The East Carolina story

By Patricia Staino


If there is one overwhelming themeother than serviceto be found in ECUs history, its the role of the underdog. More often than not, the school and its leaders were told something couldn't be done, and each time ECU achieved what many thought would be impossible. Like its mascot, the pirate, ECU has always done things outside the expected boundaries and come away with a treasure chest of success to show for it.

1901 Community leaders from Wilson urge the General Assembly to open a Normal College (a teacher training school) for women to complement the existing school in Greensboro. The house Committee on Education dismisses the proposal because it would interfere with the college at Greensboro.

1905 The state denies requests from Edenton, Washington, and Elizabeth City as well as Chowan, Columbus, and Pasquotank Counties to build a normal school in the eastern part of the state. In response to the flurry of requests, a News & Observer editorial states, We have a State Normal and Industrial College. No other such institution is now needed.

1907 Pitt County school superintendent William Henry Ragsdale replaces log schoolhouses with wooden buildings, making the county the most progressive in education reform in the eastern part of the state.

1907 On January 9, the Pitt County Chamber of Commerce holds a banquet to kick off its efforts to lobby the state to build a normal school in the county.

1907 On March 8, a bill is ratified creating the East Carolina Teachers Training School, a high school-level institution. Almost immediately Elizabeth City, Edenton, Rocky Mount, Tarboro, New Bern, Washington, Kinston, and Greenville begin vying to house the school.

1907 On July 10, the State Board of Education chooses Greenville as the site of the new teachers school.

1908 On July 2, groundbreaking ceremonies are held on a 47 acre site in Greenville.

1908 The Executive Committee chooses red tile roofing for the campus buildings, a bold and unique choice at the time. The Spanish mission influence would be copied later around town resulting in red tile roofs becoming a signature architectural element in Greenville.

1908 In December, Josephus Daniels, editor of the News & Observer, runs a feature article entitled, Model Town of East Carolina: Greenville and the New Teachers Training School, naming Pitt County as the center for eastern educational progress.

1909 On June 11, Robert Herring Wright, a 39-year-old native of eastern North Carolina and graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hillwho made a name for himself in the Baltimore school systemis named the new schools president.

1909 On October 9, dubbed Greenvilles Glad Day by the Greenville Daily Reflector newspaper, 174 students arrive for the opening day of East Carolina Teachers Training School. President Wright proclaims, This school is an expression of that determination, it was built by the people, for the people, and may it ever remain with the people, as a servant of the people.

1909 President Wright champions the idea of admitting students with a variety of educational levels and backgrounds to allow students with shaky starts to reach their full potential. His decision receives a great deal of criticism and backlash as many complain he is setting low standards for the school.

1909 Students are asked to suggest choices for school colors that were then voted on by a student committee. The winning combination, old gold and royal purple, was submitted by Addie Rollins Fields of Bethel, N.C.

1909 The College of Arts & Sciences, the School of Art, the School of Education, the School of Human Environmental Sciences, and the School of Music are established.

Male students form the first athletic organization at East Carolina, the Base Ball Club. The female students later organize their own sports clubs, starting with a basketball team.

The first two-year class graduates from the school. It presents the first senior play that evolves into a long-standing tradition. The following year, the graduating class performs The Mikado, which is praised by the community and newspaper critics, and reaches such financial and artistic success that it begins a longstanding dramatic tradition at the school and in the community.

1916 Helen Keller speaks at the school. As with all lectures and special events at the school, the surrounding community is invited to attend what becomes the highlight of the year.

1917 The school takes on the responsibility of running a three-room country school just outside of Greenville through a cooperative arrangement with the Pitt County school system. The Joyner School was planned as a model rural school that, in addition to teaching children, would be involved in developing the surrounding community.

On December 19, East Carolina Teachers School is renamed East Carolina Teachers College, a four-year institution granting a B.A. to graduates. The student body represents 55 counties and six states at this time.

1921 Students created the Student Self-Government Association, creating the colleges student council. Eleven years later, in 1932, at the request of the male students on campus, one male representative was allowed to take part.

1924 The colleges trustees nearly double the size of the campus by purchasing an additional 42 acres of land.

1932 The first intercollegiate sports team on campus is organized. The mens basketball team plays its first game against Campbell College, winning an unexpected victory. It is followed that same year by a baseball team and a football team. The basketball, baseball, and football teams are all coached by volunteers from the community.

1933 The first M.A. degree in education is conferred, for an additional year of study, to alumna Deanie Boone Haskett.

1933 President Wright approves the formation of intercollegiate sports teams for women students. In 1934 the womens basketball team completed an undefeated six-game season, and the overall program proved popular with the student body. In 1939 the program was phased out because the college had a difficult time finding other schools with womens teams to play.

1934 Male students organize the Mens Student Self-Government Association. The Female Student Self-Government Association, however, continues to hold the power and make most decisions regarding student life.

1934 The sports teams, which played under the straightforward moniker of Teachers, are renamed the Pirates on February 26. The East Carolina Mens Athletic Association took the name from Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, the most well-known pirate connected to the Carolina Coast.

1934 President Wright announces that female students are no longer required to wear hats when walking downtown.

1934 Following Wrights death, Leon Renfroe Meadows is named president of ECTC.

1940 East Carolina students begin regular participation in programs on Greenvilles radio station, WGTC, including a show focused on the colleges news and activities.

1941 Trustees approve a plan to develop a non-teaching degree program in the Graduate School.

1941 The ECTC football team plays an undefeated season. It is the only team in the history of the school to do so thus far.

1941 On November 17, Eleanor Roosevelt addresses students and community members on campus.

1944 Meadows is removed as ECTCs president after he is investigated and put on trial for embezzlement of funds. In the next three years, the college will have four different presidents.

1945 Meadows is found guilty of false pretense and embezzlement and sentenced to three years in prison. He is released after serving 21 months. During the trial, a number of faculty are fired and some students are expelled for their roles in encouraging and aiding the investigation of Meadows.

1947 John Decatur Messick is named president of ECTC. During his tenure, enrollment grew from 1,300 to 5,000 students; 80 acres and ten new buildings were acquired; the library holdings were doubled; the faculty tripled; and a school of nursing was established.

1950 Toward his goal of providing the best type of Christian education possible, Messick brings Dr. Robert L. Holt to campus as the director of religious activities. By the following year, 23 religious groups exist on campus.

1951 ECTC is renamed East Carolina College.

1959 The school gains national attention in January when an off-campus house party is raided by the police and school officials, resulting in a ten-day suspension for 47 students. President Messicks comments on the affair, which include an explanation of the difference between a proper goodnight kiss and the other kind.This clinging kiss of such a long nature will cause people to begin talking, is written about in newspapers all over the country. The unfortunate attention dubs East Carolina a party school.

1959 Stating that he is tired of being tired, Messick resigns as president in October.

1960 Leo Warren Jenkins is named president of ECC.

1960 The School of Nursing and the School of Business are established.

1961 Originally founded as an institution for white men and women, ECC adopts a policy of admitting qualified students of any race. Jenkins begins recruiting black faculty as well.

1963 The states General Assembly declares that the Consolidated University of North Carolina is the only institution that can award the doctors degree, and that the three branches of the Consolidated University would be UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Greensboro and North Carolina State University. A year later the Assembly names Charlotte College as the fourth branch, elevating it to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

1964 A News & Observer editorial notes of ECC: It has won the hearts and loyalties of its constituents, who feel that nothing is too fine for East Carolina and that no job is too tough for ECC to tackle with every chance of success.

1964 Dr. Ernest W. Furguson of Plymouth contacts President Jenkins to say the school could be doing more to meet the healthcare needs of eastern North Carolina. Jenkins begins to develop a proposal for a two-year medical school.

1964 After ten years of trying, the schools athletic programs join the Southern Conference.

1964 The Graduate School is established.

1965 Despite opposition from UNC supporters, as well as Piedmont-area state senators who support the establishment of a four-year medical school in Charlotte, the state senate passes a bill allowing for the establishment of a two-year medical school at ECC. One detractor laments, If a two-year medical school is established in Greenville, the next move will be to give university status to East Carolina College.

1966 ECC is approved by the Board of Higher Education to offer M.B.A. degrees.

1966 The chairman of the Dare County commissioners declares: What we can build for East Carolina College, we build for Eastern North Carolina.

1967 East Carolina becomes the largest college in the South and one of the largest in the country.

1967 The News & Observer declares: ECC Found Not Prepared to Become a University. That same year, the General Assembly authorizes the schools university status and it becomes East Carolina University.

1967 School of Allied Health Sciences established.

1969 The General Assembly adds the colleges at Asheville and Wilmington to the Consolidated University.

1969 The General College is established.

1971 The School of Industry & Technology is established.

1971 The General Assembly appropriates $1.4 million to start a medical school at ECU.

1972 The Consolidated University is restructured and becomes the University of North Carolina, a 16-school system that includes East Carolina University.

1974 The East Carolina Medical School is established after ten years of fighting between East Carolina and UNC administrators.

1976 The Brody School of Medicine is established.

1978 Thomas Bowman Brewer becomes the first chancellor of ECU.

1979 Construction of the Brody Medical Sciences Building begins.

1981 The medical school graduates its first class of doctors.

1983 ECU grants its first Ph. D. degree.

1986 The School of Social Work & Criminal Justice Studies is established.

1987 On February 17, the first heart transplant at ECU is performed.

1993 The School of Health & Human Performance is established.

2000 The School of Computer Science & Communication is established.