ECU honors alumnus’ five decades of service to university
Don Leggett ’58 ’62 loves East Carolina University.
This week, ECU Alumni Association representatives, family and friends expressed that the feeling is mutual during a celebration of Leggett’s five decades of service to the university. A plaque now adorns the president’s suite inside the Taylor-Slaughter House, naming the space in Leggett’s honor.
“I don’t know if anyone has served our great university longer than Don Leggett, and for that, we are eternally grateful,” said Vice Chancellor for University Advancement Christopher Dyba. “It’s only appropriate that we invite you back to the house today to celebrate you. Whoever sits in this office will sit in the Don Leggett suite and has big shoes to fill with the legacy you’ve created and all that you’ve done for the university.”
Dyba highlighted the significant list of jobs, assignments and special services Leggett has taken on for ECU, most notably directing alumni relations at ECU for nearly three decades.
Leggett began working in alumni affairs in 1970 and retired in 1998 as associate vice chancellor for alumni relations. He continued to serve the university, going to work for the vice chancellor of advancement and working on the ECU Foundation. Leggett was appointed as a special assistant to the chancellor, working with the Leo Jenkins Society, served as a major gift officer for the College of Health and Human Performance and represented the university in many other roles.
From a young age, Leggett dreamed of attending East Carolina College. He recalled telling his mother about this “wonderful place people could go and get an education.” Despite obstacles, he made it to campus and began a love affair with ECU he has maintained for the rest of his life.
After graduating, Leggett moved home to Harnett County to work as a guidance counselor and coach. Through ECU, he took graduate courses on weekends and during the summer to earn a master’s of secondary education with a focus on principalship. Leggett held a variety of positions in the Harnett County and Raleigh city school systems, and he dreamed of returning to his alma mater.
“We came through all of that to arrive at this place today, and I am so very proud,” Leggett said. “It’s so nice to be overwhelmed in that way.”
Leggett said he saw memories, friendships and hard work when he looked at the faces of those in the room. “We had a lot of accomplishments, and we had a lot of fun along the way.”
One of those friends and former colleagues was Charles Brown, retired professor and founding chairman of the Department of Geological Sciences. Leggett said Brown is on all the pages of his history book.
“If it had not been for Charlie, I wouldn’t be here today,” Leggett said. It was Brown who called Leggett in 1969 to offer him a job in alumni affairs at ECU. Leggett recalled being offered $12,000 a year and asking Brown if he could do any better. Brown called back, offering an additional $1,000, and Leggett accepted.
“What I didn’t tell him is that I would have come for 10,” Leggett said. “I would have done anything to get back here. From the very beginning, I wanted to come back to ECU. This was my love affair.”
“Your first love affair,” Leggett’s wife, Nancy, reminded him.
“Our family is indeed an ECU family,” Leggett said. “Nancy has been by my side through all of this. I just have a great big bunch of Pirate pride and belief in this university … Go Pirates!”
Longtime friend Gerald Arnold ’63 said Leggett always had a passion for ECU.
“This fella had a passion for this place and the people and a passion for what he was doing,” Arnold said. “It was visceral. You could feel it when he talked about ECU. He could just reach right to your bones and find that purple and gold and make you want to be a part of something.”
Arnold said the highest compliment he could think of to describe his friend was that he “could see the best in people and then make them shine.”