Fraternity brothers, friends are in the business of ECU
As great friends often do, Paul Adkison ’91 and Scott Diggs ’89 draw energy from one another, laugh at shared memories, occasionally answer in unison, and grow more dynamic the longer they work together.
The East Carolina University College of Business graduates, both successful entrepreneurs, propelled their passion for building businesses and their friendship into building one merged family office company structure, Co-X Holdings. They describe the corporation as a conglomerate-kind of organization that is opportunistic with a blend of a heavy equipment rental business, parking management, multi-family and hotel development.
“We started out as fraternity brothers and have been friends for a very long time,” Diggs said. “We’ve both been very entrepreneurial and complement each other well. Nine years ago, we partnered in our first business venture together, which has gone very well, so we decided to combine all of our business activities together in Co-X Holdings.”
Adkison added that he and Diggs work well together because of a shared core foundation. Both men seek to keep a sphere of influence of people with high integrity, trust and honesty in their personal and work lives.
Meeting with the Sigma Phi Epsilon brothers and Co-X founders is part business venture, part entrepreneurial thrill ride as discussion pivots between driving stakeholder value, merged office structures, target ventures and leveraging opportunities.
They fill their days chasing their joy for aviation, flying to business appointments throughout the southeast, and taking calls or attending virtual meetings in between to keep tabs on ongoing projects.
Paying it forward
Most days, support and work for ECU is at the top of their mutual project lists. Adkison and Diggs are active members of the ECU Foundation Board, having begun their second terms last year. Both also serve on the College of Business Advisory Council and the Miller School of Entrepreneurship.
Adkison and Diggs said they are devoted to ECU because of the positive impact the university has had on their lives. They believe stewardship goes with that devotion, and they have a need to pay it forward through gifts and telling others about the university.
“ECU shaped me for the man I am today and us for the men we are and where we are in our communities,” Diggs said.
“I can honestly say I wouldn’t be here without ECU,” Adkison said. “I’m nobody special, but with some education at the right place with the right people who can influence you, you can do anything.”
Adkison and Diggs have committed $125,000 to establish the Adkison and Diggs Access Scholarship Endowment. Their scholarship is targeted for a student majoring in entrepreneurship or any business discipline offered by the College of Business.
“Where it really hit me was — after a couple of years of supporting access scholarships — we got to know the students, we’ve had lunches with our students, our students write us letters, and they have testified to us that they would not be where they are — they would not be in college — had it not been for the access scholarship,” Diggs said. “I get chills just thinking about the impact we are making in the lives of these students. We are changing lives and impacting people that we don’t even know.”
Members of the ECU Foundation board are encouraged to make annual gifts such as those to support access scholarships. The program provides grants to students who demonstrate academic potential and financial need. The $5,000 renewable annual award assists with tuition, fees and books. Since its beginning 16 years ago, the program has provided scholarships to 290 students and awarded approximately $5.5 million.
Deciding to take their support a step further and committing to the endowment is fueled by their passion for ECU and their efforts to find and help students who want to go to college and do not have the ability to afford it.
“We are paying it forward. We participate in students’ lives, allowing them the opportunity to attend college, which is one heck of an opportunity,” Diggs said. “We feel like it’s an opportunity for us to make a statement and help others and benefit the university at the same time. This is huge for me.”
They believe investing in ECU is good business. Adkison and Diggs have made their gift as part of Pirate Nation Gives in an effort to encourage others to do the same. Pirate Nation Gives, ECU’s annual day of giving, is Wednesday. Just as Adkison and Diggs have, participants can support ECU student scholarships and specific programs through their donations. Last year, ECU raised more than $8.4 million for university programs and students.
Foundation and future
Both men believe in building a solid future for Pirate Nation, and they hope to see their scholars go on to do great things in life and come back and pay it forward the way Adkison and Diggs are now.
“People don’t realize this — unless you’re a Pirate — there are a lot of very successful Pirates across the United States. We need to engage and light up the Pirate Nation,” Adkison said. “So now where there is not only Scott and Paul, there’s Scott and Paul times 10,000. And that’s something we’re passionate about, engaging with the students and engaging with the alumni population to make this community what it should be.”
It all comes back to foundation — good people, a solid education and the right place, he said. Adkison and Diggs credit their parents for their values and ECU for allowing them the opportunities to find their paths.
Adkison originally came to ECU with a plan to play sports. After an injury, he had to find another path and make a new plan. He figured out what ECU could be for him, engaged fully in all the university had to offer, and began to get involved in his fraternity and student government.
Diggs had found his place as well. “ECU was right where I needed to be. My parents dropped me off and rarely saw me for four years.”
The College of Business was the epicenter of their entrepreneurial pursuits. Both knew they wanted to own and run their own business. For Diggs, it was taking Financial Analysis II his senior year. Diggs was in his element and loved the mergers and acquisitions projects thrown at him.
“We had to prepare in teams each week. We were presented with different companies each week where we presented and prepared a merger and acquisition strategy on the buy side and sell side,” Diggs said. “I really enjoyed this class as it was very real-world business for me.”
Adkison’s eagerness for business was launched when he met Jim Westmoreland his freshman year. Westmoreland advised him on what courses he should take and what he needed to do to get a job.
“He spent time — telling me everything I needed — and I would periodically come back and check in to tell him how I was doing,” Adkison said. “That relationship started in 1986 and continues to this day. I just got a text message from him maybe three weeks ago. It’s amazing.”
“You cannot go into an interview like this without thinking of Dr. James Westmoreland,” Diggs added. “Jim, for us, is a friend and has had a huge impact on our lives and is the man that stands out in the business school for me.”
The lifelong friendships and influential faculty have kept Adkison and Diggs engaged with ECU. They are excited about what the university provided them and proud of what they see in the university today.
In their view, ECU is keeping up with customer expectations. The recent credentialling partnership with MrBeast is one example they share of the university pivoting to the market to ensure students have access to the skills they need and an environment to test that skill set.
“We have a phenomenal community here,” Adkison said. “We will be using our influence and voice to make sure we help the university remain relevant.”
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 pursuegold.ecu.edu.