ECU’s future remains a bright one

Published 12:57 pm Tuesday, March 6, 2007

By Staff
A 100th birthday is clearly a cause of celebration and this week’s centennial at East Carolina University clearly is such a cause.
On Thursday 100 years ago, the General Assembly passed an act “to stimulate high school instruction in the public schools of the state and teacher training.”
That law created East Carolina Teachers Training School. Ground wasn’t broken until July 1908 and the school didn’t open its doors until October 1909, but the seeds planted 100 years ago have provided a bountiful harvest for all of eastern North Carolina. It is fitting that our generation of legislators will be on hand for the celebration on Thursday.
Washington’s ties with the city to the west are strong. Pitt County was once part of Beaufort County until it was split off in 1760, more than a decade before the creation of the City of Washington. Even 100 years ago, the two counties were far similar in terms of population and makeup. The college helped change that. Today Pitt County is home to more than 142,000 people, while Beaufort remains about 46,000. Instead of rivals, the two neighbors seem to complement one another. Each is different, but each bring something special to the table.
The history of what is now ECU has been one of growth. In 1921, ECTTS became a four-year institution and was renamed East Carolina Teachers College. A master’s-degree program was established eight years later and in 1951 the name was changed again to East Carolina College. In 1967, over the objections of Governor Dan K. Moore, ECC was made a regional university. Moore opposed the creation of a university system separate from the Consolidated University of North Carolina. More than a decade later, ECU became part of the University of North Carolina system with all the benefits that brings.
ECU has grown to become an emerging, national research university with an enrollment of more than 23,000 students and an economic impact that is estimated at more than $2 billion a year.
Just as students have excelled in the classroom, Pirates have proven themselves winners on the athletic field. Their football team is coming off a bowl appearance. Last weekend, their women’s basketball team won the conference championship and with it a berth in the NCAA tournament. The Pirates’ baseball team has already pulled off wins over one nationally ranked contender so far in this young season and is facing another in Cal State Fullerton this weekend. The women’s softball team is also proving to be a powerhouse already this year. Homegrown talent Keli Harrell, a graduate of Rose High School is closing in on the Conference USA career record of strikeouts with 837 — just 21 shy of the record with more than 40 games left in the regular season.
Athletics aside, 10 decades after it was formed, ECU has not lost the vision of those who founded it. It was created to alleviate the shortage of teachers in the eastern part of the state. Today, ECU remains a leader in graduating teachers. But it has also earned honors for health care and the fine and performing arts. Soon the university can include a dental program to its list of offerings. The reason is the same reason the school was started to begin with — to target a specific need in eastern North Carolina.
Today the university has the motto “tomorrow starts here.” But the true vision of ECU remains the same as its original slogan: “To serve.” On that, ECU has proved itself over time.