ECU alum consults on Netflix series

Charlie Cox and Joe Strechay1

Actor Charlie Cox (left) gives the credit to East Carolina University alumnus Joe Strechay (right) for the good reviews of his performance as Matt Murdock, a blind lawyer who at night becomes a superhero crime fighter, in the new Netflix series “Daredevil.”

Strechay, who works for the American Foundation for the Blind, was a consultant to the series before “Daredevil” began filming last year. He spent several days teaching Cox the subtle movements he needed to be convincing in the role. The show gained an audience in its first season and Netflix has signed up for 12 new episodes to air this fall.

Student and teacher were back together in June at the 2015 Helen Keller Achievement Awards in New York, where Cox was recognized for raising public awareness about the blind.

“He is a genuine guy and he portrays a positive role model any way you look at it,” Strechay said about the British-born actor, who first attracted attention in the 2007 film “Stardust.”

“The amount of time and effort he puts in to provide an accurate and respectful portrayal is amazing,” Strechay said.

Cox said the hardest acting lessons came when Strechay blindfolded him and led him on brisk walks down busy New York City sidewalks. “He was kind of freaked out but he didn’t tell me that initially,” Strechay said. “I just wanted to show him how I travel.”

Strechay came to ECU from West Virginia with his twin brother, Daniel Strechay. He says he lost most of his eyesight to a congenital condition during his freshman year. He and his brother pledged Sigma Phi and were active in Greek life. Joe majored in communication and Daniel majored in political science. Both graduated in 2001.

After graduation Joe enrolled at Florida State for a master’s degree in methods to improve employment prospects for people with limited vision. He joined AFB in 2008 as program manager for CareerConnect, an AFB website that offers free resources and tools for students and job seekers with vision loss.

Daniel Strachey is manager of sustainability communications for PepsiCo and lives in the New York area.

Joe Strechay now lives in Huntington, West Virginia and travels frequently between AFB’s New York headquarters and training program sites across the country. He remains connected to campus through CommCrew, an alumni support group for the ECU School of Communication.

He believes job opportunities are increasing for people with limited vision as technology improves.

“There is progress,” he said. “There are new regulations that require federal contractors and subcontractors to meet utilization goals for employing persons with disabilities. That actually has helped a lot of veterans. What I say is, we haven’t reached the pinnacle yet but I can see progress being made.”

– Steve Tuttle


ECU graduates to lead State Board of Community Colleges

Two graduates of East Carolina University will serve as chair and vice chair of the State Board of Community Colleges.

Scott Shook

Scott Shook

Scott Shook of Greenville was elected chair of the board at its July 17 meeting in Raleigh. Clyde Higgs of Charlotte was elected vice chair. Both will serve two-year terms in those positions.

Shook is vice president and financial advisor with BB&T Scott & Stringfellow in Greenville. He graduated from ECU in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in economics. He is married to Karen Selby Shook, who graduated from ECU in 1989 with a bachelor’s in accounting.

Higgs is vice president of business development at the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis. He received a master’s degree in public administration from ECU in 1999.

Clyde Higgs

Clyde Higgs

Gov. Pat McCrory appointed Shook to the State Board of Community Colleges two years ago. The governor appointed Higgs to the board four years ago.

“The N.C. Community College System is the largest, most comprehensive higher education system in our state and a leader nationally,” Shook said. “It is an honor to serve as chair with this dynamic group of board members, all of whom have a passion for our students, our colleges and North Carolina.”

Shook is a member of the board’s Accountability and Audit Committee, the Finance Committee and the Presidential Search Committee. His term on the board expires in 2019.

Higgs is chair of the board’s Personnel Committee and serves on the Cabinet Committee, the Finance Committee and the Presidential Search Committee. His term on the board expires in 2017.

— Steve Tuttle


Scholarship honors first African-American undergraduate

Joseph Bryant, a junior from Greensboro, is the initial recipient of the Laura Marie Leary Elliott Memorial Scholarship, which was created in memory of the first African-American to earn an undergraduate degree from East Carolina University.

The scholarship was created to assist students pursuing careers in fields that are historically underrepresented by minority populations. These fields include, but are not limited to, science, mathematics, engineering, and technology.

Bryant is majoring in chemistry. He is active in club basketball, the Pre-Pharm Club, ECU Ambassadors and the Chemistry Club. He is the son of Gralin and Annette Bryant, who are active members of the ECU Parents Association. Gralin Bryant graduated from ECU in 1983.

According to Zack Hawkins, director of Student Affairs Development, more than $32,000 has been raised so far for the scholarship, a sum that allows it to become endowed.

Alumni who gave $1,000 or more to the scholarship fund include Danny Scott and Connie Shelton, ECU Football Coach Ruffin McNeill, Ray Rogers, ECU Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Virginia Hardy, Linda Thomas and Valeria Lassiter. Many other black alumni and several of Laura Leary Elliott’s family members, including her daughter, Rachel Elliott Byers, and sister, Ruth Leary Asbury, also made contributions.

Bryant will be recognized during the Black Alumni Chapter Scholarship and Awards Banquet on Oct. 17 as part of Homecoming activities.

The $2,000 scholarship will increase in value in subsequent years, Hawkins said. In the future the scholarship will be awarded annually to one female and one male student.

Leary graduated in 1966. She taught school in Windsor for two years and then relocated to Washington, D.C. She worked for many years at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, retiring as a senior accountant in 2006. She died in 2013.

Left to right, Gralin, Annette and Joseph Bryant are pictured with PeeDee on campus. Joseph Bryant is the first Laura Marie Leary Elliott Memorial Scholarship recipient.

Left to right, Gralin, Annette and Joseph Bryant are pictured with PeeDee on campus. Joseph Bryant is the first Laura Marie Leary Elliott Memorial Scholarship recipient.


Alumni Association plans event in Wilmington

The East Carolina Alumni Association will host a networking lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 19 at Dockside restaurant, 1308 Airlie Road.

Cost for the lunch is $12 for alumni association members and $22 for non-members, with registration by June 12 at Attire is purple and gold business casual. Participants should bring business cards to exchange and enter for a door prize drawing.

For additional information, visit or contact 252-ECU-GRAD (252-328-4723) or


ECU’s oldest known alumni dies at 106

The woman who is believed to be East Carolina University’s oldest living alumni has died at the age of 106.

Josephine Catlette Stem

Josephine Catlette Stem

Josephine Mae Catlette Stem of Winston-Salem, who died April 27, received a teaching degree from East Carolina Teachers College in 1929. She taught at Wilton High School in Granville County for eight years before marrying James Stem and becoming a homemaker.

She lived most of her life in the Raleigh area. According to her obituary, her main pleasures in life were baking pound cakes to share with friends and watching the Atlanta Braves and Carolina Tar Heels on television.

She is survived by two children, four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Steve Tuttle

Josephin Catlette Stem1929



Alumni Association hosts April networking events

The East Carolina Alumni Association is hosting April networking events in Greenville and Raleigh. Both events are open to all alumni and friends of East Carolina, with an $11 cost for Alumni Association members and $17 for non-members.

The Greenville event is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 28 at A.J. McMurphy’s, 1914 Turnbury Drive. Register by April 23, indicating any special dietary needs during registration.

Featured alumni will be:

  • Jeff Foster ’83, founder and attorney at Foster Fitzpatrick and member of the East Carolina Alumni Association Board of Directors
  • Diane Taylor ’06, CEO and founder of Taylor Made Publishing

The Raleigh event is set for 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 18 Seaboard, located at 18 Seaboard Ave., Suite 100. Register by April 28, indicating any special dietary needs during registration.

Featured alumni will be:

  • Heather Dickson Ransom ’06, owner of Consilium Connect
  • Jeff Tippett ’91, founder of Targeted Persuasion

For both events, dress is PURPLE and GOLD business casual. Bring business cards for a business card exchange and the opportunity to win ECU door prizes.

Individuals wishing to join the alumni association to take advantage of member pricing on these and future events may do so directly on the event registration form. Please note that advanced registration is required before the deadline. Early registration is strongly encouraged, as space is limited depending on the venue.


Phil Kirk to address Honors College students

Phil Kirk of Raleigh, who chaired the State Board of Education for six years and led the state chamber of commerce for 16 years, will address Honors College students on Tuesday, March 31. He is expected to speak about the role of leadership in industry, education and government.

Phil Kirk

Phil Kirk

The Leadership Lecture Series event, which is free and open to the public, begins at 7 p.m. in room 1032 in the Bate Building.

Kirk, currently director of business and leadership for Brady, a Greensboro energy solutions company, served two terms on the ECU Board of Visitors and is a member of the ECU Educators Hall of Fame. A graduate of Catawba College, Kirk was named an honorary ECU alumnus in 2003.

Kirk was chief of staff to former governors Jim Holshouser and Jim Martin and U.S. Sen. Jim Broyhill. He twice served as secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

He currently serves on the boards of Meredith College, the N.C. Center for the Advancement of Teaching Foundation, the VIF International Education program. He was co-chair of the Strategic Planning Working Team for the Wake County Public schools.

In 1999, he chaired the working committees for the largest successful bond issue in North Carolina history–$2.75 billion for schools and roads and $3.1 billion for the UNC System, community colleges and UNC TV.

ECU received about $200 million from the bond issue, which funded construction of the Sci-Tech Building, the Student Rec Center and a major expansion of Joyner Library.

A native of Salisbury, Kirk began his career as a middle school journalism and English teacher. Honors College Dean Marianna Walker was one of his students.

Former Gov. Jim Hunt has said of Kirk, “If there’s a single person in this state who is more involved and at the center of every issue, I don’t know who it is.”

— Steve Tuttle


Alumni Association announces 27 scholarship recipients

The East Carolina Alumni Association has announced the 2015-2016 Alumni Scholarship recipients. Twenty-seven recipients will be awarded a total of $46,500.

Since 2005, the alumni association has awarded 224 scholarships totaling more than $302,000. Alumni Scholarships are given to full-time undergraduates at ECU who demonstrate leadership, volunteer service, and academic excellence. Each spring, the alumni association awards approximately 25 scholarships in amounts of $1,000 or $2,500 for the following academic year.

Alumni Scholarships are funded by proceeds from the association’s ECU Alumni Scholarship Classic golf tournament each fall and the Pirate Alumni Road Race and Fun Run each spring, as well as generous donations from alumni and friends.

The scholars will be honored at a luncheon April 25. Recipients include the following (italics indicate a second-time Alumni Scholarship recipient):

East Carolina Alumni Association Scholarship ($2,500)

  • Keith Winston Dunbar of Greenville, NC; exercise physiology major
  • Darcy Harrington-Brown Dupree of Raleigh, NC; nursing major
  • Zachary Hammer Evans of Asheville, NC; psychology major
  • Marisa Michele Giglio of Marlborough, MA; criminal justice major
  • Annaliese Sutton Gillette of Greenville, NC; hospitality management major
  • Lucas Thade Hopkins of Greenville, NC; biology major
  • Madison Shea Parsons of Charlotte, NC; marketing major
  • Kirsti Holthe Robertson of Charlotte, NC; nutrition and dietetics major
  • Emma Nicole Shirley of Cary, NC; exercise physiology and Hispanic studies double-major
  • Kathryn “Katie” Elizabeth Stanley of Greenville, NC; political science major
  • Maya Lawann Williams of Greensboro, NC; social work and English double-major

East Carolina Alumni Association Scholarship in memory of Yvonne Pearce ’82 ($2,500)

  • Najee Jalice Brown of Charlotte, NC; communication and entrepreneurship double-major

East Carolina Teachers College (ECTC) Scholarship ($1,000)

  • Emery Elizabeth Bulla of Asheboro, NC; speech and hearing sciences major
  • Jessica Nicole Buss of Fayetteville, NC; applied sociology major
  • Amber Madison Heere-MacLeod of Douglassville, PA; elementary education major
  • Mackenzie Elise McNamara of Charlotte, NC; family community services major
  • Stephanie Maria Morales of Rocky Mount, NC; exercise physiology major
  • Jordan Bethany Thomas of Boone, NC; art major
  • Matthew G. Vogel of Morganville, NJ; management major

Donald Y. Leggett ’58, ’62 Alumni Scholarship ($1,000)

  • Amanda L. Blakley of White Plains, MD; birth-kindergarten teacher education major
  • Danielle T. Holdner of Holly Springs, NC; child life major

Mary Jo Outland Baugh ’55 Alumni Scholarship ($2,500)

  • Erika M. Dietrick of Greenville, NC; biology major

Megan Grace Lavinder Memorial Scholarship ($1,000)

  • Aenia Saad Amin of Greensboro, NC; multidisciplinary studies and Hispanic studies double-major

New York Metro Alumni Chapter Scholarship ($1,000)

  • Michelle K. Gianvito of North Brunswick, NJ; business and marketing education major

Pitt County Chapter Scholarship ($1,000)

  • Lauren Elizabeth Frye of Woodbridge, VA; finance major

Tidewater Virginia Alumni Chapter Scholarship ($1,000)

  • Brianna Blaise Ingram of Virginia Beach, VA; elementary education major

Washington/Metro Alumni Scholarship ($1,000)

  • Keira Rachelle Harris of Bowie, MD; finance major

ECU Alum: Treating Ebola ‘an experience that few can imagine’

Adams, right, inspects the protective gear worn by another U.S. Public Health Service officer before the officer enters the Ebola treatment unit outside Monrovia, Liberia. (Photo courtesy U.S. Public Health Service Service)

Adams, right, inspects the protective gear worn by another U.S. Public Health Service officer before the officer enters the Ebola treatment unit outside Monrovia, Liberia. (Photo courtesy U.S. Public Health Service Service)


Daniel Adams, a 1999 ECU graduate, could have chosen to remain in his white-collar job overseeing management effectiveness programs at Environmental Protection Agency labs in Research Triangle Park and four other locations. Instead, he resigned that post to travel half a world away to help fight the Ebola crisis in Liberia.

Now a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Public Health Service, Adams has served since February as the preventative medicine officer at the Monrovia Medical Unit located about 30 miles outside the Liberian capitol.

The 25-bed hospital provided by the U.S. Defense Department opened last November. It is the only U.S. government-funded medical facility in Liberia.

“We have mainly focused on treating healthcare workers who have contracted Ebola so they can get back on the front lines of treating their fellow countrymen,” Adams said. “We have celebrated life and mourned the loss of life over the past couple of months.”

The Public Health Service “has allowed me to be part of a strong mission with positive effects worldwide,” he said. “Helping treat the Ebola patients in Liberia has been an experience that few can imagine.”

The Monrovia Medical Unit, which was built to care for medical workers who become infected with the Ebola virus, sits about 30 miles outside Liberia's capital. The 25-bed facility recently treated what officials hope will be its last Ebola-positive patient. (Photo courtesy U.S. Army)

The Monrovia Medical Unit, which was built to care for medical workers who become infected with the Ebola virus, sits about 30 miles outside Liberia’s capital. The 25-bed facility recently treated what officials hope will be its last Ebola-positive patient. (Photo courtesy U.S. Army)

He said a highlight of his service came recently when MMU staff treated what they hope will be the last Ebola-positive patient in the country.

A native of Greenville, Adams served in the Army after graduation and worked overseas as a civilian military employee. He also did postgraduate work at Anna Maria College in Massachusetts.

“I remember a leader in (the Public Health Service Officer Basic Course) telling me that we are here to ‘serve the underserved.’ I took that to heart.”

He said those words made an impression on him because that’s what he learned at ECU. “I feel it is important for everyone associated with ECU to hear how we reach around the world to help serve the unserved populations.”

Volunteering to serve at the Ebola clinic isn’t the first time Adams has sought out new experiences. “At my wedding reception in the Philippines, I requested that we have food indigenous to the area. I got what I wished for – bat!”

– Steve Tuttle