Alumnus pledges 8-figure gift to EC Scholars program

Burney Warren grew up in the friendly shadow of East Carolina University’s football stadium. The east endzone was two doors down from his house in Greenville, putting him in the university’s orbit very early. It was easy to predict that he would become passionate about ECU.

Burney Warren ’70 serves on the ECU Foundation board and supports multiple scholarships at ECU. (Photo by Rhett Butler)

And he did.

Warren graduated in 1970 with a bachelor’s degree in business and went on to become an executive vice president of BB&T. He’s a past chairman of the ECU Foundation board and continues to serve on the executive committee during retirement. He and his wife, Judy Christiansen Warren ’69, still live in Greenville. Their son James graduated from ECU in 1996. Their son Scott attended ECU before graduating from Appalachian State University. And their granddaughter Tess is a current ECU student.

“We have had a very successful and enjoyable life in Greenville and with ECU. And now are pleased to share that success with ECU and help it grow,” Warren said.

If that growth were a tree, Warren doesn’t expect to enjoy its shade. Instead, his significant planned gift to ECU will provide a protective shadow for future generations.

A $1 million planned gift for the Burney and Judy Warren EC Scholars Endowment, in addition to an eight-figure, long-term estate gift, will support the EC Scholars program.


  • $1.25M given in scholarships each year
  • 35+ countries studied abroad in
  • 27 major programs represented
  • 500+ EC Scholar alumni across the country
  • 600+ service hours donated

“We feel like the best way to propel the university is to have very high-quality students. They lift everyone else with them. We think that program is particularly important,” Warren said.

The EC Scholars Program is the most prestigious undergraduate award program at ECU. The program offers a significant scholarship valued at nearly $64,000 and provides high-impact learning experiences for a select group of undergraduates. EC Scholars are part of the Honors College and exhibit outstanding academic performance, engagement in the community and effective leadership skills, and embrace a study abroad experience.

“These are students who, in a very positive way, change the reputation of the university,” said Dr. Todd Fraley, director of the EC Scholars Program. “They’re winning prestigious awards, they’re getting grants, they’re doing amazing research, they’re going to respected graduate programs — these students touch every single aspect of the university. They come here, they have goals and they take advantage of everything ECU has to offer.”

The Warrens’ first scholarship at ECU was the Burney and Judy Warren Scholarship in Special Education, in honor of Judy’s background in the field. Getting to know their scholarship student — the first in her family to attend college — underscored the importance of scholarships at ECU. They then created the Burney and Judy Warren Access Scholarship. The latest support of EC Scholars is an effort to help the university grow its status. That, along with excellent leadership from Chancellor Philip Rogers, will propel ECU to greatness, Warren said.

“Burney and Judy Warren’s planned gifts are crucial to ECU’s future success. They are loyal Pirates and truly embrace the spirit of service that is so important to our culture and mission. The EC Scholars program brings exceptional students to this university and prepares them to make a mark on the world, which wouldn’t be possible without the sustained support from generous donors,” Rogers said.

Fraley often hears from faculty that having an EC Scholar in class changes the dynamic. The ways they interact and engage with the material enhances the learning environment for everyone.

“We work with amazing students every single day and they leave an impact on the people they are around. But they’re still sort of anonymous,” Fraley said.

Fraley said he wants the EC Scholars program to be recognized as one of the most coveted throughout the state and nation.

“One of our goals is for people to know exactly what you mean when you say ‘EC Scholar.’ And for high school kids and their parents and counselors to say, ‘You need to go to ECU and be an EC Scholar,’” Fraley said.

Support from serious ECU donors like the Warrens is essential. It will allow scholars to be involved in so much more than they are now, whether that’s summer internships (past scholars have worked with the Atlanta Aquarium, U.S. Olympic Training Center and Google), conferences, leadership experiences or research opportunities. It could even help increase the amount of scholarship money available to offer students, Fraley said.

“Knowing that those resources will be there makes you feel good. We are very thankful for the Warrens’ generous gift and their continued support,” he said. “It shows that we’re sustainable. The EC Scholars Program is going to be a long-term part of this university.”

ECU is in the public phase of the Pursue Gold campaign to raise half a billion dollars. This ambitious effort will create new paths to success for Pirates on campus, across the country and around the world. Donor gifts during the campaign will keep us constantly leading and ready to advance what’s possible. Learn more at

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