ECU’s Harriot College names Ewen to distinguished professorship

East Carolina University’s Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences has named Dr. Charles Ewen, professor of anthropology, to the college’s prestigious rank of distinguished professor. Ewen is the college’s 24th distinguished professor. The announcement was made at the 60th annual college convocation on Aug. 18.

“Given that there are so many worthy candidates in the college, I fully expected someone else to receive the award and was pleased to even be considered,” Ewen said. “To receive the award came as a surprise and a genuine honor. It is hard to render me speechless, but Dean (Allison) Danell did so when she gave me the news.”

The appointment to distinguished professor is the highest honor within Harriot College and is conferred upon a professor whose career exemplifies a commitment to and a love for knowledge and academic life as demonstrated by outstanding teaching and advising, research and creative productivity, and professional service.

Dr. Charles Ewen, center, works with students Mackenzie Mulkey and Regina Wheeler to locate and document gravesites at an abandoned cemetery in Ayden.

Dr. Charles Ewen, center, works with students Mackenzie Mulkey and Regina Wheeler to locate and document gravesites at an abandoned cemetery in Ayden. (ECU photo by Rhett Butler)

“The committee was inspired and impressed by the many facets of Dr. Ewen’s long and storied career,” said Danell, dean of Harriot College. “He is an effective and highly regarded teacher across all levels of the curriculum, positively affecting everyone from our newest students in general education classes to our burgeoning professionals in their advanced graduate courses. The creativity of his courses in the classroom and in the field certainly ensure all students gain knowledge, confidence and insight into the complex and exciting world of anthropology.”

“I am truly humbled and privileged to join the ranks of the Harriot College’s distinguished professors,” Ewen said.

Ewen joined ECU’s faculty in 1994, and since then has displayed the qualities and characteristics required of a distinguished professor.

Teaching and advising

“Even after three decades, I can still walk across campus and think this is what I want to do,” Ewen said. “I like the collegiality within my department and throughout the college. I like the freedom and support to pursue my own research both in the field and in the lab. Most of all, I enjoy teaching. Whether it be a small graduate seminar or a large introductory class, I like challenging the students in discussions and delivering lectures that entertain and inform.”

Ewen has taught a variety of classes to undergraduates and graduate students alike and is known for creating the popular course, “Aliens, Atlantis and Archaeology: Pseudoscience and Interpretations of the Past.” Ewen regularly incorporates student projects into his upper-level courses that include real-world applications, and he has led 20 summer archaeology field schools.

“Not only do these projects engage the students, but they are a great form of public outreach,” said Dr. Randy Daniel, chair of the Department of Anthropology.

“He transforms these into service-learning projects, teaching students not only different field methods, but the importance of archaeology as a public initiative. Charlie has sought to right past wrongs through social justice applications of the discipline,” one of Ewen’s nominators writes.

“I have found that students respond to these service-learning projects when they see that their efforts are not merely theoretical exercises,” Ewen said.

Beyond teaching and fieldwork, Ewen has extended his mentorship and knowledge to hundreds of students through their thesis and dissertation committee work. He has chaired four dissertation committees and served as a member on four other dissertation committees. He has chaired 70 graduate thesis committees and served on another 60 as a committee member. In addition, Ewen has been recognized for exemplary teaching through various honors and awards, including an ECU Scholar-Teacher Award, University Award for Outstanding Teaching, and an ECU Distinguished Graduate Faculty Mentor award.

Even after three decades, I can still walk across campus and think this is what I want to do.
- Charles Ewen, Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences distinguished professor

Research and creative activity

Research and creative activity are important to Ewen, which is also reflected in the grant funding he has secured, publications authored and awards received.

His research interests include historical archaeology that has been associated with state historic sites, including Bath, Fort Macon, Somerset Place, Tryon Palace and more recently, Brunswick Town on the Cape Fear River. Ewen has published on the topics of pirates and the Lost Colony, and he is frequently sought after by the media to comment on his latest work.

“I enjoy the public engagement aspects of my research,” he said. “Many of the archaeological projects I undertake benefit a community (reclaiming cemeteries), an historic site (interpreting their holdings to the public) or even individuals wondering about an artifact they found.”

Ewen has supported his research with more than $500,000 in grant funding. He has authored or co-authored 10 books, more than two dozen peer-reviewed journal articles or book chapters, and he has participated in more than a dozen scholarly presentations and invited talks.

In recognition of his longtime contributions to N.C. history, Ewen has received the Christopher Crittenden Award from the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association, and a History Award Medal from the N.C. Daughters of the American Revolution.

Professional service

Throughout his career at ECU, Ewen has provided many hours of service to the academic community and beyond and said he enjoys the service aspect.

He has held the position of director of ECU’s Phelps Archaeology Laboratory, chair of the anthropology department personnel committee and department writing liaison to the university’s previous quality enhancement plan, “Write Where you Belong.”

In addition, Ewen has served as organizer of the Blackbeard 300 committee, as ECU liaison to the N.C. Office of State Archaeology’s Queen Anne’s Revenge Lab, and on the executive committee for the Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society. His service to the profession also includes stints as president of the Society for Historical Archaeology and as a member of the board of directors of both the N.C. Maritime History Council and the Bath Historical Commission.

“Overall, Charles Ewen outstandingly exemplifies the qualities that the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professorship embodies, and his research, teaching and service activities have brought distinction to East Carolina University,” one nominator wrote.

“I enjoy all that I do here, and I think that ECU and Harriot College have benefitted from my shameless grandstanding,” Ewen said. “I intend to keep the show going.”