ECU continuing studies celebrates 50 years of service to the region

The East Carolina University Division of Continuing Studies celebrated its 50th anniversary this month with special events that drew current and former directors, administrators, faculty and guests.

David Middleton, the director and dean during the 1960s and 70s cut an anniversary cake and Herman Phelps, a director in the 1980s, made closing remarks at the celebration luncheon on Sept. 18. Along the way there was an unveiling of a pen and ink drawing of the Erwin Building, the division’s home, and an announcement by Diana Henshaw, the division’s current director, of a new award to recognize the work of faculty that teach Continuing Studies classes.

The award, said Henshaw, will be named the Max R. Joyner Award for Faculty Service Through Continuing Education. Joyner, of Greenville, is an ECU alumnus and a former member of the ECU Board of Trustees.

The guest speaker for the program was Terrance E. Deal, a best-selling author and expert on organizational leadership. He is a professor education at Vanderbilt University.

Deal talked about his best-seller book “Learning with Soul: An Uncommon Journey of the Spirit,” and said the most successful leaders evoke in their employees a sense of love, authorship, power and significance.

“Love,” he said, “means caring and compassion.” Authorship “allows people to put their signature on their products.” Power lets the employee “influence the larger workplace,” and significance is the sense of “offering something of value to the world.”

In his address, Deal cited the success of the Saturn automobile company and Southwest Airlines as examples of companies that practice these leaderships principles.

The ECU Division of Continuing Studies evolved from efforts after World War II to provide continuing educational opportunities to public school teachers and other adult students.

Dr. Mary Jo Bratton, ECU’s historian, said the school’s extension program began with Dennis Cooke, the president of East Carolina Teachers College in 1946. In the spring of 1947, Cooke appointed veteran administrator Howard J. McGinnis to head the new Bureau of Field Service. Among the duties of the new office were to conduct off-campus classes and workshops and assist recent graduates with their work as teachers in the public schools. A total of 34 student enrolled in extension classes during the 1947 fall term.

By the mid-1950s the Bureau of Field Service hosted more than 25 annual summer workshops that brought several thousand public school teachers and administrators to the campus to study a wide range of topics. Along with the classes and workshops, the field service bureau offered career guidance, academic counseling and aptitudes and interests testing to students and prospective students.

John D. Messick, who followed Cooke as East Carolina’s president in 1947, was strong advocate for the extension program. He announced publically that the campus was “prepared to offer any type of instruction our staff is capable of teaching, provided there are sufficient requests for it.”

At the start of the 1960s, the program was operating under a new name — the East Carolina College Extension Service — and was enrolling more than 2,000 students at 40 locations from Raleigh to Manteo. It was one of the largest extension programs in the South.

The success and rapid growth of East Carolina’s off-campus programs gave rise to other innovative campus projects. For example, in the fall of 1954, East Carolina became a pioneer in the new field of educational television by developing the South’s first TV course that could be taken for credit.