Second Century Success

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The March 21 Order of the Cupola ceremony on campus marked the success of East Carolina University’s Second Century Campaign. Formed in 1996, the Order of the Cupola recognizes giving at levels ranging from the bronze level – at $100,000 – to the platinum level for gifts of $1 million or more. New members were presented with a miniature cupola created by ceramics professor and artist Seo Eo. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)


Order of Cupola supporters honored

By Marion Blackburn
for ECU News Services

Receiving an East Carolina Scholars award made Deepak Ravindranathan feel like more than a student. It made him feel like a leader, he said.

That academic scholarship, ECU’s most prestigious at $45,000, “instills a sense that you can achieve your dreams,” said Ravindranathan, 21, who plans to attend medical school after graduation. “ECU serves the region and to be one of its top students is an honor.”

Ravindranathan and other high-achieving EC Scholars met some of the benefactors for that program March 21  as the university welcomed new members to its Order of the Cupola. This ceremony recognizes those whose cumulative gifts to ECU have reached $100,000. Fifteen new members were added this year.

This year’s ceremony kicks off celebrations marking the success of ECU’s Second Century Campaign, which since 2008 raised nearly $220 million for academics, research and opportunities in all areas of university life.

Pursuing excellence

The dollars from that campaign — completed a year ahead of schedule and exceeding its goal by $20 million —moves ECU to a higher level of quality and impact, Chancellor Steve Ballard told Order of the Cupola donors.

“Our margin of excellence would not be possible if not for the generosity of people like you,” Ballard said. “We make a difference for North Carolina. That’s our soul, that’s our commitment. In the future, we know state funding will pay less than it’s paying now. Private giving has been important for a long time, but it will be even more so for the future.”

The Second Century Campaign’s original $200 million goal reflected the desire to attract the best students and professors, and provide top-notch classrooms and resources in all aspects of university life for the next 100 years.

Despite an economic downturn that paralleled the campaign, alumni and supporters of all kinds stepped forward to give, said Michael “Mickey” Dowdy, vice chancellor for advancement. “There were periods when we had our concerns and wondered, markCould we do it,’” Dowdy said. Yet volunteers and staff members “reconnected with people and helped raise a lot of gifts for us.”

One of those volunteers was W. Kendall “Ken” Chalk, ’68, ’71, of Winston-Salem, a Board of Trustees member. “Any time you ask people for money, you have to talk about the needs of the university,” Chalk said. “The recession didn’t help, but when it became evident that the state was going to cut our funding, it made the need to raise external dollars more important.”

The success of the Second Century Campaign leaves students, faculty and research at ECU with direct, lasting benefits. Highlights include:

  • Endowments almost doubled, going from $69 million to $129 million. These endowments fund academic programs, scholarships and professorships through four foundations.
  • Alumni donors went from 7,800 to a peak of 12,600.
  • The number of students attending ECU as EC Scholars grew from 35 to 55.
  • The number of Access Scholarships, a new award that began during the campaign to provide tuition for students facing financial hardship, reached 78. In addition, endowment commitments now will support 15 of those awards in perpetuity. The goal is to reach 100 – with 50 endowed.
  • A new program, Project STEPP (Supporting Transition and Education through Planning and Partnerships) took shape for students to learn outside the traditional classroom.
  • Twenty-four new distinguished professorships will provide additional funds for outstanding instructors to support research, classroom opportunities or other academic opportunities, such as attending conferences in their field.

Among these new posts is the Drs. Mary and Spencer Raab Distinguished Professorship in Medical Oncology. Mary Raab, who joined the medical school at ECU in its earliest years, created the post along with her husband, Dr. William McConnell. It honors her late husband, Spencer Raab, also an oncologist at the medical school. One of the first cancer doctors in eastern North Carolina, Spencer Raab traveled weekly to small towns treating patients who otherwise lacked specialty care.

“We wanted to honor his work,” Mary Raab said.

The Second Century Campaign supported funding for the Clark-LeClair baseball stadium, and began raising dollars for a new basketball practice area for the men’s and women’s teams through the Step Up to the Highest Level Campaign.

On the Health Sciences Campus, the campaign resulted in several major building successes, including funding for the new School of Dental Medicine, supported with a major gift from Greenville orthodontist and businessperson, Dr. Ledyard E. Ross, whose contribution will be reflected in the building’s name. A major gift from the Monk Family of Farmville helped fund the Frances J. and Robert T. Monk Geriatric Center.

Students should have the opportunity

For Alan White, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, it is especially meaningful to thank those whose gifts reached the level of the Order of the Cupola.

“They have given a long time in a very steady way,” he said. “That’s what helps us build sustained programs.” He noted that the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences Voyages of Discovery Lecture Series has served the university – and the region – as a hallmark offering, drawing as many as 1,000 people and more. It costs about $50,000 a year, paid entirely by contributions.

Among the Voyages of Discovery supporters is Harvey Wooten, who was inducted into the Order. In addition to contributing to the lecture series, she has helped fund arts and sciences programs and gives to the Educational Foundation, or Pirate Club, to fund scholarships for student athletes.

“I am a strong believer that students should have the opportunity to be exposed to music, art and languages,” she said. “It makes you a well-rounded person.”

Among those celebrating the campaign’s conclusion was former Chancellor Richard R. Eakin, who currently serves as interim dean of the Honors College. He says one of his special projects is to ensure the long-term success of the EC Scholars Program, which is housed in the college.

He hopes to see more endowments for these awards to make them competitive with those offered anywhere in the state. “I refuse to believe we can’t be successful,” Eakin said.

The Order of the Cupola, formed in 1996, now has about 750 members. New members received a custom-made miniature cupola, created by ceramics professor and artist Seo Eo. It was modeled after the cupola that once sat atop old Austin Building, one of the original buildings constructed more than a century ago. The order has several categories — Platinum Level for donors of $1 million or more; Gold Level from $750,000; Silver Level from $500,000; and Bronze Level from $100,000.

In the years to come, pursuing excellence will drive the university’s growth in all areas and inspire others to attain that level of giving, said Ballard.

“The single most pressing need is for us to keep building upon the quality of what we do,” he said.


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