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Among the greatest honors for any chancellor is the opportunity to preside over commencement ceremonies and wish new graduates the very best as they pursue their dreams. I’ll have that opportunity one last time on May 3 as ECU’s 11th chancellor.

Three years at ECU passed very quickly, but they left Catherine and me with so many wonderful memories that we’ll treasure for a lifetime. This is a very special place. And I encourage you to pause a moment to cherish it, support it, make the most it, and never take ECU or your time here for granted.

Arriving at ECU after 27 years serving higher education in Georgia, I had an outsider’s perspective, and I saw greatness here. I don’t think everyone on campus, much less across North Carolina, appreciates what a great university ECU has become. Some prefer that ECU serve a role as a small regional university over in eastern North Carolina. In their more candid moments, they’d say, “Stay in your lane, ECU. Don’t get too big for your britches!” The leaders who recruited me to ECU had a different outlook. They wanted a chancellor who shared a vision of what ECU had become, and they wanted the world to know it is an extraordinary university that’s destined to be a national model for excellence in a unique setting—rural eastern North Carolina.

The facts supporting that vision are unassailable. ECU is one of only 141 universities in the nation with a medical (M.D.) school. We are the only university in North Carolina with such a range of academic assets. And we are uniquely applying those assets to improve health care, education, and economic disparities across rural North Carolina, partnering with area communities in regional transformation. We are serving students from rural and low-income backgrounds far better than most, focusing on each student’s success. We know our mission is about changing lives, communities, our state, nation and world. And we know that North Carolina depends upon ECU. As I like to say, if North Carolina didn’t have ECU it would have to go out and build it tomorrow!

As I look back over the last three years, I am very pleased that we made great strides in the internationalization of our campus and in providing international studies opportunities for our students. I’m delighted, as well, by the progress we’ve made in increasing research opportunities, benefiting students who are developing skills for critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration. I’m proud of the team that launched an ambitious $500 million comprehensive campaign for ECU, the largest in our history, and raised $215 million toward that goal in only two and a half years.

I know Pirate Nation is especially pleased with our reset of athletics, bringing to ECU an accomplished director of athletics, new men’s and women’s basketball coaches, a new head football coach, and incredible excitement about the possibilities for our future. Yes, great days are ahead for our student athletes and Pirate fans everywhere.

It’s the people that make any organization great, or not so great. At ECU, we are blessed with a world-class faculty and staff. We are equally blessed with alumni, donors, and friends who fully understand how special ECU is and the impact it has across North Carolina and beyond. Best of all, we have outstanding students who are known far and wide for their hard work. Hundreds of employers come to this campus regularly, and they tell us it’s because there is no student anywhere with a stronger work ethic. Catherine and I have been invigorated every day by their incredible energy and desire to excel.

This incredible environment has created thousands of ambassadors who attest to ECU excellence every day. Now, it’s more important than ever that they stand up for ECU and tell its great story at every opportunity. There is no limit to what ECU can become if it is given the support and resources to fulfill its mission. Catherine and I look forward to watching that progress in the days ahead. We will continue to be proud Pirates!

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