ECU's Pursue Gold campaign exceeds $500 million goal

East Carolina University is painting the Pursue Gold campaign purple as gifts supporting the Jeff Charles Scholarship fund have taken the comprehensive campaign over its $500 million goal. Pirate Nation has raised $503.7 million and ECU will continue accepting contributions through December.

Gifts and ticket sales for a 50/50 fundraiser and football kickoff event are part of the $25,000 endowment that carried the campaign past the goal. While the $500 million moment happened quietly, “The Voice’s” famous “You can paint this one purple!” will forever be heard through the endowed scholarship in the ECU School of Communication.

Jeff Charles was the "Voice of Pirate Nation" for the last 35 years.

Jeff Charles was the “Voice of Pirate Nation” for the last 35 years. (ECU file photo)

Fundraisers Support Scholarships

Pirate fans everywhere know that an ECU victory is followed by “You can paint this one purple.” The tagline was established by the “Voice of the Pirates,” the late Jeff Charles.

“In today’s sports world with big paychecks and bigger egos, Jeff was the complete opposite,” said Jonathan Ellerbe, a radio colleague. “Jeff loved what he did, cared about others and served the Pirate Nation for 35 years.”

Charles’ voice, his signature signoff and work as a play-by-play announcer will be remembered through the Jeff Charles Scholarship established in his honor.

Ellerbe and Charles’ friends and colleagues collaborated with the ECU Foundation to establish a 50/50 raffle to raise money and awareness for the scholarship. Ten individuals have donated $1,000 each to kick off the endowment effort.

The raffle tickets quickly sold out. All raffle participants are invited to attend a winners’ drawing event at 6 p.m. Aug. 15 at University Book Exchange (UBE). Those interested in giving, outside of the raffle, can donate at

Pirate Radio also is holding its annual Kickoff Party at the State Theatre in Greenville with entertainment from the Chairmen of the Board on Aug. 31. Tickets are $10 and 100% of ticket sales will be donated to the scholarship. Tickets can be purchased at

“I hope any student who is a recipient of this scholarship will not only enjoy the financial benefits, but also learn about the person and broadcaster Jeff was,” Ellerbe said. “The Voice was the ultimate professional and respected by everyone in the business. Jeff made what he did look effortless because he put a ton of effort into every broadcast before going on the air.”

“This campaign is about supporting and advancing Pirate Nation, and I think creating a scholarship in Jeff’s name is a perfect mile-marker gift,” said Christopher Dyba, vice chancellor for university advancement. “Every gift makes an impact on the campaign, and the idea that many supporters can come together to support the Jeff Charles Scholarship shows the powerful impact of every individual gift.”

Charles, the Voice of the Pirates since 1988, died in February. A group of his friends and colleagues came up with a game plan to endow a scholarship in his memory. For Jonathan Ellerbe, who worked with Charles at Pirate Radio, the endowment was a good way to remember a friend and mentor.

“Jeff was a very special person. He was one of the nicest people I have ever known,” Ellerbe said. “His loyalty to ECU and dedication to being one of the best voices in the business needs to be remembered. By establishing a scholarship, it will help future ECU students wanting to be in the broadcast business and help keep Jeff’s legacy alive.”

Public fundraising phase

Chancellor Philip Rogers kicked off the public phase of the campaign in November 2021 and asked Pirate Nation to come together to help propel ECU into the future. In modest and monumental ways, benefactors have answered the chancellor’s charge and met the ambitious $500 million goal five months ahead of the campaign’s close.

“When Pirates come together and keep our focus on fulfilling our mission and vision in a unified way, we achieve our goals and work together toward reaching our highest aspirations,” Rogers said. “Through the campaign, Pirate Nation is consistently allowing the university to make the greatest impact and create the greatest good for the people we serve.”

The university crossed the goal after completing the most successful fundraising year in ECU history. Dyba said the momentum for supporting the campaign has been building since Chancellor Rogers’ arrival in 2021. “Pirate Nation has stepped up. It is clear that ECU alumni, friends and donors are all behind our great university.

“It’s been an honor and privilege to serve ECU and raise money to advance the mission,” Dyba said. “We are humbled by the outpouring of support for our campus.”

Pirate Nation donors have invested in the pillars of the Pursue Gold campaign:

  • Creating opportunities for student success through funding nearly $138 million in merit, need-based and athletic scholarships;
  • Championing research by giving more than $24.3 million to accelerate innovation and discovery;
  • Building ECU’s future with more than $248 million of discretionary and program funding; and
  • Sustaining the university’s value by investing more than $201.6 million to secure ECU’s endowment.

Rogers said donors have gone above and beyond to allow the university to better serve the region and bring innovative solutions to the most urgent challenges at ECU.

“These gifts keep ECU on the leading edge of higher education and help us strengthen the academic enterprise, advance our athletics programs, produce meaningful research outcomes, deliver quality health care services, and more,” Rogers said. “Our ability to sustain this success is possible because of the tremendous response to Pursue Gold.”

Approaching the finish line

University leaders urge supporters to keep the momentum going as they push toward completion of the campaign in December. Dyba said the overall success of the campaign will go a long way toward securing future funding of scholarships and other priorities.

“There are many conversations with thoughtful individuals, corporations and foundations who are considering making substantial contributions to ECU,” Dyba said. “These conversations are ongoing in hopes that we can secure the commitment in this campaign.”

Ellerbe and the endowment funders hope their efforts will boost momentum in the closing months of the campaign. New gifts supporting the Jeff Charles Scholarship endowment will be part of the campaign’s final tally.

“Jeff Charles was a legend! If you have been around ECU in the last 35 years, The Voice has had an impact on your life,” Ellerbe said. “Pirate fans will forever dream of painting every game purple because of Jeff and I’m excited that this scholarship will help people everywhere remember him.”

Ellerbe said he holds many memories of Charles broadcasting great moments in ECU sports history and saying his famous tagline “Paint This One Purple,” but what he cherishes most were one-on-one conversations he had with Charles in the Pirate Radio studio. “I was lucky to have the relationship I did with him, talking about life, sports, ECU and more,” Ellerbe said.

Endowing student success

ECU will continue to pursue student success after the comprehensive campaign closes. Scholarships have been crucial to the campaign, and university advancement will remain focused on securing scholarship support to maintain access to an ECU education for all students.

“It is vital that the university grow its endowment to have a sustainable fund to deliver on our mission of advancing ECU as a national model for student success, public service and regional transformation,” Dyba said. “Our scholarship endowments are built to provide support in perpetuity for generations of students to come to ECU. We must remain affordable and accessible while attracting the best and brightest students to ECU.

The Jeff Charles Scholarship will be the second fund supporting ECU students connected to his family. In 1993, Charles and his wife, Debra, established the Heather Anne Purtee Memorial Scholarship in the ECU College of Nursing. The scholarship is named for their daughter, who was killed in an automobile accident in December 1992. She was 19 and an ECU nursing student.

ECU’s Pursue Gold campaign to raise half a billion dollars will end in December. 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 ECU constantly leading and ready to advance what’s possible. Learn more at