Dr. Cheryl Duke, Helene Reilly and Debra Wallace.


The East Carolina University College of Nursing inducted nine members to its Hall of Fame during a ceremony held at Rock Springs Center March 7. The event, which also recognized the 2014 distinguished alumna, honored outstanding contributors to nursing in the areas of education, administration, research and practice.

The Hall of Fame has raised nearly $80,000 for a merit-based student scholarship fund since its inception in 2011. Thanks to this program, the college will award its fourth Hall of Fame Scholarship this fall. This year’s recipient, senior nursing student Katherine Waters, was recognized at the event.

“The Hall of Fame is a way to acknowledge the accomplishments of exemplary leaders in the field of nursing,” said Dr. Sylvia Brown, dean of the College of Nursing. “It’s fitting that we honor them by supporting the education of some of our brightest students.”

The 2014 inductees join more than 60 Hall of Fame members representing eight states. Each new member receives a flame-shaped award that resembles the lamp illustrated on the college’s nursing pin. The lamp and its associated flame symbolize service and a vibrant life.

This year’s Hall of Fame class included the following:

  • Barbara Adams
  • Michelle Brooks
  • Dr. Robin Webb Corbett
  • Dr. Cheryl Duke
  • Carol Hallisey
  • Dr. Marie Pokorny
  • Helene Reilly
  • Linda Siegrist
  • Joanne Suggs

On a night set aside for celebrating influential nurse leaders, the college also recognized the recipient of its 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award. This year’s awardee is Dr. Debra Wallace, a Hall of Fame member from the class of 2011 and an alumna of the college’s master of science in nursing program. Wallace is the Daphine Doster Mastroianni Distinguished Professor and associate dean for research at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro School of Nursing. She also is director of the UNC Greensboro Center for the Health of Vulnerable Populations.

To nominate a Hall of Fame member, contact Mark Alexander, major gifts officer, at or 252-744-2324. Additional information about the Hall of Fame is available at

ECU students demonstrate skills in research


ECU undergraduate Dayna Rodriguez presents a research poster in the social sciences category during Research and Creative Achievement Week March 31 – April 4. Her reseearch was titled “Implicit Theories of Intelligence and Academic Persistance in First-Generation College Students.” (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

ECU News Services

East Carolina University students from multiple disciplines shared their research and creative works March 31 – April 4 at the Eighth Annual Research and Creative Achievement Week at Mendenhall Student Center on campus.

More than 300 graduate and undergraduate students made oral, online and poster presentations to explain their original work in categories that ranged from biomedical sciences to fine and performing arts. Fifty-four presenters were undergraduates from the ECU Honors College.

The number of undergraduate presenters at the event is steadily increasing, said event co-chair Mary Farwell, ECU Office of Undergraduate Research. The largest growth area in recent years has been in social sciences, with a growing population in humanities and fine and performing arts, she said.

Farwell said those numbers demonstrate strong university support, along with an increased appreciation for the skills involved in developing and presenting original research. “Undergraduate research is recognized as a ‘high-impact practice’ in educational circles, which means it is a valuable addition to a degree,” she said.

In the category of social sciences, undergraduate Benjamin Wigand prepares his poster presentation, "Gender Differences in the Impact of an Early Warning System and Tutoring in College."

In the category of social sciences, undergraduate Benjamin Wigand prepares his poster presentation, “Gender Differences in the Impact of an Early Warning System and Tutoring in College.”

“Students learn skills under the direct supervision of a mentor – similar to an apprenticeship – and are able to use the knowledge they have gained in the classroom in a hands-on experience,” she said.

Tom McConnell, associate dean for the ECU Graduate School, said the event provides an excellent opportunity for students to develop and practice their presentation skills. He was also co-chair of event planning for RCAW.

McConnell said RCAW serves as an introduction to an internationally-accepted process students will most likely use in their careers. They may apply those skills “for presentations, submitting an abstract, getting that abstract approved, having that abstract published and then…meeting people, explaining their research and creative achievement projects,” he said in an interview posted on the group’s Facebook page. View the McConnell interview at

Following student presentations throughout the early part of the week, faculty were recognized for integrating research into their teaching at the Scholar-Teacher Awards and Symposium on April 3. Recognized were Dr. Matthew Mahar, College of Health and Human Performance; Dr. Bryce L. Jorgensen, College of Human Ecology; Dr. Jay Juchniewicz, College of Fine Arts and Communication; Dr. Jason Oliver, College of Business; Dr. Junhua Ding, College of Technology and Computer Science; Dr. Steven W. Schmidt, College of Education; Dr. Pamela J. Reis, College of Nursing; and Drs. Zi-Wei Lin, Susan B. McRae and Nicholas G. Rupp from the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences.

On April 4, an awards luncheon honored excellence in student scholarship and faculty mentoring. The ECU Distinguished Graduate Faculty Mentor Award in the master’s category was presented to Dr. Robert Edwards, Department of Sociology in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences. The Distinguished Graduate Faculty Mentor Award in the doctoral category was presented to Dr. Phillip H. Pekala, professor and chair in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Brody School of Medicine.

Frank R. Brown, Department of Mathematics in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, received the ECU Master’s Thesis Award in Mathematics, Physical Sciences and Engineering. His thesis was titled “Financial Market Analysis Using a Kinetics Model” and his thesis director was David Pravica.

Joanna Pepple in the Department of Music Theory, Composition and Musicology in the College of Fine Arts received the ECU Master’s Thesis Award in Humanities and Fine Arts. Her thesis was titled “The Language of Johannes Brahm’s Theme and Variation: A Study of His Chamber Works for Strings” and her thesis director was Amy Carr-Richardson.

Additional information is available at the RCAW blog at

Grant allows biomedical engineering research


Kayla Seymore, a first-year grad student, demonstrates sonogram techniques using equipment at the biomechanics lab in the College of Health and Human Performance. Students will use tools like these to conduct research at ECU in the biomedical engineering research program. (Photos by Jay Clark)


By Kathryn Kennedy
ECU News Services

Undergraduate students across the country are vying for the chance to spend this summer conducting research in biomedical engineering at East Carolina University – a new program funded by a $287,949 grant from the National Science Foundation.

“Biomedical Engineering in Simulation, Imaging and Modeling” begins in May and will host students on campus at ECU for 10 weeks. Zac Domire of the Department of Kinesiology and Stephanie George of the Department of Engineering designed the program.

Only eight students will be selected and each will receive a generous stipend and money for room and board. The program focuses on the use of models – a simplification of reality – for biomedical engineering research and examines how imaging can improve modeling.

“You don’t need animals or people to do it,” George said of research using modeling. “And it’s applicable to almost any field…in the engineering disciplines.”

Each student will be matched with a faculty mentor to work on an individualized research topic. Those will vary from creating models of the circulatory system or muscles to measuring force on the knee joint or bones in the lower leg during running.

Other participating faculty mentors are Barbara Muller-Borer, William Howard, Paul DeVita, Stacey Meardon, Tarek Abdel-Salam and Jason Yao.

Stephanie George, left, ECU Department of Engineering, and Zac Domire, ECU Department of Kinesiology, designed the summer program that will draw undergraduate researchers to ECU.

Stephanie George, left, ECU Department of Engineering, and Zac Domire, ECU Department of Kinesiology, designed the summer program that will draw undergraduate researchers to ECU.

Students will be exposed to each other’s research during group activities and presentations of their findings. “It’s an opportunity (for undergraduates) to make a much stronger connection with faculty members,” Domire said. That connection may yield letters of recommendation and even interest in graduate programs at ECU down the road, he added.

The grant is aimed at attracting individuals interested in science, but also seeks to attract a diverse pool of applicants. To ensure that result, Domire said they partnered with three historically black universities and a fourth institution with a very diverse student body: N.C. Central University, Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University and University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

Research Experiences for Undergraduates grants are generally aimed at increasing awareness of and application to graduate school.

“We want people to get exposed to science and engineering and then choose careers in science and engineering,” Domire said. “(The program) should really help the students get a much more in-depth knowledge of the material.” “If undergrads have research experience,” George added, “they’re more likely to continue on that degree path. This gives them an idea what (graduate school) might be like. It should make them feel they’re capable of doing it.”

This is the second REU program to be hosted at ECU. The first was awarded to Junhua Ding in computer science, which began summer 2013. Both REUs are three-year grants. Organizers plan to coordinate various social events between the groups of students.

“These two awards allow undergraduate students in computer science and engineering the opportunity to experience cutting-edge research work with a faculty mentor,” said David White, dean of the College of Engineering and Technology. “They often come away from the REU experience with a desire to pursue a graduate degree and a career as a research scientist.”


Margaret Turner of the ECU College of Engineering and Technology contributed to this report.

Music student wins two competitions

Mary Catherine Cox

Mary Catherine Cox

Mary Catherine Cox, ECU junior violin performance major studying with Ara Gregorian, won both the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra and the Durham Symphony Orchestra concerto competitions Jan. 11.

She recently won the 2013-14 ECU Concerto Competition Ron and Patty Allison Prize, and the opportunity to perform as soloist with the ECU Symphony Orchestra.

Cox has been awarded All-State Honors Orchestra and has attended the Music Teacher’s National Association state auditions and international music festivals in France, England, and Italy.

Last summer Cox was awarded a fellowship to study at the Madeline Island Chamber Music Festival in Wisconsin. She performed with the Raleigh Symphony Feb. 23 and will perform with the Durham Symphony April 6.

She studies piano with ECU’s Keiko Sekino. Her older sister, Caroline Cox, who graduated in 2012, also is an accomplished violinist. Younger sister Sarah Cox is majoring in music. They are the daughters of optometrists Carson and Valerie Cox of Southern Pines.

ECU women graduate from BRIDGES

Seven ECU women participated in the UNC BRIDGES XXI academic leadership for women. Pictured at the 2013 BRIDGES graduation are, left to right, Liza Wieland, Cynthia Deale, Qin Ding, Stephanie Coleman, Mary Farwell, Elaine Cabinum-Foeller, and Mandee Lancaster (Contributed photo).

Seven ECU women participated in the UNC BRIDGES XXI academic leadership for women. Pictured at the 2013 BRIDGES graduation are, left to right, Liza Wieland, Cynthia Deale, Qin Ding, Stephanie Coleman, Mary Farwell, Elaine Cabinum-Foeller, and Mandee Lancaster (Contributed photo).

By Qin Ding
Department of Computer Science

Seven East Carolina University women were selected to participate in the UNC BRIDGES leadership program for women, an intensive professional development program for women in higher education who seek to gain or strengthen their academic leadership capabilities.

The selected participants were Elaine Cabinum-Foeller, associate professor of pediatrics and medical director of TEDI BEAR CAC at the Brody School of Medicine; Stephanie Coleman, assistant vice chancellor for operations; Cynthia Deale, professor of hospitality management; Qin Ding, associate professor of computer science; Mary Farwell, director of Undergraduate Research and professor of biology; Mandee Lancaster, director of Survey Research and Leadership Initiatives; and Liza Wieland, professor of English. The program ran from Sept. 6 through Nov. 23, 2013.

During four weekends, 34 participants from public and private institutions in higher education across the state participated in multiple sessions on transformative leadership. While the program helped the participants improve their leadership and communication skills, it also created a strong bond among the participants.

The application for the 2014 program will be open soon in the spring. Additional information about the BRIDGES program can be found at:


Wilson named vice dean


Dr. Margaret B. Wilson, associate dean for student affairs and clinical professor at the East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine, became vice dean at the school Feb. 1 – a role in which she will have much broader responsibilities for ensuring the implementation of the school’s strategic objectives.

Maggie Wilson

Maggie Wilson

Wilson joined the School of Dental Medicine in 2009 and has played a key role in the school’s development with responsibility for student recruitment, admission, retention and services. She also coordinates the ethics curriculum for the Doctor of Dental Medicine program.

“Dr. Maggie Wilson’s leadership and experience in dental education, administration and private practice make her well suited for her new role,” said Dr. Greg Chadwick, dean of the School of Dental Medicine. “She sets the bar very high for herself and for everyone around her. She has been a tremendous asset in the establishment and growth of our school, and I look forward to working with her as our vice dean.”

Wilson joined ECU from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, where she was a full-time faculty member for 19 years. During her time at the University of Maryland, she served as associate dean for Student Affairs. She also served as associate dean for professional programs, co-director of the Group Practice Simulation Demonstration Project, and she directed the professionalism and professional dental ethics curriculum for students.

Prior to that position, Wilson was director of dental services for the University Health Center at the University of Maryland at College Park. She was also in private dental practice in Fredericksburg, Va., for four years. She is a fellow of the American College of Dentists and the International College of Dentists and an active member of several professional organizations.

“Having the opportunity to join a school with such a clear mission of educating dental leaders who will serve in communities of need across North Carolina is incredible,” said Wilson.

“Moreover, helping establish a new dental school is professionally and personally rewarding. I look forward to continuing to work with the faculty, students and staff of the School of Dental Medicine and community and university leaders as we continue to strive to fulfill the vision and mission of our school.”

Wilson earned a doctor of dental surgery degree from the Medical College of Virginia-Virginia Commonwealth University in 1981 and completed a general practice residency at University of Maryland Hospital in 1982. She holds a master of business degree from the University of Maryland at College Park. She earned an undergraduate degree from Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn.

Included on Best Doctors list


Among the ECU physicians named in the annual Best Doctors list are, left to right, Drs. Tae Joon Lee, Danielle Walsh and Emmanuel E. Zervos.


By Doug Boyd
ECU News Services

Forty-nine physicians from the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University have been chosen by their peers for inclusion in the 2014 “Best Doctors in America” list.

The annual list is compiled by Best Doctors Inc., a Boston-based group that surveys more than 45,000 physicians across the United States who previously have been included in the listing asking whom they would choose to treat themselves or their families.

Approximately 5 percent of the physicians who practice in the United States make the annual list. A partial list of the state’s best doctors will be in the December issue of “Business North Carolina” magazine.

The ECU physicians on the list are Dr. William A. Burke, dermatology; Drs. Jon Firnhaber, Susan Keen, Greg W. Knapp, Lars C. Larsen, Tae Joon Lee, Gary I. Levine, Kenneth Steinweg and Ricky Watson, family medicine; Drs. Paul P. Cook and Keith M. Ramsey, infectious diseases; Dr. Nathan Brinn, pediatrics and internal medicine; Drs. Mary Jane Barchman and Paul Bolin, nephrology; Drs. Raymond Dombroski and Edward R. Newton, obstetrics and gynecology; Drs. David Hannon and Charlie J. Sang Jr., pediatric cardiology; Dr. Glenn Harris, pediatric diabetologist; and Dr. William E. Novotny and Ronald M. Perkin, pediatric critical care; Dr. Susan Boutilier, pediatric neurology and sleep medicine; and Dr. John Gibbs, neurology.

Also listed are Dr. Michael Reichel, pediatric developmental and behavioral problems; Dr. DavidN. Collier, pediatric obesity; Dr. Daniel P. Moore, physical medicine and rehabilitation; Dr. Elaine Cabinum-Foeller, pediatric abuse; Dr. Diana J. Antonacci, John Diamond and Kaye L. McGinty, child and adolescent psychiatry; Dr. Scott S. MacGilvray, neonatal medicine; Drs. Lorraine Basnight, Karin Marie Hillenbrand, Thomas G. Irons, Suzanne Lazorick, Dale A. Newton, John Olsson, Kathleen V. Previll and Charles Willson, general pediatrics; Drs. Robert A. Shaw, Yash Kataria and Mark Bowling, pulmonary medicine; Drs. Robert Harland and Eric Toschlog, surgery; Dr. Emmanuel Zervos, surgical oncology; Dr. Danielle Walsh, pediatric surgery; Dr. W. Randolph Chitwood Jr., cardiothoracic surgery; Dr. Eleanor Harris, radiation oncology; Haand Dr. Charles S. Powell, vascular surgery. 

Wedding held in penguin habitat

ECU's Susanne Grieve and new husband Jeff Rawson celebrated their wedding in SeaWorld's penguin habitat this month. The couple met while completing research in Antartica. Photo by Jason Collier/SeaWorld Orlando

ECU’s Susanne Grieve and new husband Jeff Rawson celebrated their wedding in SeaWorld’s penguin habitat this month. The couple met while completing research in Antarctica. Photo by Jason Collier/SeaWorld Orlando


A SeaWorld wedding between East Carolina University’s director of conservation Susanne Grieve and Jeff Rawson, who met during a 2012 trip to Antarctica, is featured on the Orlando Sentinel and the local station, WFTV9.

The two were wed in the 32-degree penguin habitat at SeaWorld in Orlando, attended by 250 penguins inside SeaWorld’s Antarctica exhibit.

Read complete article at

Read coverage in the Orlando Sentinel.



Reservist Pat Frede returns to ECU


ECU major gifts officer Pat Frede carried an ECU Skully flag on her fourth deployment as a U.S. Navy reservist. Frede and the flag flew over Africa in a U.S. Air Force airdrop mission. (Contributed photos)


By Crystal Baity
ECU News Services

The purple and gold revelry of an East Carolina University homecoming came sprinkled with red, white and blue for Pat Frede, who returned this fall from a fourth deployment with the U.S. Navy.

Frede, major gifts officer for the College of Allied Health Sciences, hosted a homecoming and donor appreciation event at ECU on Nov. 8, her first week back from nine months in Africa with the 411th Civil Affairs Battalion. “I’m excited to get back and hit the ground running,” she said.

It was Frede’s second deployment in three years. She was in Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010.

From Tanzania to Kenya, Frede’s unit worked to establish and enhance relations between military forces, governmental and non-governmental organizations and civilians. The group advised and assisted local populations with their needs, ranging from establishing community watch programs to teaching villagers about protection of natural resources.


As part of her deployment, Frede worked with local volunteers in Djibouti, Africa. Frede is pictured above with Haweya, who works at the Navy Exchange on Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti.

The area is a major shipping route for commerce on the east coast of Africa, the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. The U.S. Africa Command works to ensure the security of Americans and American interests from threats that might emanate from the continent, including terrorist groups such as al-Qaida.

Frede supplied mobile groups that took first aid, IVs, bandages and other medical and triage items to remote villages. “We teach them how to be first responders,” Frede said.

Getting the necessary items was easier than getting them to the right locations because supply lines are poor in the country.

“Anything they needed, we tried to figure out a way to do it, and figure out how to get it to them,” Frede said. “The real challenge was logistics in Africa.”

One of the most rewarding experiences was working with Friends of Africa volunteers in Djibouti, where she mentored the organization’s leaders and interfaced with the U.S. Embassy. Volunteers helped bathe and feed children and perform minor repairs at a local orphanage, and tutored local law enforcement with their English skills.

Frede also was involved with a respite program for homeless children. “There is a harsh street life,” Frede said. “The kids were learning to sew and weave, which helps them gain a valuable skill.”

Frede was called to serve based on the skills she uses daily at ECU, she said. “In civil affairs, we’re building relationships of trust, just like we do at ECU.”

Frede also took a companion from her 2009 deployment, an ECU Skully flag, which flew over Africa on an HC-130P Combat King airdrop mission by the U.S. Air Force 81st Expeditionary Rescue Squadron.

While Frede missed several things that she often takes for granted, like pizza, Cheez-Its or a bubble bath, she said she learns something from each deployment.

“It taught me more than anything about friends and family,” to whom she is most grateful, Frede said.

She returned to the United States on Sept. 13. The transition from active duty to reserves took several weeks and involved extensive screening in two locations. As a reservist, Frede now has a new job: senior enlisted leader of a reserve unit under Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet.

Morales honored for leadership



Jose Morales, a student in the School of Hospitality Leadership at East Carolina University, was recognized as General Manager of the Year by the Strand Development Company. Morales serves as GM at the Microtel Inn and Suites by Wyndham in Greenville.

Jose Morales is pictured with executives from Strand. (Contributed photo)

Jose Morales is pictured with executives from Strand. (Contributed photo)

Under Morales’ leadership, the Microtel Inn and Suites by Wyndham was chosen as one of Microtel’s Top-20 properties out of 350 worldwide during Wyndham Hotel Group’s annual conference in Las Vegas in 2013.

“The Microtel Inn & Suites Greenville’s commitment to excellence in revenue, rewards enrollment and guest satisfaction has earned it this well-deserved recognition as one of the best hotels in the Microtel Brand,” said Raju Uppalapati, owner of the Microtel Inn & Suites Greenville. “I am very proud of our dedicated and customer oriented team. Their commitment to service and quality shows through this award.”

Dr. Robert O’Halloran, director of the School of Hospitality Leadership, said, “Our students and alumni who represent us in the workforce continue to bring national attention to our program. We are very proud to have such an outstanding hospitality leadership program here at East Carolina.”

Strand Development Company is a 50-hotel management company with locations in the Southeastern United States. The company specializes in the two to four-star hotel segments and is approved to operate hotels under all the leading hotel brand families including; Marriott, Hilton, Starwood, Wyndham, Choice and IHG.

Research in Costa Rica

ECU alumnus Stuart Kent, left, visits with children while in Costa Rica on a Fulbright grant. (Contributed photo)

ECU alumnus Stuart Kent, left, visits with children while in Costa Rica on a Fulbright grant. (Contributed photo)


Greenville furniture maker and ECU alumnus Stuart Kent returned last month from a year-long teaching and research project in Costa Rica underwritten by a Fulbright Core Grant.

He worked as a visiting assistant professor of sculpture at the National University of Costa Rica in Heredia. He taught workshops on wood joinery and finishing, and helped develop a curriculum for furniture design.

The project raised awareness of two species of sustainable, tropical hardwoods. Kent organized exhibitions to demonstrate possible uses for these two trees.

Since returning to the United States he has worked to connect timber growers in Costa Rica with American lumber dealers, opening a viable path to market for a cost effective and sustainable new raw material. Kent also organized the nation’s first major international public art event, after which the works by artists from seven nations were donated to the city of Heredia.

Kent was assisted in his work by his wife, Susan Kent.


Pirates dive into nuclear programs

ECU students Kyle Williamson, left, and Sheridan Rucker are poised to begin a selective officer candidate program with the U.S. Navy. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)
ECU students Kyle Williamson, left, and Sheridan Rucker are poised to begin a selective officer candidate program with the U.S. Navy. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

ECU students Kyle Williamson, left, and Sheridan Rucker are poised to begin a selective officer candidate program with the U.S. Navy. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

By Jamitress Bowden
ECU News Services

After they graduate from East Carolina University, two students will begin training for one of the most selective education programs in the U.S. Navy.

Kyle Williamson and Sheridan Rucker, both seniors, have been accepted into the Navy’s Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate (NUPOC) program. Williamson is an engineering major with a double concentration in both mechanical and industrial and systems engineering. Rucker is a chemistry major.

NUPOC is a specialized education program focusing on the different uses of nuclear power within the Navy. Those selected for the program are assigned as a submarine officer, surface warfare officer, naval reactors engineer or naval nuclear power school instructor. Williamson will be a surface warfare officer, and Rucker will be a submarine officer.

The training in the program is comparable to graduate-level instruction, according to Dr. Andrew Jackson, ECU professor of industrial engineering technology, who once served as an evaluator of the teaching and work completed during the program for the American Council on Education.

With the training Williamson and Rucker will gain, Jackson said, they will be well respected in the engineering community. “I think they’re well positioned for a high-quality and high-paying career, both inside and outside of the military,” said Jackson.

Both students are excited about launching their Navy careers.

Williamson, who will graduate in December, did not grow up with a desire to serve in the military. He wanted to be an engineer. However, he did admire the pride his stepfather has for his service in the Marine Corps. Williamson said, “When the opportunity presented itself to be an engineer and serve my country, I couldn’t turn it down.”

Rucker’s family has military ties as well. His mother told him there are always good people in the military. “I get to meet new people that are like me, that’s kind of my favorite part,” said Rucker, who will graduate in May 2014.

Dr. Steve Duncan, assistant vice chancellor for administration and finance and military programs said the university is fortunate to have two students selected for the program. “I do hope other students who are talented in the STEM disciplines will look at Sheridan and Kyle as academic leaders and follow their lead in examining the full breadth of job offerings to include opportunities with the NUPOC program,” he said.

To qualify, applicants must have successfully completed two semesters of calculus and two semesters of calculus-based physics. After the initial application is turned in, the applicants were contacted for a phone interview, which included calculus questions, and was followed with an in-person interview. The second interview consisted of more calculus questions and ended with meeting Admiral John Richardson, director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program.

Williamson said the application process was rigorous. “It was very stressful and difficult,” he said.

Rucker and Williamson will both begin their training with officer candidate school – a 12-week process to become commissioned officers in the U.S. Navy. After his initial training, Rucker will move onto naval nuclear power school for 24 weeks to study nuclear propulsion.

Participants in the NUPOC program follow different tracks depending on their assignments. After being commissioned as an officer, Williamson will begin his first sea tour before heading to the nuclear power school.

Following successful completion of nuclear power school, both will proceed to the 26-week nuclear power training unit where they will receive hands-on training working with reactor prototypes. Rucker will then attend a 12-week course where he will learn about operating a submarine before his first sea tour. Williamson will go on to his second sea tour after the nuclear power training unit.

Rucker said that he is a little nervous about starting the NUPOC program. “But that’s what nuclear power school is for,” he said, “so that you’re prepared once you get on the ship.”

First Legacy Parent of the Year named

Pictured at the Pirate Alumni Legacy Brunch are, left to right, current ECU student Kayla Hollingsworth, ECU alumnus and award-winner Ted Hollingsworth '79, ECU alumna Debbie Hollingsworth '81 and  ECU alumnus Robert Hollingsworth '10. Kayla and Robert are Ted and Debbie's children. (Contributed photo)

Pictured at the Pirate Alumni Legacy Brunch are, left to right, current ECU student Kayla Hollingsworth, ECU alumnus and award-winner Ted Hollingsworth ’79, ECU alumna Debbie Hollingsworth ’81 and ECU alumnus Robert Hollingsworth ’10. Kayla and Robert are Ted and Debbie’s children. (Contributed photo)


By Jackie Drake

East Carolina University alumnus Ted Hollingsworth ’79 was named the East Carolina Alumni Association’s first Legacy Parent of the Year.

The award was presented at the inaugural Pirate Alumni Legacy Brunch at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium’s club level Sept. 15 during ECU’s Family Weekend.

The Legacy Parent of the Year award honors an alumnus or alumna with a child currently attending ECU who has served as a role model to their student and all students through campus involvement and service to the University and community. Students submitted essays to nominate their parents, and Ted was nominated by his daughter Kayla Hollingsworth. The recipient was a surprise until announced at the event.

“Ted Hollingsworth exemplifies the ‘We Believe’ spirit and displays that through his love, support and commitment to ECU. He is a worthy recipient of this award as he has passed this legacy and spirit on to his children,” said Alumni Association President and CEO Paul J. Clifford, who presented the award.

Hollingsworth attended the event unaware that he had been nominated, so the award came as a complete surprise. “I was filled with emotion and could not speak,” Hollingsworth said. “I just thought we were going to a social event.

“The fact that I was nominated by my daughter brought tears to my eyes. It is an extreme honor to be chosen as the first Legacy Parent of the Year,” he said.

“I know there are a lot of parents who bleed purple and gold just like I do. Passion for ECU runs deep in our family as in many other families, and that is what makes ECU such a special place.”

Hollingsworth, whose degree is in art, is the president and creative director of Line Design Graphics in Greensboro. He has designed T-shirts for student groups on campus. He helped design how the football field would be painted when ECU became part of Conference USA. He is an active member of the Pirate Club and was fundamental in starting the Ron Pugh Memorial Golf Tournament.

“My dad has always dedicated his life to ECU; he is one of the biggest Pirate fans I know,” Kayla said. “He has always done anything and everything he can for the school or anyone who simply attended ECU. I am extremely proud to be part of an ECU legacy.

“The legacy brunch was a very nice event,” Kayla continued. “It was awesome to have so many legacies in one room. It shows the true dedication Pirates have to ECU.”

The Pirate Alumni Legacy Brunch honored families of current ECU students with two or more generations of Pirates (including parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings, and/or cousins). The brunch was a sold-out event with more than 140 participants. It will be held again next year during Family Weekend when another Legacy Parent of the Year will be named.

Turf manager prepares field


ECU sports turf manager Joey Perry paints the field in preparation for the ECU season opener against Old Dominion on Aug. 31. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)


By Crystal Baity
ECU News Services

Joey Perry goes through several pairs of tennis shoes each year. It’s easy to do when you’re responsible for every painted inch at Bagwell Field in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

His feet and paint sprayer are too close together to avoid contact. “Every day my shoe color changes,” he said. “I do get a few pairs each season.”

On the morning of Aug. 29 he was in the middle of applying yellow paint to E-A-S-T-C-A-R-O-L-I-N-A in the end zone closest to the student section, in preparation for the ECU Pirates’ season opener against Old Dominion.

Typically he will use 35 gallon buckets of water-based paint per game. It’s just him, another full-time person and about six student workers who get the stadium ready before each football game. He’s in charge of all athletic fields at ECU, where the team uses a variety of equipment including airless paint machines, reel mowers, tractors, aerators, blowers, sweepers, sprayers and more.

“Generally for a Saturday game we start painting on Wednesday,” said Perry, sports turf manager for East Carolina University where he’s worked 13 years.

“We do all the white on Wednesday, and all the color on Thursday. This week we had some rain so I ended up finishing up the logo this morning (Friday).”

He will paint 6-7 hours each of the two days before a game. Perry said he always does the logo at midfield last. “Because that’s the finishing touch,” he said.

How long does it take the paint to dry? “It all depends on the weather,” Perry said.

The paint will dry in 30-45 minutes on a sunny hot day but takes longer in cold weather. Depending on the wind, the field can be 10-15 degrees warmer than temperature readings. “It’s not quite as hot as standing on asphalt but it’s definitely warm,” Perry said.

Beaufort County native named top nurse

Donna Lou Edwards of Simpson, nurse manager at the Brody School of Medicine, was selected as Nurse of the Year. (Photo by Elbert Kennard)
Donna Lou Edwards of Simpson, nurse manager at the Brody School of Medicine, was selected as Nurse of the Year. (Photo by Elbert Kennard)

Donna Lou Edwards of Simpson, nurse manager at the Brody School of Medicine, was selected as Nurse of the Year. (Photo by Elbert Kennard)


By Doug Boyd
ECU News Services

Donna Lou Edwards is still getting used to the title “nurse of the year.”

The nurse manager in the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University received the honor at a recent banquet for nurses who work in the school’s group medical practice, ECU Physicians. She has been a nurse for 30 years, starting at Pitt County Memorial Hospital, and has worked at ECU since 1995.

“I was very humbled to be chosen,” Edwards said. “I personally knew two of the other candidates and know how hard they work in their areas. I truly felt that my hard work had also been recognized. I hate to call my work, work. It really is part of my life.”

Edwards has a nursing degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was one of the first nurses to work on the medical center’s cardiac surgery program beginning in the 1980s when she worked at the hospital.

“I was privileged to care for the first patient on the first night shift,” she said. “It was a great year with Dr. (W. Randolph) Chitwood, and he taught the nurses about post-surgical cardiac care and held us to a very high standard when caring for the patients. He also allowed us to be critical thinkers and listened to us when we concerned about issues with the patients. We all worked together as one big team back then.”

Edwards now manages the cardiac and vascular surgery outpatient clinic at the East Carolina Heart Institute at ECU. There, she makes sure patients’ files are complete with lab and test results, clinic notes and a care plan and ensures the clinic operates efficiently.

“She is an exemplary model of organization and efficient process that not only keeps our clinics running efficiently but also with utmost compassion for our patients,” said Chitwood, director of the heart institute and the physician who led the development of the medical center’s heart surgery program in the 1980s. “I can think of no other person as dedicated to the mission of our medical school and who has had such long-standing commitment to the treatment of cardiovascular disease patients in this region.”

Edwards said she’s honored to have been named nurse of the year and to have the opportunity to work with “great professors, physicians and nurses.”

“The knowledge a nurse can gain from working with an academic physicians practice is limitless,” she said. “You just have to be interested enough to learn the disease process of the patients that you care for. I believe in working hard to get it right, giving 110 percent and volunteering your time, also.”

For 10 years, Edwards has worked on Project Health for Leon, a non-profit group that delivers medical care and education to the city of Leon, Nicaragua. She travels to the country for two weeks each year, paying her own way, organizing a surgical clinic that helps people with heart valve disease who otherwise would most likely not receive medical care.

“My first experiences there changed my life and have made me a better person and nurse,” she said.

Closer to home, Edwards is a volunteer organist, pianist and choir director at Salem United Methodist Church in Simpson. She also sings soprano in a three-part women’s group called the Beatitudes. She lives in the village on the family farm of her husband, Kyle. They have been married 28 years and have three sons, Matt, Kaleb and Jacob.

Edwards is a graduate of Pantego High School in Beaufort County and the daughter of Larry and Betty Lou Linton. Her father is a heart-failure and stroke patient. “Being in cardiac care for all these years has helped me and my family cope with Dad’s illness,” she said. “It has been a divine plan.”

Five other nurses, Susan Eubanks, Jandra Thomas, Melissa Ewell, Celia Whitehurst and Cathy Rademacher, were also finalists for the award.

Deale receives national honor


An East Carolina University professor in the College of Human Ecology received a national award at the American Hotel and Lodging Association Summer Summit in Houston June 19.



Cynthia Deale was presented the 2013 Lamp of Knowledge Award for Outstanding Educator in the United States from the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute.

Deale is an associate professor in ECU’s School of Hospitality Leadership and an affiliate faculty member of ECU’s Center for Sustainable Tourism. Her research interests include teaching and learning in hospitality and tourism, hospitality tourism management practices, service and sustainable hospitality.

Deale is a past president of the Council on Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Education and a long-time supporter of the educational institute’s certified hospitality educator program. She is one of the first professors to incorporate guest service gold and the certified guest service professional into her introduction to hospitality curriculum. She was also a significant contributor to the development of the STAR certification in hotel industry analytics, which was introduced to college and university hospitality programs this year.

For additional information about the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute, visit

NMA recognizes Cunningham


By Doug Boyd
ECU News Services

Dr. Paul Cunningham, dean of the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, has received an award from the National Medical Association.


Dr. Paul Cunningham

Cunningham was one of seven deans of U.S. medical schools who received Presidential Awards on July 30 during the NMA’s annual convention and scientific assembly in Toronto.

The deans were recognized for “their notable achievements and extraordinary commitment to academic excellence and medical education.”

The other deans were Drs. Charles P. Mouton of Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn.; Mark S. Johnson of Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C.; Valerie Montgomery Rice of Morehouse Medical School in Atlanta; Danny O. Jacobs of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas; E. Albert Reece of the University of Maryland in Baltimore; and Daphne P. Calmes of the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles.

Founded in 1985, the NMA is the nation’s oldest and largest medical association representing the interests of more than 35,000 black physicians and their patients.

Skalko collaborates in South Africa

Dr. Thom Skalko (Photo by Jay Clark)

Dr. Thom Skalko
(Photo by Jay Clark)


By Kathy Muse
For ECU News Services

East Carolina University professor Dr. Thom Skalko is extending the university mission of service to South Africa, where he’s collaborating on a project that will create new jobs and enhance quality of life in the community.

Skalko, a professor in the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, is working with educators at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa to establish the country’s first degree in recreational therapy. The degree will train students to use recreational activities to rehabilitate and restore function for individuals who have a disability, are recovering from a serious illness or accident, or are struggling with mental health issues. Impairments addressed may be physical, emotional, social or cognitive.

Skalko visited UKZN for two weeks in May, providing lectures on therapeutic recreation and its application in health sciences. He will return to South Africa in September to present at the Leisure and Recreation Association of South Africa conference.

Establishing the degree program requires course development, discussions regarding existing degree programs at UKZN and with governmental agencies that regulate health care services. As the curriculum is developed, Skalko will work with UKZN faculty in related disciplines including biokenetics, exercise physiology, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and leisure. Skalko anticipates that UKZN will need to eventually hire a credentialed recreational therapy faculty member.

Skalko said he expects the degree to be offered through a combination of distance education and face-to-face course offerings, with many of the support courses required for recreational therapy certification and accreditation available at the UKZN campus.

While the new academic program will benefit UKZN and provide new career opportunities for the students there, the skilled therapists who come out of the program will benefit residents in surrounding communities. “The need is great for all levels of rehabilitation services for individuals with disabling conditions,” said Skalko.

 ECU professor Dr. Thom Skalko, standing, lectures on recreational therapy at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. (Contributed photo)

ECU professor Dr. Thom Skalko, standing, lectures on recreational therapy at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. (Contributed photo)

“Providing qualified recreational therapists as an aspect of allied health will offer additional options for the country.”

The goal of recreational therapy is to facilitate full and optimal involvement in the life of the community, Skalko said. “Offering quality rehabilitation services in state-operated hospitals, particularly in mental/behavioral sciences and in agencies that serve older adults both in the community and in long-term care facilities will improve the overall quality of life for the citizens of South Africa,” he added.

Maliga Naidoo, lecturer in the UKZN School of Health Sciences, was instrumental in setting up the collaboration and arranging funding for Skalko’s travels, with the support of the Health Sciences dean Dr. Sabiha Essack. The university recognized Skalko’s efforts by appointing him as an honorary professor.

The ECU-UKZN collaboration came about through Skalko’s service as chair of the Committee on Accreditation of Recreational Therapy Education, which is part of the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. In that role, he heard about inquiries from universities in South Africa about adding the recreational therapy curriculum. He responded with support and information. From that interchange, he was invited to keynote the first Leisure and Recreation Association of South Africa conference in March, 2012. His presentation sparked interest and UKZN officials chose to move forward with the degree program.

Colleagues at ECU support Skalko’s efforts as well, according to Deb Jordan, chair of the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies. “Dr. Skalko, with his leadership role in the national accreditation processes for recreational therapy curricula, has years of experience in academics as well as working with practitioners,” she said. “This combination of academics and practice help to make him well qualified to introduce such academic programs across the U.S. and in other countries.”

“I have no doubt that by introducing recreational therapy to South Africa, Dr. Skalko is helping to improve the lives of many,” Jordan said.

Glen Gilbert, dean of the College of Health and Human Performance, where Recreation and Leisure Studies is housed, said that Skalko’s efforts are a good example of the university’s mission, “Servire” (to serve).

“Collaboration between ECU and the University of KwaZulu-Natal demonstrates a fundamental commitment to the college’s mission,” Gilbert said.

“It also emphasizes the need for our students to become global in their thinking.  This work by Dr. Skalko will be shared with our students in many ways and better prepare them for the future.”

Pirate roots span four generations

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May 2013 graduate Mary Highsmith is the fourth generation of family members who have graduated from East Carolina University. (Photo by Jay Clark)

May 2013 graduate Mary Highsmith is the fourth generation of family members who have graduated from East Carolina University. (Photo by Jay Clark)

By Steve Tuttle
ECU News Services

Leona Cox ended up on the front row when the 48 seniors in East Carolina Teacher Training School’s Class of 1915 gathered on the steps of Old Austin for their graduation photo. “There she is in the middle,” said her great-granddaughter, senior Mary Highsmith, as she points to the now 98-year-old photo.

“What I am really hoping to do is to get accepted to graduate school here,” Highsmith said, “because that would mean I get my masters degree in 2015, exactly 100 years after the first one of our family.”

Highsmith, who completed her bachelor’s degree in health and human performance in May, was accepted into the master’s degree program in speech-language pathology offered by the College of Allied Health Sciences.

She is the fourth generation of her family to graduate from East Carolina, a fact that the university historian said is rare.

The East Carolina tradition that Leona Cox Dexter started in 1915 was continued by her daughter, Catherine Dexter Highsmith, who got her bachelor’s here in 1949 and a master’s in 1958.

“It’s rare, even very rare” to have ECU graduates in four generations of one family.

  John Tucker, ECU Historian

She was followed here by her daughter, Janet Blackburn, who got her bachelor’s in 1978 and a master’s in 1985. Pupils in Pender County and Burgaw were taught by those three generations of East Carolina graduates.

Highsmith said the tradition followed by her great-grandmother, grandmother and mother won’t end with her. “One of my children will be the fifth generation,” she said matter-of-factly.

Highsmith said she initially thought of going somewhere else. “In high school I first applied to go to UNC-Wilmington because it was close to home,” she said.

“My mother and grandmother didn’t lobby me to come to East Carolina,” Highsmith added. “They just said they thought it would be a good fit. And they were right. I am so glad I came here for lots of reasons, and one is what this means to my family.”

It’s a bond made all the more tangible by the mementoes passed down to her. Highsmith enjoys looking at her great-grandmother’s 1915 ECTTS graduation program, pictures of her grandmother as an East Carolina Teachers College student in the 1940s, and pictures of her mother as an East Carolina University student in the 1970s.

University historian John Tucker said “it’s rare, even very rare” to have ECU graduates in four generations of one family.

This case is all the more unusual, Tucker said, because the bond between Highsmith’s family and East Carolina date all the way back to the school’s earliest incarnation as a teacher training school. ECTTS was just starting its third year when Highsmith’s great-grandmother arrived. “That person has family roots that date all the way back to the institution as it began,” he said.

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