Retired East Carolina University professor Dr. Richard Kerns was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, a certificate presented to outstanding North Carolinians who have a proven record of service to the state.
The Order of the Long Leaf Pine is considered the state’s highest civilian honor, and it has been given to notable North Carolinians such as Andy Griffith, Michael Jordan, and Charles Kuralt. The N.C. Governor’s Office bestowed the award to Kerns at his retirement reception Oct. 11.
Kerns, the former associate dean for computer services in the College of Business and professor in the Department of Management Information Systems, retired after a career spanning nearly 40 years.
“I am deeply humbled, surprised, and appreciative to receive such a high honor from the state of North Carolina,” Kerns said. “Serving at East Carolina University for four decades has been extremely rewarding on both personal and professional levels. I’m truly honored by this recognition.”
Kerns first joined ECU in 1973, when he was hired to teach and manage information technology in the School of Business. Under his leadership, the computer services department grew from a few hand-picked student assistants with Kerns as leader to a unit that now serves the technology needs of more than 150 faculty and staff and almost 4,000 students.
Throughout his tenure at ECU, Kerns’ unofficial title across campus became “the computer man,” because he helped individuals across campus with computer needs. He played a role in the establishment of ECU’s Information Technology and Computing Services department. At one time, he served on every computer committee ever present on campus, both administrative and academic.
Kerns said he worked for years to see the technology fee established, and that fee has since enabled technological progress such as smart classrooms. Kerns also worked to see that faculty and staff had the technology they needed to be more productive. He created the original management information systems curriculum in the College of Business, teaching all but one of the original courses the first time they were taught.
“Nothing makes me feel better than to have a former colleague or student come by or see me somewhere and talk about how they are doing and tell me something that I did that helped them,” Kerns said. “I am very thankful for the opportunities that have been given to me for so many years, and I hope that others feel I have contributed to their success.”