ECU community mourns loss of instructor

By Kathryn Kennedy and Jeannine Manning Hutson
ECU News Services

Co-workers and students of East Carolina University teaching instructor Debbie O’Neal are grieving this week following her death March 31.

She and her husband – both rated pilots – were killed when their fixed-wing Lancair LC-42 aircraft crashed in a Winston-Salem residential neighborhood after experiencing engine trouble, a National Traffic Safety Board official told media on Monday.

Funeral services are scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday, April 3 at Rock Springs Center, 4025 N.C. Highway 43 N, Greenville.

An additional memorial service was held Tuesday, April 2 at the Washington Eye Center, where her husband, Dennis, worked.

O’Neal came to ECU in 2004, and this semester she was teaching three sections of English composition in the classroom and two distance-education sections of English grammar.

Department of English Chair Jeffrey Johnson spent Tuesday meeting with students in O’Neal’s classes, accompanied by staff from the ECU counseling center. He said the students were “taking it hard,” and many asked if they could reach out to her family.

“Her students know how invested she was in them,” Johnson said. “She was really outgoing, full of energy and ideas, generous with her time. All these qualities of hers…make (the loss) even harder.”

O’Neal was very involved in the ECU Language Academy, which provides intensive English-language instruction to international students and professionals. She also worked with the College of Education by developing ways to integrate English as a second language (ESL) teacher education into existing curriculum.

Marjorie Ringler, associate professor in the College of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership, said she and O’Neal worked closely for years. “We were inseparable at work and as friends as well,” Ringler said Tuesday.

O’Neal was a linguist and Ringler works on partnerships with principals and school districts; together they were a great team, Ringler said. The pair recently attended an international conference in Dallas, presenting their success in teaching English as a second language in a rural eastern North Carolina school.

O’Neal engaged her classroom students as well, Ringler said, and held them to high standards.

“In the Department of English, she saw her students as her kids,” Ringler continued. “She was a mother to them because (she taught) the freshman composition class.”

She added that O’Neal kept in touch with many students and would get Facebook and email messages about how she had changed their lives. “She made sure everybody knew that she cared,” Ringler said.

“She lived life to the fullest. She was a pilot, made her own jewelry, and was always in touch with her three kids. She skied as well. What did she not do? And she tackled everything head on.”

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OAAS seeks nominations for excellence awards

The Organization of African American Staff seeks nominations for the ECU African-American Awards of Excellence.

The OAAS seeks to achieve a visible commitment of the inclusion and valuing of African -American staff, faculty and students at East Carolina University through the promotion of cultural and professional development, wellness, networking, mentorship, leadership, community outreach, scholarship and economic prosperity.

The inaugural ECU African-American Awards of Excellence recognizes outstanding contributions by ECU African-Americans. Nominees for the awards may include current and past ECU African American faculty, staff, students and administrators.

Nominations may also be made for outstanding ECU alumni who serve as community leaders.

Send the nomination letter to Dr. Lathan E. Turner and the OAAS Awards Committee, by Monday, Feb. 4that 5 p.m.  Email nomination letters to turnerla@ecu.edu  or mail to East Carolina University, C/O OAAS Award Selection Committee, Ledonia Wright Cultural Center, Mail Stop 426, Greenville, NC 27858.

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Red Carpet Affair to feature banquet, awards

OAAS 2013 Red Carpet Flyer_2013

 

The ECU Organization of African American staff presents A Red Carpet Affair dinner banquet and awards celebration. WITN-TV news anchor Lynnette Taylor will keynote the event, which will include a two-hour program honoring achievements of African-Americans in the ECU community.

At the conclusion of the event, participants may enjoy the Motown Concert at Wright Auditorium on the ECU Campus.

Tickets for both events are $35 general admission, $23 for students.

For the Red Carpet Affair only, tickets are $25 general admission, $15 for students.

To purchase tickets contact 1-800-ECU ARTS, 252-328-4788 or www.ecuarts.com.

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For William Friday: Donate to higher education institution

According to a statement from the UNC General Administration, the family of President Emeritus William Friday has asked that those wishing to make memorial gifts in his honor consider a donation to the college or university of their choice.

While they expressed a particular interest in student scholarships, his daughters did not want to create a new university-wide memorial fund to receive such donations or determine how gifts would be used or distributed.

For additional information about memorial gifts, visit www.northcarolina.edu, which also provides contact information for giving opportunities at 17 UNC campuses.

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