Distinguished Military Service Society honors newest members

The Distinguished Military Service Society honored service to the nation and service to East Carolina University at a ceremony and dinner held at the Greenville Hilton on Friday. In partnership with the ECU Alumni Association, the society inducted 12 new members, including three from the 2020-21 class who were not able to be recognized last year due to the pandemic.

Chancellor Philip Rogers gives the chancellor’s coin to Lt. Col. Billy Dye during halftime of ECU’s Military Appreciation Day football game against Temple. (Photos by Cliff Hollis).

“Those who were nominated and selected for the Distinguished Military Service Society have demonstrated through voice and deed to be supporters of the freedoms we cherish,” said Dr. Worth Carter, an Air Force veteran and ECU alumnus who served as the event’s master of ceremonies. “These talented recipients have willingly directed their service back to the university so that succeeding generations will have a chance to achieve what the members of the Distinguished Military Service Society have already attained.”

While most inductees are ECU alumni and served on active duty, the society does include non-alumni who have had an impact on the university. Inductees were also honored during halftime at the Military Appreciation Day football game on Saturday against Temple. Chancellor Philip Rogers presented each recipient with the chancellor’s coin to signify the occasion.

ECU is known for being military-friendly and was named a 2021 Military Times Best for Vets school in June — an accolade it has achieved several times since the annual ranking was created 10 years ago. The university offers numerous programs and resources to make campus welcoming for veterans and service members.

2020-21 Inductees

Lt. Col. Donald Carter served in the Air Force from 1983 to 2007. He was a pilot, aircraft commander and instructor in KC-135 and KC-10 aircraft. He accumulated more than 2,500 flight hours, including combat and combat support hours for operations Just Cause, Desert Storm/Desert Shield, Southern Watch and Northern Watch. In addition, Carter served as a flight commander and deputy chief of joint exercises and training at Air Combat Command and was chief of air mobility tanker tactics at the Air Mobility Warfare Center. He was awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Aerial Achievement Medal. Carter graduated from ECU with a business degree in 1982 and an MBA in 1983 and is an active member in the College of Business Alumni Association and the Pirate Club.

Lt. Col. James A. Harris Jr. graduated from ECU in 1963 with a degree in business before joining the Air Force. Harris completed more than 60 combat missions in Vietnam, including many KC-135 aircraft refueling missions. He then served three years in the Air Force Reserves at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Georgia as a C-124 navigator and 12 years in the Alabama Air National Guard as an RF-4C/F4-C weapons systems officer. He earned the Vietnam Service Medal and the Air Medal with oak leaf clusters. Harris is a member of the Pirate Club and the Order of the Cupola Society. He and his wife, Selba, an ECU alumna, established an honors student scholarship in the College of Nursing. They also support the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Wounded Warrior Project.

Col. Kenneth Stalls served in the Army’s Company H, 2nd Battalion, 350th Infantry Regiment, 88th Infantry Division in Germany, Austria, and Italy in the 1950s. He was awarded the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Award, the Army Commendation Medal and the Army Achievement Medal. Stalls was still in the military when he entered ECU, serving in the Army Reserves. He received his undergraduate degree in industrial arts in 1961 and his master’s degree in supervision and secondary principalship in 1964. He went on to become a teacher and principal at John A. Holmes High School as well as the principal of Chowan High School. The ECU Educators Hall of Fame inducted Stalls in 2001 for his extensive contributions to the field.  Stalls completed his military service as a member of the North Carolina Army National Guard.

2021-22 Inductees

Col. Scott Barker served in the Army from 1978 to 2015. While in service, Barker studied Spanish, Portuguese and French at the Defense Language Institute, the Department of Defense’s premier language education school. He was also deployed to Iraq in 2005. His military awards include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and the Defense Meritorious Service Medal. Barker taught security studies in ECU’s political science department from 2016 to 2019. He is also the co-chair of the East Carolina Veterans Coalition and past president of the Pitt County Veterans Council.

Cpt. Steven Barnaby served in the Army from 1988 to 2015. He was the ECU executive officer and assistant professor of military science from 2013 to 2015 and graduated with a master’s degree in education in 2016. As a freshman ROTC instructor, Barnaby advised over 80 students per semester. As an organizational manager for the Army in Germany for nearly a decade, he ensured soldiers were educated, trained and prepared to accomplish their responsibilities at all times and in all environments. In addition to his military work, Barnaby started a community service project to address the health and living needs of the underserved Latino community in Pitt County.

Lt. Col. Billy Dye was commissioned as a distinguished graduate through Air Force ROTC and now serves as the chief of wing safety and a T-6A instructor pilot at Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas. He was previously an Air Force One advance agent, charged with ensuring the safe arrival and departure of Air Force One for the president, first lady, vice president and White House personnel. Dye’s deployments include supporting Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and Inherent Resolve. He has earned the Meritorious Service medal, Air Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, among other decorations. He was an ECU 40 under 40 honoree in 2016 and will be the next AFROTC Detachment Commander at ECU in fall 2022.

Lt. Col. Deborah Elek served in the Marine Corps from 1978 to 1999 as an air defense control officer and participated in several joint service air defense operations in the US and overseas. A career highlight included her selection as a Marine Corps nominee for NASA’s space shuttle program. Her assignments included serving as an Executive Officer, Space Operations Officer, Operations Officer, and Director of Family Services & Health Promotion. She also served as Administrative Officer in support of Operation Desert Shield. Elek is the university’s director of the Office of Research Integrity and Compliance providing oversight for the university-wide research compliance and integrity programs. She is the founder and CEO of 22 Saves Hockey Foundation focused on veteran health and wellness using recreational therapy activities.

Maj. Dr. Carol Ann King joined the Army Reserves late in life at 45 years old and was the first Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in the Reserves. She was recently in Italy as the lead public health advisor to the U.S. Army Africa and Army Garrison in Italy as well as the lead COVID-19 provider. She was also the First DNP to be appointed to the military’s Triservice Nursing Research Council Advisory board. King is a two-time nursing alumna and a clinical professor in the College of Nursing. She oversees the clinical training for more than 100 nurse practitioner students per semester. She is a longtime member of ECU’s Servire Society, a member of the College of Nursing Hall of Fame and a scholarship donor.

Lt. Col. Robert Melvin served in the Air Force from 1982 to 2004. He was squadron commander for two aircraft maintenance units: 23rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (A-10) and 43d Logistics Support Squadron. His career culminated as Chief, C-130J Project Manager, 43d Airlift Wing at Pope Air Force Base, where he was responsible for the conversion from 33 C-130E to 31 C-130J aircraft. After retiring from the Air Force, Melvin worked as a government contractor, providing logistics support for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, where he developed a broad background in technologies for combating weapons of mass destruction and nuclear detection. He graduated from ECU in 1982 with a degree in industrial technology.

Chancellor Philip Rogers shakes hands with Distinguished Military Service Society inductee Dallas Newsome during halftime of ECU’s football game against Temple.

Lt. Col. Dallas Newsome served in the Air Force from 1986 to 2006 and as a federal civilian from 2006 through 2020. He was previously a budget analyst team leader at the Pentagon and chief of budget operations at Headquarters Air Combat Command, Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. He served during the first and second Gulf Wars as well as Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Newsome earned four Air Force Meritorious Service Medals and the Legion of Merit, among other accolades. He graduated from ECU in 1985 with a degree in accounting and is a donor to the College of Business as well as the Pirate Club. He is an ECU Pirate football season ticket holder and participates in the annual Air Force reunion held each fall during Military Appreciation Weekend.

Sgt. Sandra George Robinson served in the Army from 1986 to 1994 and was the first ECU nursing student deployed to war. After finishing her service as a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, she returned to complete her nursing degree in 1992. Robinson went on to work as a registered nurse for 30 years at various hospitals before starting her own nonprofit, Combat Female Veterans Families United, an organization that helps female combat veterans and their families transition back into civilian life through education, support and advocacy. Robinson is a member of the Leo Jenkins Society and established the Sandra George Robinson ’92 Combat Female Veterans Scholarship in the ECU College of Nursing.

Maj. Melvin Whittenburg served in the Army from 1982 to 2006. Prior to the Army, he served in the Marine Corps for three years and reached the rank of corporal. He was granted a release from his Marine Corps obligation to enroll in ECU’s military science program. Since his graduation in 1988 with a degree in recreation and park management, Whittenburg has remained an active member of the alumni association and Pirate Club. In 1997, he was selected to serve as aide-de-camp to the director of Defense Logistics Agency-Energy. In 2001 he was named the agency’s project manager for fuel distribution in support of the global war on terrorism. Whittenburg served his nation honorably on active duty until he was medically retired in 2006 due to cancer.

College of Nursing receives first planned gift from Black alumna

Sandra George Robinson holds two important “firsts” at East Carolina University.

She was the first nursing student deployed to war. And she was the first Black alumna to make a planned gift to the College of Nursing.

Sandra Robinson (Contributed photo)

In 1990, Robinson was a junior nursing student in the Army Reserves preparing for final exams when she was called to active duty. Within two days she moved out of her apartment, notified her professors and reported for duty for Operation Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia. While being deployed to war wasn’t something she anticipated, the experience proved rewarding, leaving her with a profound sense of commitment and discipline.

She returned to ECU nine months later and was able to graduate on time by loading up on classes. “I always share wonderful things about the university because of the support they gave me leaving and returning to the university,” she said. “All my professors helped me study for the exams I missed and brought me back up to speed on my nursing curriculum.”

After completing of her nursing degree, Robinson spent almost 30 years working at various hospitals. She is also the North Carolina ambassador for Women in Military Service for America Memorial, a member of the American Legion and co-founder of the Desert Storm Combat Women organization.

“It’s an honor to be a nurse. Being trusted to help someone in their time of need is a major and important task,” Robinson said.

Thinking about her history and her future inspired her to give back to ECU. She established the Sandra George Robinson ’92 Combat Female Veterans Scholarship in the College of Nursing and made a planned gift to establish scholarships for future nursing students. Robinson is the first Black alumna to make a planned gift to the college.

“To be the first, it’s sad it took this long, but I’m glad to be able to make that difference. I hope many others join me,” she said. “When you have a successful college experience, and a successful professional experience after that, you’re an example of that hard work and the result of that college education. It gives me such a wonderful feeling to know that I’m giving back to a place that made me who I am today.”


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