Trustees recognize Clark, Westmoreland

In its final meeting of 2023, the East Carolina University Board of Trustees honored alumni Bill Clark and Dr. Jim Westmoreland with the inaugural Trustees Award for Distinction on Friday. The board also approved conferring degrees for approximately 1,925 graduates at ECU’s fall commencement on Dec. 15.

The award, established in April, recognizes individuals who have provided extraordinary leadership to the university. “This award honors Pirates who demonstrate the leadership and innovation needed to advance ECU’s mission of student success, public service and regional transformation,” said board chair Jason Poole.

Clark ’66, ’68 is a Greenville native who has spent his career as a successful builder and developer — and not just of houses. “Mr. Clark has fundamentally helped build and develop our university and this community. He has been extremely generous with his time, his counsel and his resources. Bill Clark’s commitment to education, leadership and civic engagement exemplifies the qualities that the ECU Board of Trustees Award for Distinction seeks to honor,” Poole said.

Clark has been one of ECU’s most prolific benefactors. He is a member of the ECU Athletics Hall of Fame and committed the lead gift for the construction of the Clark-LeClair baseball stadium, which bears his name. Among his many accomplishments, he is past president of the ECU Educational Foundation (Pirate Club), former member of the ECU Student Affairs Advancement Council, recipient of the Chancellor’s Amethyst and ECU Outstanding Alumni Award, and platinum level member of the Order of the Cupola.

Westmoreland ’74, ’75, ’81 worked at ECU for more than 40 years. He started in student life, working with residence and new student orientation programs. From 1981 until 2001, he worked in career services, where he served as both assistant director and director. From 2001 until his retirement in 2019, he was the associate dean of external affairs for the College of Business. During his tenure, he worked closely with the Business Advisory Network, a group for graduates who mentor students. He also established the Westmoreland Leadership Followership Scholarship and supported numerous other funds at ECU. He is the author of “cAreer BasiCs — The ABC’s of Career Preparation,” a copy of which he presented to each of the trustees and leadership staff.

“I look around this table and see numerous lives that have been impacted by knowing Jim. For decades his selfless dedication to building the confidence, character and knowledge of students has been unmatched. Jim’s power to influence, lead and motivate everyone he meets is truly remarkable. He has helped countless students grow their networks and build their careers, and always encourages them to form a bond with ECU to give back to this university in some way,” Poole said.

Following the awards presentation, Chancellor Philip Rogers thanked the men for their dedicated support and leadership. He also thanked board members for participating in a recent workshop in Greensboro for trustees across the state hosted by the UNC Board of Governors (BOG) and the UNC System office. “The message during the workshop was clear. We were all encouraged, just like I shared on University Day several months ago, to ‘keep the main thing, the main thing’ — access, affordability and student success,” he said.

Rogers said ECU will continue to invest in student success through innovative affordability strategies, carefully managing the total cost of a degree and lowering student debt. “These are all mission-aligned priorities that matter most for this university. It’s the work we were built to do and that we were called to do,” he said.

This fall, ECU has seen an increase in new undergraduate student enrollment and retention rates for upperclassmen, which is an indicator of more students graduating on time, he said. “We’ll continue to focus on growing our retention and graduation rates while providing coordinated care for all of our learners,” Rogers said.

A recent study showed positive results for ECU students: 98% of undergraduate programs and 97% of graduate programs had a positive return on investment for students. And at least 90% of low-income students experienced upward economic mobility after obtaining an ECU degree, Rogers said. ECU will continue to look for ways to keep degrees and credentials as affordable as practicable, he said.

For the eighth consecutive year, ECU trustees will not increase tuition for in-state undergraduate students for 2024-25. Tuition will also stay the same for out-of-state undergraduate students. The decision is consistent with the UNC System’s emphasis on affordability, Rogers said.

Trustees approved increases in graduate program-specific differentials for occupational therapy, social work, the MBA and master’s in accounting, and dental medicine. An increase in dental student fees was also approved. Dining rates will increase 6.5% because of labor and food costs, while housing rate increases will range from 2% to 3.5% to align with the university’s housing master plan. The BOG is expected to consider tuition and fee adjustments early next year.

In other business, the following board committees met Thursday:

The Athletics and Advancement Committee heard about a partnership between the ECU Alumni Association and Publishing Concepts (PCI) for an oral history project to capture stories, verify information and engage with alumni. PCI representatives will contact all alumni, update contact records and collect stories. Alumni will have the opportunity to purchase the final oral history project and/or Pirate alumni apparel from PCI. Revenue will be shared between the alumni association and PCI. The project will run through May.

Athletic Director Jon Gilbert and Alex Keddie, senior associate athletics director for compliance, updated the committee on major changes regarding the transfer portal and NIL (Name, Image, Likeness). Gilbert said ECU needs NIL opportunities to attract student-athletes. The committee will provide a memo with guidelines for supporting NIL opportunities. ECU trustees and athletic staff are not allowed to participate in NIL.

Associate professor of graphic design Dan Elliott talks about building connections with his students on Thursday.

Associate professor of graphic design Dan Elliott talks about building connections with his students on Thursday.

Season ticket sales for men’s basketball were 1,844, with a goal of 2,000. Gilbert said season ticket sales resulted in $112,000 more revenue than last year due to ticket prices and new specialized seating.

During a panel discussion at the Committee on Strategy and Innovation, students and faculty discussed the importance of relationships and how those connections lead to student success.

“It’s the most important thing I do,” Dr. Bhibha Das, associate professor of kinesiology, said of student mentorship.

Student Kensey Tarkington said approaching Das led to opportunities to help underserved patients as a second-year undergraduate student, “which is an incredibly unique opportunity,” she said. “Because of Dr. Das, she’s helped me expand my horizons.”

Human connections play an important role in high self-esteem and low anxiety levels, according to studies, and the students described how those connections with instructors and alumni have enhanced their experiences and opportunities at ECU.

Participants agreed that ECU offers plenty of ways for students to connect with each other and with their instructors. The key is to ensure those students who may be shy or intimidated understand that making those connections can propel them to personal and professional success.

In the University Affairs Committee, undergraduate student Tete Narh-Mensah and medical student Abby Ulffers, both Brinkley-Lane Scholars, discussed the impact of leadership programs in their personal and academic journeys. Narh-Mensah highlighted his experience at the LeaderShape Institute, while Ulffers discussed how her experience at the Chancellor’s Student Leadership Academy helped form guiding principles that she plans to use as a physician.

Dr. Sharon Paynter, acting chief research and engagement officer, and Dr. Zachary Domire in the Department of Kinesiology, presented how feedback from the military, private sector and outside partners help with relevant research. Domire explained the possibility of imaging being able to predict ulnar collateral ligament injuries (commonly known as Tommy John surgery) in Major League Baseball pitchers and the potential of partnering with the military to research fighter pilot injuries.

The Budget, Finance and Infrastructure Committee received a status update and renderings of the new medical education building for the health sciences campus. ECU hopes to have the project ready to go out to bid in November 2024. The multi-story, 180,000-square-foot facility is intended to support growth of the medical school’s student enrollment from 86 to more than 120 students.

The committee recommended and the board approved in its consent agenda to lease the West End Office Building, 2190 Beasley Drive, for ECU Physicians staff who will move from the Thomas Professional Building. It will save the university about $300,000. The board also approved advance planning requests to replace rooftop air units at Tyler, White and Clement residence halls. Construction is planned for summer 2025.

The Audit, Enterprise Risk Management and Ethics Committee heard about the work group at ECU that is discussing artificial intelligence (AI) and figuring out how to manage and use it on campus.

“AI is here to stay,” said Stephanie Coleman, vice chancellor for administration and finance. She said the work group is looking at what other universities are doing to “find or create best practices.”

Quaid Lawler, speaking, and other ECU students talked about the importance of relationships in fostering student success in a panel discussion with the Board of Trustees’ Committee on Strategy and Innovation on Thursday.

Quaid Lawler, speaking, and other ECU students talked about the importance of relationships in fostering student success in a panel discussion with the Board of Trustees’ Committee on Strategy and Innovation on Thursday.