ECU celebrates chancellor installation

East Carolina University’s 12th chancellor Dr. Philip Rogers was officially installed Thursday morning. Members of the ECU community, higher education leaders from across the state, faculty, staff and students braved the rainy weather to celebrate the academic tradition.

The chancellor’s installation ceremony was part of ECU’s Founders Week and celebrated the university’s past while looking to the future.

“It’s an honor to be here today, because I believe this truly does mark a new era for East Carolina University and a reawakening of this institution’s core mission of service to North Carolina and beyond,” said UNC System President Peter Hans.

Rogers returned to ECU as chancellor in March 2021 after previously serving as the university’s policy analyst in 2007 and then chief of staff from 2008 to 2013. The years in between were spent as the senior vice president of the American Council on Education (ACE), a nonprofit organization that acts as a coordinating body for its membership of approximately 1,700 colleges and universities across the nation.

Originally from Greenville, Rogers is the great-grandson of an early student of the East Carolina Teachers Training School and his wife, Dr. Rebekah Rogers, is a two-time ECU alumna.

“It surprised none of us when Philip was lured away to Washington (D.C.) … sharpening his skills and insights so that one day he might render yet greater service to North Carolina. I am thrilled that day has arrived. We are not just celebrating an installation today, but a homecoming,” Hans said.

Rogers took time to thank those who helped pave the way for him while growing up in Greenville. From teachers to coaches, family and neighbors, the homecoming for Rogers brought a large audience of family and friends to celebrate this moment with him in ECU’s Wright Auditorium.

“Every day, I am surrounded by reminders that my success in this world, the fact that I’m standing in front of you today, comes from the investment this community made in me,” Rogers said.

Before administering the oath of office, Hans spoke about how vital ECU is to eastern North Carolina and the importance of the work done by students, faculty and staff each day.

“East Carolina is a bright star in the constellation, ‘afire with enthusiasm,’ in the words of your first president, Robert Wright, and our state is a better and richer place because of what happens right here in Greenville,” he said.

Rogers was joined by his wife and sons, Grayson and Dean, for the oath. Rogers placed his hand on the Wright Bible, the same one used by ECU’s first president in weekly chapel meetings during the first years of the school.

Rogers is joined by his family as he takes the oath of office.

Following the oath, Ted Mitchell, president of the ACE, introduced Rogers after a video showcasing ECU’s history and optimistic future played for the audience.

“East Carolina is a beacon of hope and promise for all institutions and Philip Rogers is an example for all the presidents and chancellors of those institutions of what it means to be a leader in these tumultuous times,” said Mitchell.

According to Mitchell, a lack of trust in higher education is the biggest problem facing institutions today. He said it’s the job of those institutions to rebuild that trust.

“Here’s the good news for you. Building trust is Philip Rogers’ superpower. …Building trust for this institution is what you can hope for and expect in Philip,” he said.

In his remarks to guests, Rogers weaved ECU’s history of meeting the growing needs of eastern North Carolina with its promising future. He referred to a, “reawakening and renewed appreciation for ECU’s core strengths.”

“At every waypoint over the last 115 years, when our state has needed more from us, we found a way to deliver,” he said.

While at ACE, Rogers worked with universities and colleges across the country, giving him a unique perspective on the work and mission of ECU.

“I am convinced that the most challenging, most urgent and without a question the most fulfilling work in American education is happening right here at home, right here at East Carolina University. We make it possible for students from all walks of life to build successful careers, become confident citizens and strong contributors to our society,” he said. “We make sure they can earn a living and give back to their communities. That foundational mission has always been at the core of ECU’s identity and it’s the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning.”

He said everyone at the university can be proud they work at an institution that meets the needs in their communities and prides itself on who it accepts, not who it turns away.

“That, to me, is the East Carolina University edge. At a time when all of higher education is concerned about student success, eager to figure out what it takes to welcome a diverse group of students and build a supportive community, we have decades of hard-earned experience right here in eastern North Carolina,” said Rogers.

In closing, he stressed that ECU is building a national model for student success, regional transformation and public service.

“I think the rest of the country has much to learn from what’s happening at East Carolina,” Rogers said.

Rogers previously served as ECU’s policy analyst in 2007 and then chief of staff from 2008 to 2013.