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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Folger Shakespeare Library exhibit features ECU connections

Irish mantle 1, resized

A replica of an Irish mantle, or cloak, created by East Carolina University School of Art and Design students in Robin Haller’s textile and design course is part of the exhibit at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Photo courtesy of the Folger Shakespeare Library.

By Alexa DeCarr, ECU News Services

An exhibit on display at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., is showcasing the achievements of Dr. Thomas Herron, an associate professor of English at East Carolina University, students in ECU’s School of Art and Design and the University Multimedia Center.

The exhibit, which opened in January and runs through May 19, is named “Nobility and Newcomers in Renaissance Ireland” and focuses on the Irish upper class during the 16th to mid-17th century and its cultural exchanges with England. It investigates the political struggles of the period while acknowledging the ways in which English and Irish cultures influenced each other through achievements in literature, architecture and the arts.

“It goes beyond the black and white view of the interactions between the English and the Irish,” Herron said of the exhibit.

Students in ECU assistant professor Robin Haller’s textile and design course recreated a replica of an Irish mantle, which Herron said is a type of outer covering or cloak worn by the Irish. The University Multimedia Center also contributed to the exhibit by creating a 3-D computerized recreation of a tower house castle from the Middle Ages that allows viewers to get a virtual tour.

Herron said that a 16th century portrait of Queen Elizabeth I “discovered” in Manteo while hanging in plain sight during a conference organized by the ECU English Department is on display at the exhibit as well.

“ECU has been so generous and has played a major role in the exhibit,” Herron said. “Different departments within the university have gone out of their way to help with the exhibit.”

While the exhibit focuses on Europe during the Renaissance, Herron said modern Americans can still appreciate it.

“Shakespeare is a powerful influence on the U.S. and our culture,” he said. “And many Americans have Irish roots.”

The exhibit, “Nobility and Newcomers in Renaissance Ireland,” features portraits, manuscripts, artifacts, family records, and rare books drawn from collections in Ireland and the United States. The exhibition includes nearly 100 items from the Folger collection, as well as materials from the National Gallery of Ireland, the University of Wisconsin, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Library of Ireland, and private collections.

Brendan Kane, a historian of modern Ireland and an associate professor at the University of Connecticut, was the co-curator of the exhibit.

For more information on the exhibit, visit www.folger.edu/Ireland or contact Tom Herron at herront@ecu.edu.

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ECU student selected to present research

East Carolina University student Maggie Steinhauer was one of 30 students selected to present undergraduate scholarship at the First Annual Society of Cinema and Media Studies Undergraduate Conference, scheduled for April 12-13 at the University of Notre Dame.

Steinhauer is a senior English major and film studies minor, and a student assistant for ECU Dining Services. She was chosen to present undergraduate scholarship on any aspect of cinema and media history, criticism or theory.

Steinhauer will present “’Bowties are Cool’: Fandom in the Mainstream,” on the BBC television series “Doctor Who” and the implications of social media on the evolution of fandom.

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ECU grad student debuts new online journal

East Carolina University creative writing graduate student Michael Kent Brantley has published the first issue of an online  journal entitled “What the Fiction.”  The journal is available at http://www.whatthefiction.com.

Cover art for the new journal was completed by Jim Fuess.

ECU English instructor Dean Tuck serves as associate editor for the journal.

Brantley said the work was inspired through a creative writing class taught by ECU professor Luke Whisnant, who serves as an advisory editor for the new journal. Professors Liza Wieland and Alex Albright also supported Brantley’s work.

The journal publishes fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry. The first issue includes poetry from ECU graduate students Jessica Cory and Meghan Palko.

Brantley serves as a graduate assistant for Tar River Poetry (http://www.tarriverpoetry.com/) and a graduate teaching assistant in the ECU Department of English.

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Poet, critic Stephen Burt to visit ECU Feb. 7

Harvard professor and poet-critic Stephen Burt will visit East Carolina University at 7 p.m. Feb. 7 in the second floor exhibit gallery at Joyner Library.

Burt’s books include “The Art of the Sonnet,” with David Mikics; “Close Calls with Nonsense: Reading New Poetry,”; “Parallel Play, a book of poems”: and “Randall Jarrell and His Age.” His writings on poets and poetry appear regularly in the Nation, the London Review of Books, Boston Review, and other journals in Britain and America. His next book of poems, Belmont, will appear from Graywolf Press in 2013.

Burt wrote his second book about another poet-critic, Randall Jarrell, who  settled in North Carolina. Some of Jarrell’s books and papers have now been acquired by Joyner Library, as part of the Stuart Wright Collection, where they are now available for study. On his visit to ECU, Burt will read from his own poetry and answer questions about the creative relationship between writing poetry and writing criticism.

A recent interview with Burt by ECU English professor John Hoppenthaler, along with several of Burt’s poems, is available at http://connotationpress.com/a-poetry-congeries-with-john-hoppenthaler/1027-stephen-burt-poetry.

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