Category Archives: Alumni

ECU Alumni Association to recognize 2018 award winners

Five alumni and one honorary Pirate will be honored by the East Carolina University Alumni Association at its annual alumni awards ceremony on Friday, Oct. 19.

The awards recognize alumni and friends of the university who have demonstrated outstanding merit and achievement, distinguished themselves as leaders for the university, and adopted ECU as their own.

“Spanning the classes of 1967 to 2013, this year’s awardees include those who have served in the medical, military and corporate arenas. Through their service and achievement, they have shown the world what we already know – that Pirate alumni are second to none!” said Heath Bowman, associate vice chancellor for alumni relations. “From start to finish, our awards event is a showcase of our stars, and we are so grateful to get to spend time celebrating them each fall during ECU Homecoming Weekend.”

The recipients will be honored at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Greenville Convention Center. The media is invited to attend.

2018 Alumni Award Recipients


Virgil Clark ’50 Distinguished Service Award

Danny Scott

Danny Scott of Swansea, Illinois, graduated from the College of Business in 1984. Scott is the co-founder of the specialty food company All-N-Food, LLC. Scott served on the ECU Board of Trustees for eight years, was the recipient of the Laura Marie Leary Elliott Courageous Leader Award in 2015, and established a COB scholarship in 2008. Whenever he visits campus, Scott speaks with COB classes and on student discussion panels. He also serves as mentor and coach to students.


Honorary Alumni Award

Austin Bunch (posthumous)

While he did not graduate from ECU, Bunch served four chancellors at the university from 1999 until his death in 2017. He impacted almost every major campus celebration including installations, commencements, convocations and awards. His talents and love of the university were felt by hundreds of people across multiple administrations.


Outstanding Alumni Award

Kodi Azari

Kodi Azari of Pacific Palisades, California, graduated from the Brody School of Medicine in 1997. He is now the world-renowned surgical director of the hand transplant program at UCLA Health. Azari was one of the lead surgeons in the first double-hand transplant and the first arm transplant. He is also the medical co-director of Operation Mend, a UCLA Health program that provides free complex reconstructive surgery and psychological support to wounded service members. He credits ECU for shaping his career.


Lt. Commander Kathleen Ferguson

Lt. Commander Kathleen Ferguson of Atlanta graduated from the College of Health and Human Performance in 2007. As a quality assurance specialist for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, Ferguson approves and rejects critical pharmaceutical products, medical devices and vaccines for the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) and Department of Defense. She volunteered to be on the front lines in Sierra Leonne during the 2015 Ebola virus outbreak while also ensuring that the United States’ stockpile of medicines and medical devices stood ready and available if needed.


Charles Jenkins

Charles Jenkins of Laurinburg is a ’66 and ’67 alumnus from the College of Health and Human Performance. He is professor emeritus of educational leadership at UNC-Pembroke, where he’s worked in numerous roles for more than 47 years, including interim chancellor, provost, vice chancellor of academic affairs and director of admissions. He is also the former president and current member of the Pembroke Chamber of Commerce, as well as a member of the Laurinburg-Scotland Area Chamber of Commerce.


Young Alumni Award

Tywana Lawson

Tywana Lawson of La Grange is an ‘03, ’13, College of Nursing alumna. She is now the director of nursing programs at Nash Community College, where she oversaw an

increase in nursing student completion rates by 30 percentage points. Lawson also worked with Nash UNC Health Care to establish scholarships for first and second-year nursing students. She is a member of the American and North Carolina Nurses Association, Sigma Theta Tau International, and is an ECU Centennial Pirate.


Visit for more information about the ECU Alumni Awards.


-Contact: Erin Shaw, University Communications, 252-737-1505,

Brody School of Medicine names director of alumni affairs

Laura McFall Bond, new director of alumni affairs for the Brody School of Medicine.

Laura McFall Bond, new director of alumni affairs for the Brody School of Medicine. (Photo by ECU Athletics)

The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University has named its first director of alumni affairs.

Laura McFall Bond will oversee Brody’s efforts to increase the medical school’s engagement with alumni through communications and strategic events. She comes to Brody from the ECU Pirate Club where, as the director of special events and hospitality, she oversaw donor-related events, managed football and men’s basketball gameday hospitality, and led the alumni Letterwinner Experience aimed at bringing former student-athletes together for reunion activities.

Bond brings six years of experience in working with alumni and students through her employment with ECU and two fraternity headquarters, Pi Kappa Alpha and Pi Kappa Phi. She has served on the University of Tennessee’s Martin Young Alumni Council as well as their Martin-Memphis Alumni Board. She currently supports the ECU Chapter of Chi Omega as their advisor.

Bond completed her master’s degree in leadership and policy studies at the University of Memphis in Memphis, Tennessee, in 2015. She earned her undergraduate degree in communications from the University of Tennessee at Martin in 2012.

“Brody is a huge asset to the state of North Carolina, and I am overjoyed to be in a position to work with alumni, faculty, students and staff who are making the world a better place,” said Bond.

“ECU’s medical alumni are an incredible force for good across our state and beyond,” said Brody dean Dr. Mark Stacy. “I’m excited that Laura has joined our team, not only to help us keep our graduates informed about issues important to Brody and the health of our state, but also to help us be more intentional about supporting their efforts and recognizing their successes as they live out the Brody mission.”


-by Amy Adams Ellis, University Communications

Purple Gold Golf Tournament raises $20K for alumni association

The East Carolina University Alumni Association hosted the annual Purple Gold Golf Tournament on Friday, Sept. 7 at the Ironwood Golf and Country Club in Greenville, where 32 teams of golfers played for prizes, pride and tradition. The event raised nearly $20,000 for scholarships, according to the alumni association.

“This is one of our major scholarship fundraisers for the year,” said Heath Bowman, associate vice chancellor for alumni relations. “The timing of it makes it really fun. It’s an exciting game weekend in early fall when alumni return en masse to Greenville. And it’s an event that many people circle on their calendars.”

Golfers hit the links at Ironwood Golf & Country Club Friday, Sep. 7 for the Purple Gold Golf Tournament.

Golfers hit the links at Ironwood Golf & Country Club Friday, Sep. 7 for the Purple Gold Golf Tournament. (Photo by George Crocker)

Ryan Cole ’12 traveled from Syracuse, New York, to play in the tournament with his father, Randy Cole ’85, who made the trip from Stafford, Virginia. It was their first time participating in the tournament.

“We’ve wanted to do it for years,” Ryan Cole said. “I’ve always heard Ironwood is a beautiful course. I also like doing anything alumni related and spending time with my dad.”

For five-time participants Ryan Castillo, Jason Sagadraca, Andrew Sagadraca and Wayne Conner, the tournament has become a yearly tradition – and a chance to dress up. The team, named the Fore Fathers, arrived in matching American flag shorts, shirts and hats, complete with powdered wigs that would make George Washington proud.

“This is how we stand out. We can’t golf so we have to dress up,” Jason Sagadraca joked.

Proceeds from the Purple Gold Golf Open go directly to the ECU Alumni Scholarship Program.

Since its establishment in 2005, the program has awarded 297 scholarships totaling over $432,000.

Kirsten Powell, a senior public health student and alumni scholarship recipient, was on the course Friday chatting with alumni and overseeing the hole-in-one contest.

“It’s really rewarding to be out here,” she said. “This scholarship not only provides funds but opportunities; it’s awesome.”


1st place gross: ASAP Photo & Camera

  • Carder Frutiger ‘05
  • Stephen Pugh
  • Tyler Braden
  • Eric Miller

1st Place net: Institutional Interiors

  • Mike Baskett ‘77
  • Tim Hill ‘77
  • Roddy Seymour ‘73
  • Scott Seymour

For more information about the alumni scholarship program, visit


-Erin Shaw, University Communications


Driving in style: Alumni association promotes Pirate plates

Alumni Association now welcoming all Pirates, no longer charging membership fee

MFA alumna honored with Valdosta Presidential Excellence Award for Teaching

Abigail Heuss, who holds a Master of Fine Arts in metal design from ECU’s School of Art and Design, is the recipient of Valdosta State University’s 2018 Presidential Excellence Award for Teaching.

The Presidential Excellence Award for Teaching recognizes a faculty member who employs innovative teaching strategies and demonstrates a strong commitment to student success. Heuss, an associate professor of art, was chosen for consistently creating an active learning environment that encourages collaboration, inquiry, and self-discovery.

“[Abigail] is the most selfless and generous teacher with which I have had the pleasure to work,” said Hollis Barnett, interim head of VSU’s Department of Art and Design. “Her Student Opinion of Instruction (SOI) scores are always among the highest within the department and the university. It is not uncommon for the students to rank her teaching a perfect five on a five-point scale.

“[She] is an organized thinker and focused instructor. She is a natural teacher. Her personality and enthusiasm is infectious for her students and her colleagues.”

Pictured left to right are Valdosta State University President Richard A. Carvajal; Abigail Heuss, VSU associate professor of art; and Dr. Robert Smith, VSU provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.

Pictured left to right are Valdosta State University President Richard A. Carvajal; Abigail Heuss, VSU associate professor of art; and Dr. Robert Smith, VSU provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. (Contributed photo)

Heuss, who specializes in jewelry, metalsmithing, and three-dimensional art, has taught at VSU since 2013.

“This award is such an honor,” she said. “I love my job. I wake up excited to come to work every day, and so it’s really nice to hear that I’ve had an impact on other people’s experiences at VSU as well.

“My goal as a teacher is to inspire and encourage students of all levels to work hard, to take chances by investing something of themselves into the work, and ultimately to become empowered by making art. I work to build an environment where students feel safe to ask questions, take risks, and occasionally fail at things in the short term in order to learn how to research and be active learners.”

Heuss has coordinated several exhibits to allow students to showcase their work and build their resume. She also maintains a website that features student work from VSU’s jewelry and metalsmithing courses.

Heuss redesigned VSU Department of Art and Design’s small metals lab to make it more efficient for her students and purchased updated metalsmithing tools and equipment. She also secured a grant from The Enamelist Society to purchase the necessary materials and equipment to teach enameling in one of her courses.

Her motivation to see students succeed comes from her passion for the art she creates with her students, Heuss said.

“There’s something really empowering about learning how to make things,” she said. “I think about the change in my own life that came about when I figured out that I had that power to take a material, take tools, and turn that material into something that was meaningful to me and to other people. Being able to help somebody else have that same experience is really beautiful to me.”

Heuss’s work has been featured in numerous local, regional, national, and international exhibitions and publications. Many of her pieces have won awards, and she has presented on her craft at multiple conferences.




Driving in style: Alumni association promotes Pirate plates

The East Carolina Alumni Association is part of a renewed push to get more drivers showing their Pirate pride with ECU-branded license plates.

The program, an existing partnership with the university and the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles, returns a portion of license plate fees back to ECU and supports student scholarships.

PeeDee shows off a Pirate plate on campus.

PeeDee shows off a Pirate plate on campus. (Photo by Rhett Butler)

“This partnership makes total sense for us,” said Heath Bowman, associate vice chancellor for alumni relations. “A vast majority of our ECU alumni and friends live in North Carolina, so we were excited when this opportunity came about. We want to challenge all Pirates around the state to upgrade their vehicles with a Pirate plate. It is a great way to not only support our deserving students, but to help showcase the strength and generosity of Pirate Nation around our state.”

The specialized ECU license plate with the Pirate logo costs an additional $25 on top of the regular DMV registration fee. Of that amount, $15 goes to the ECU Alumni Scholarship Fund. For an additional $30, the Pirate plate can be personalized with a custom message such as a class year.

Options available for Pirates at the DMV.

Options available for Pirates at the DMV. (Photos by the ECU Alumni Association)

To order a Pirate license plate, go to the nearest DMV office or visit the DMV online. For more information, visit

Only Pirate plates purchased in North Carolina support ECU scholarships. Various states offer collegiate license plates, and those interested in an out-of-state Pirate license plate should check with their local DMV.


-by Erin Shaw, University Communications

Recent ECU graduate wins national research contest

A research paper by a 2018 graduate of East Carolina University’s Master of Public Health program has won a national contest.

Preventing Chronic Disease, a medical journal established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, recently announced that Fei Gao’s paper, “Prevalence of gestational diabetes and health behaviors among women: Findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2007-2014,” was one of two graduate-level winners of their 2018 Research Paper Contest.

Fei Geo

Fei Gao (Contributed photo)

The contest required papers to be relevant to the prevention, screening, surveillance or population-based intervention of chronic diseases, including arthritis, asthma, cancer, depression, diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease. Two winners were selected from the graduate student category and one each from the doctoral, undergraduate and high school categories. More than 100 papers were submitted.

“My MPH provided many opportunities to practice and utilize research techniques, from our internship to our professional paper to attending research conferences,” said Gao. “My role as a graduate assistant for the diabetes study conducted at the ECU Family Medicine Center also helped cultivate my interest in diabetes. All in all, the combination of great mentors and opportunities helped prepare me in writing this manuscript.

“With much more to learn about diabetes and preventative care, I will continue my research to provide pertinent findings to help reform current interventions and guidelines for diabetes and other related chronic diseases,” Gao added.

The journal will publish Gao’s winning paper later this year. Gao is the first student in ECU’s Master of Public Health program to receive the honor.


-by Kelly Rogers Dilda, University Communications

Alumni Association announces new board members

The East Carolina University Alumni Association announced the addition of five new members to its 28-member board of directors. The new board members will play an active role in guiding the efforts and initiatives of the association, which reaches more than 170,000 ECU alumni worldwide.

The East Carolina University Alumni Association recently inducted five new members to its board of directors.

The East Carolina University Alumni Association recently inducted five new members to its board of directors. (Photo contributed by ECU Alumni Association)

They are:

  • Karen Correa ’92 from Mickleton, New Jersey, received her Bachelor of Science in biology from ECU. She is the senior director of clinical operations for Adare Pharmaceuticals, serves as an editorial board member of Clinical Leader, and is a board member for CAMcare Health Corporation in Camden, New Jersey. Correa said she sees serving on the alumni board as an opportunity to give back to the university that gave so much to her. She wants to help spread the word about ECU so that more people from the New Jersey area consider it as an education option.
  • Dr. Christopher Heery ’06 from Durham received his medical degree from ECU’s Brody School of Medicine. He is the chief medical officer for Bavarian Nordic and head of the clinical trials group for the Laboratory of Tumor Immunology and Biology for the National Cancer Institute. He also serves on the Clinical Trials Research Advisory Board for BSOM. “I hope to see Brody and the Greenville community benefit from a stronger commitment to clinical trial research over the next five to 10 years,” he said.
  • Mr. Adam Keen ’05 ’08 from Wrightsville Beach received his bachelor’s degree in business administration and his MBA from the ECU College of Business. He is an active supporter of the college and the ECU Miller School of Entrepreneurship as well as an alumni volunteer for admissions. He is a partner at Tidewater Equity Partners LLC. “I am grateful for the opportunity to serve as a member of the board of directors and I look forward to working alongside my fellow board members as we help connect and engage past, present and future ECU Pirates,” Keen said.
  • Tara Parker ’99 ’02 ’06 from Greenville received her bachelor’s degree in exercise and sports science, a Master of Arts in education and a master’s degree in administration from ECU. She works as a school administrator with Pitt County Schools and serves on the Pitt County Schools Discipline Task Force. She has previously served on numerous councils and boards serving Pitt County Schools, Pitt Community College and ECU.
  • Valerie Tarte ’98 from Wilmington received her bachelor’s in nursing from ECU. She works with the UNC-Wilmington School of Nursing to teach BSN students the core concepts of leadership and management for professional nursing. She also serves as a clinical instructor for senior nursing students at Cape Fear Community College and is an active supporter of her local Girl Scout troop. “Although I graduated from ECU over 20 years ago, I knew it was time to give something back,” Tarte said. “I am thrilled to become a part of such a committed board. I cannot wait to start building lasting relationships as well as getting into the dynamics of creating new events for our alumni.”

Heath Bowman, associate vice chancellor for alumni relations, said the board of directors is critical to meeting the alumni association’s mission to inform, involve and serve members of the ECU family.

“The alumni board provides the university with invaluable insight, and each member’s expertise and experience helps us advance our mission,” he said. “I’m excited to welcome our new board members and look forward to their future contributions to ECU.”

Board members serve three-year terms and meet four times a year. The board strives to maintain a diverse and inclusive membership made up of graduates from the many colleges at the university. The board will help provide leadership through advocacy and education and ensure an environment which is open, inclusive and sensitive to the university’s diverse alumni base.


-by Erin Shaw, University Communications

Miller School of Entrepreneurship students visit, learn from school’s namesake

In 2015, the Miller School of Entrepreneurship was established thanks to a $5 million gift from ECU College of Business (COB) alumnus Fielding Miller and his wife, Kim Grice Miller. The school’s goal is to serve as a regional hub that prepares students to take an entrepreneurial mindset and skill set into their communities.

Students with the Miller School of Entrepreneurship pitch their ideas to Raleigh-entrepreneurs, including COB Alumnus and the school’s namesake, Fielding Miller. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

Students with the Miller School of Entrepreneurship pitch their ideas to Raleigh-entrepreneurs, including COB Alumnus and the school’s namesake, Fielding Miller. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

Three years later, Miller School students hit the road and pitched their ideas to the school’s regional advisory councils, which include COB alumni and entrepreneurs. The council visits have included Wilmington, Greenville and Raleigh.

On April 6, students with the Miller School visited CAPTRUST Financial Advisors, the Raleigh-based independent investment research andfee-based investment advisory firm. This visit marked the first time that Miller, co-founder, chairman andCEO of CAPTRUST, was able to see Miller School students in action, which included a five-minute presentation and 30-minute Q&A session with three student teams.

Fielding Miller

Fielding Miller

When asked how it felt to see these presentations, Miller said, “I was thrilled with the visit – the student presentations were compelling and showed a lot of creativity, andthe turnout of the experienced entrepreneurs in the Raleigh area was heartwarming to see.”

The Raleigh-area entrepreneurs that Miller mentioned included members of the Miller School’s Triangle Advisory Council. Van Isley, the Triangle Advisory Council’s president, also attended the event. He recently gave $2 million to the COB that will be used to provide a space for business, engineering, technology and art students to collaborate on product innovation and entrepreneurship. The Miller School student presentations marked his first time Isley saw the student entrepreneurs in action. Of the presentations, he said the students’ energy, enthusiasm and passion was exciting and invigorating to witness.

“Several years ago I participated in one of the first shark tank presentations, which was part of a final exam for one of the senior business classes,” said Isley. “It was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done, andit made me want to get more involved. It really speaks to the quality of students the College of Business is producing.”

Student Experiences

The Raleigh-area entrepreneurs were not the only ones in the meeting that were impressed. The participating student teams were also impressed with what they saw and heard.

CAPTRUST’s offices sit on top of the 17-story, CAPTRUST Tower in Raleigh and provide a view of Raleigh’s growing skyline. They heard from Miller, who talked about his entrepreneurial journey and his top lessons learned over the years. And, these students heard pointed, direct feedback from the entrepreneurs in the room.

Senior Chris Allen

Senior Chris Allen

Chris Allen is a pre-med computer-science major who is taking advantage of the entrepreneurial and small business management classes provided by the Miller School. He pitched a health carerelated blockchain idea during his visit.

“I never had an experience that was that invigorating, and that allowed me to learn so quickly and connect with so many people that could influence my future,” said Allen.

Brady Hillhouse of the Charlotte area is a freshman that is pursuing a double major in finance and entrepreneurship. He is already an entrepreneur who owns a foreign exchange education company.

He viewed the experience as a working lunch to receive mentorship and guidance from entrepreneurs from multiple industries. According to Hillhouse, his projected career path is very similar to Miller’s. He wants to become a stockbroker and open his own financial advisory firm, andHillhouse says what he heard at the event was valuable.

“That was justincredible feedback and mentorship on the next steps to take in life and his company,” said Hillhouse. “It’s feedback I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else even if I paid for it.”

According to Dr. Mike Harris, director of the Miller School, the April event, as well as the previousevents, were designed to help establish mentoring relationships.

“The Miller School is very fortunate to have four advisory councils with active statewide members who are willing to help nurture the next generation of entrepreneurs,” said Harris.

“I was astounded by the quantity and quality of successful entrepreneurs who were willing to give of their time, energy and experience,” said Isley.

After the event, Miller was not only pleased with what he witnessed but is excited for the future.

“I want to participate in as many as I can,” said Miller. “It is fascinating to see the students in action, and I came away more enthusiastic than ever about the potential of the program. So far, it (the Miller School) has exceeded my expectations.”

According to Harris, the Miller School will plan a similar event in Charlotte during a Fall 2018 meeting of its Piedmont Regional Advisory Council.

Van Isley, CEO and founder of Professional Builders Supply, speaks with Miller School students during their recent visit to Raleigh’s CAPTRUST.

Van Isley, CEO and founder of Professional Builders Supply, speaks with Miller School students during their recent visit to Raleigh’s CAPTRUST.


-by Michael Rudd, University Communications

Clinton’s lead surgeon returns to Brody for lecture

The chest surgeon who led the team that once operated on former President Bill Clinton gave a lecture at the East Carolina Heart Institute on April 25.

The surgeon, Dr. Joshua Sonett, graduated with honors from East Carolina University’s medical school in 1988. He is chief of general thoracic surgery at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, professor of surgical oncology at CUMC, and the director of the The Price Family Center for Comprehensive Chest Care and the Lung and Esophageal Center.

Dr. Joshua Sonett gives a lecture titled “Thymectomy in Myasthenia Gravis: Surgical Evolution and Proof in Benign and Malignant Disease” at the East Carolina Heart Institute on April 25.

Dr. Joshua Sonett gives a lecture titled “Thymectomy in Myasthenia Gravis: Surgical Evolution and Proof in Benign and Malignant Disease” at the East Carolina Heart Institute on April 25. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

In the 2005 surgery on Clinton, Sonett and his colleagues removed scar tissue that built up following Clinton’s quadruple bypass operation earlier that year.

“That was a privilege to get to know and treat President Clinton, and it was just like every other patient, believe it or not,” Sonett said. “I like going to my patients’ bedside and chatting about things, getting to know them as a person, and it was the same with Clinton. He did talk about the Middle East maybe more than other patients,” he added with a chuckle.

The importance of getting to know his patients was instilled in him at Brody. Sonett recalled having to write pages of patients’ social histories as a medical student.

“It was just as important to get to know them as it was to know their health needs,” he said.

Now, he loves being close with his patients.

Sonett’s lecture was part of the Brody School of Medicine’s cardiovascular sciences grand rounds, which are weekly topic-and case-based presentations by members of the faculty providing up-to-date knowledge about timely issues in medicine. In it, he described his involvement in a 10-year study on a disease called myasthenia gravis that can make it hard for people to breathe and walk around.

Brody School of Medicine’s cardiovascular sciences faculty attend Dr. Joshua Sonett’s lecture on April 25.

Brody School of Medicine’s cardiovascular sciences faculty attend Dr. Joshua Sonett’s lecture on April 25.

“Surgeons for years had been taking out the thymus, although it wasn’t clear if that surgery improved the patients’ lives,” Sonett said. “This study definitively proved that the surgery helped. That’s one of the highlights of my career that I was involved in that.”

Although Sonett now works for a different medical school, he said he is thankful for his education from Brody.

“There are so many good med schools around the country, and I think I was blessed to come to ECU. It was a very young med school at the time…it was a great learning environment. There’s no limits to what you can do here, graduating from here.”


Related: Clinton’s lead surgeon is ECU medical school graduate 


-by Erin Shaw, University Communications

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