Staff: LuAnn Sullivan
LuAnn Sullivan was hired at East Carolina University after an interview and one phone call immediately afterward.
“You don’t get a job like that anymore,” she said.
Now, nearly 34 years later, Sullivan has seen the university grow and takes pride in her role for the last 10 years as the executive assistant to the dean in the College of Education.
“I love the fact that we are training educators to go out there and teach our future,” she said. “The workforce depends on educated individuals, and our students are going to go out there and teach these students from the beginning, kindergarten on up. To know that this university has such a great reputation of producing quality educators is something I’m very proud of.”
Working in Acting Dean Art Rouse’s office, she handles a little bit of everything — students, parents, donors, emails, phone calls and the everyday business of the department. Sullivan says she has a lot of help, starting from the top.
“Dr. Rouse is an extremely caring person,” she said. “He likes to have that personal contact with students and families to let them know that we do care. We have that feeling of family, and we consider our students part of our family.”
Sullivan began administrative work with the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington.
“My mother always thought I would be good in this type of job,” she said. “She told me I was a good speller and that was a great quality to have. I used to have the nickname ‘Webster’ because if somebody wanted to spell something, they would ask me.”
A member of ECU’s Servire Society and a recipient of a Treasured Pirate Award, Sullivan brings bountiful life experiences with her to work every day, specifically one that applies to college students. She started college after high school but said it wasn’t a good fit for her at the time.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do. If I don’t have a goal, I feel like I’m wasting my time,” she said.
While working at ECU, she began taking classes with the help of the tuition waiver program, and 24 years after her collegiate journey started, she walked into Minges Coliseum in a cap and gown, and across the stage to accept her bachelor’s degree in business education.
“I remember processing into Minges and the tears just started to come down my cheeks,” Sullivan said. “I was standing next to a traditional graduate who was much younger than me, and she asked if I was OK. I told her she had no idea how long I had waited for this. To go through the college ceremony and hear my name called, I knew I had finally made it. So many times I just wanted to give up, but my husband (Don) kept encouraging me, telling me I was so close and don’t stop, and so I didn’t and I’m so glad I didn’t.”
Sullivan and her husband will celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary in September. She has one daughter from a previous marriage and two grandchildren. Her late aunt, Grace Whitehurst, received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from ECU and was inducted into the ECU College of Education Educators Hall of Fame in 2015.
Originally from Alexandria, Virginia, Sullivan moved to Greenville at age 11 in 1969, and the town began to grow on her.
“Since Greenville was a smaller town where everyone seemed to know everyone, it was difficult to come in as an ‘outsider,’ but as time went on, I began to make good connections with great people and families and found Greenville to truly become my home,” she said.
Two of those people are Greg and Leslie Rogers, the parents of ECU Chancellor Philip Rogers.
“I’ve known Philip a long time, probably since he was in junior high school,” she said. “I was so excited (when he became chancellor) because I know he is such a good person. I was tickled to death.”
Beyond work, Sullivan has had a unique role — literally. While living in California, she was an extra in the movie “Rocky III.” You can spot her in the crowd during one of the fight scenes.
“On the far right side of the screen, you can see me clear as day, and then the camera moves. You can see me maybe for like half a second,” she said.
She also attended Ronald Reagan’s election night celebration in 1980.
“We were in the ballroom of the Century Plaza Hotel, and people were packed in there. Everyone was scrunched up. It was incredible, and I was so excited,” Sullivan said.
For her 60th birthday, she went skydiving.
“I’ve always wanted to do it. I loved it,” she said.
But her true passion rests in Celebrate Recovery, a Christ-centered program that meets at 6:30 p.m. each Monday at Oakmont Baptist Church in Greenville. She said her husband Don had issues with alcohol and found the program allowed him to combine his faith with recovery. She became involved in the program that she said is not just for those with addictions but for anyone attempting to recover from life’s “hurts, habits and hang-ups.”
“It has been the best thing that I have been involved with,” Sullivan said. “It’s interesting to see people the first time they come through the door, and they’re really such broken people, and then to see the healing that takes place in their lives as they continue on is better than anything I can imagine. It’s so much better than just working at a job and getting a paycheck. It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.”
Name: LuAnn Sullivan
Title: Executive assistant, College of Education
Hometown: I lived in Alexandria, Virginia, until age 11 then moved to Greenville, where I went to E.B. Aycock Junior High School and J.H. Rose High School.
Colleges attended and degrees: East Carolina University, Bachelor of Science in business education
Years working at ECU: Nearly 34
What I do at ECU: I serve as the assistant to the dean of the College of Education.
What I love about ECU: The opportunities the university provides for its employees to better themselves by not only providing the tuition waiver so you can further your formal education, but also the vast array of training provided online through Cornerstone and face-to-face instruction. This is how I have been able to further my career over the years in various positions I have held on both the east and west campuses.
What advice do you give to students? Don’t quit! Persevere and be serious about your education. Do as I say, don’t do as I did. You see, I began my college career in the fall of 1975 but didn’t complete my undergraduate degree until December 1999. That’s right, 24 years after I started. It’s a long story, but to shorten it up a bit, I didn’t have any idea what I wanted to study. I ended up trying different things, but finally came to ECU to study business and ended up falling in love with my geology classes. Then I got sidetracked and got married, quit school and proceeded to start working at ECU. As an employee, I took advantage of the tuition waiver opportunity, enrolled again and gradually completed my degree in business education with a concentration in information technology. I have used that degree here in the various positions I have held during my career at ECU. I feel so fortunate to end my career in my home college working with the dean.
What do you like to do when not working? Attend ECU football games and will begin attending ECU baseball games; shooting, traveling, singing, and baking and decorating cakes.
Last thing I watched on TV: An episode of “Cheers.”
First job: My first self-supporting job was working for the U.S. Department of the Interior in the Office of the Solicitor, Division of Indian Affairs, in Washington.
Guilty pleasure: Binge-watching home renovation shows and watching “The Young and the Restless,” which I have watched since the day it started.
Favorite meal: Our traditional family Thanksgiving meal: turkey, dressing, gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, etc.
One thing most people don’t know about me: I sang with an ensemble at the White House in December 1997.