Legacy creates strong bonds between families and ECU

ECU is a tradition for Nelson family

Zoe Nelson always wanted to attend East Carolina University. The freshman from Wilmington made that plan a reality, following a family tradition in applying to ECU.

“I had to come here,” Nelson said. “I am 100% happy I chose ECU.”

During Family Weekend, Nelson’s parents and grandmother gathered to celebrate her becoming the fourth generation in the family’s ECU legacy at the ECU Alumni Association Legacy Pinning Ceremony. Nelson carried a picture of her great grandmother, the family’s first ECU graduate, to include her in photos and recognition.

Nelson’s great-grandmother, Annie Windley Earle, graduated from East Carolina Teachers College in 1937. She trained to be an educator and was dedicated to the profession for her entire adult life. Earle taught first grade in many schools in North Carolina, including in Kenansville and New Bern.

Rae Anne Boyd Sparrow ’75 ’77 followed in her mother’s footsteps at ECU and in education. Her degrees in early childhood education prepared her for the “best career” as an elementary school teacher, she said.

Anna Sparrow Nelson ’02 continued the tradition started by her grandmother and is a College of Education alumnae. She is an educator in Wilmington.

“We have four generations of women all coming to ECU,” Anna Nelson said. “That’s pretty neat.”

Zoe Nelson is already working at “indoctrinating” her sister to add to the family’s ECU lineage. Her dad, Dave Nelson, is also a 2002 graduate. Zoe Nelson is changing one family tradition. She is majoring in criminal justice and philosophy and plans to be a lawyer.

ECU student Zoe Nelson is a fourth generation Pirate.

ECU student Zoe Nelson, center, is a fourth generation Pirate. She and her mother, Anna Sparrow Nelson ’02, and grandmother, Rae Anne Boyd Sparrow ’75 ’77 carried a portrait of her great-grandmother, Annie Windley Earle ’37 to the legacy ceremony. (Photo by Patricia Earnhardt Tyndall)


New East Carolina University students join a family of Pirates more than 190,000 strong, who share the traditions and history of their alma mater. For some students, the bonds are even deeper. They are legacies of parents, grandparents and other family who attended ECU.

Forty-nine students were recognized for their family legacies at the ECU Alumni Association Legacy Pinning Ceremony.

Forty-nine students were recognized for their family legacies at the ECU Alumni Association Legacy Pinning Ceremony. (Photo by Patricia Earnhardt Tyndall)

Forty-nine of ECU’s newest legacy families celebrated the bond with their students during a Legacy Pinning Ceremony hosted by the ECU Alumni Association (ECUAA) as part of Family Weekend.

ECU Student Government Association Vice President Matt Blount ’23 is a Chancellor’s Fellow and an Honors College graduate student in the Immersive MBA program. He joined ECUAA staff to celebrate the legacy families. Blount knows about being a Pirate legacy. Nine of his family members have attended ECU. For Blount, the pinning ceremony is a testament to the unwavering loyalty and dedication of Pirate families.

“This ceremony is a beautiful expression of the deep-rooted connection that binds us together as Pirates,” “We know that this university is more than just a place of education – it’s a home where traditions run deep and the Pirate spirit is strong.”

Blount encouraged students to make the most of their time at ECU and create memories that will make their college experiences special. Blount urged students to get involved on campus, join a club, attend events and spend time with friends.

“We are part of a legacy, a tradition and a family of Pirates,” Blount said. Together, we contribute to the rich tapestry of ECU’s history, and together, we ensure that our Pirate spirit will continue to shine brightly for generations to come.”

ECUAA’s Amanda Murer called each legacy student to stand and led them in reciting a legacy oath. Family members pinned their students with a legacy lapel pin to complete the connection.

In this year’s event, three sets of siblings were pinned and at least six sets of grandparents accompanied students at the ceremony.