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As installation nears, chancellor rocks with students

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ECU Gospel Choir performs at the Rock the Mall event on March 21, 2017. (Joe Pellegrino/The Daily Reflector)

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Michael Abramowitz
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

East Carolina University students took advantage of a blue sky and high temperatures Tuesday to eat free ice cream and barbecue sandwiches and “Rock the Mall,” part of the weeklong celebration of the university’s official installation of Chancellor Cecil Staton. 

Staton will be installed as ECU’s 11th chancellor during a ceremony at Wright Auditorium at 10 a.m. Friday, nearly a year after he was hired and nine months after he began his administrative duties. The installation and celebrations to follow are expected to be attended by University of North Carolina President Margaret Spellings, chancellors from other state universities, members of the UNC Board of Governors and ECU Board of Trustees and elected officials from across the state.

Staton is using the occasion to promote the university and have some fun. On Wednesday he posed for photos with students next to a soda and ice cream stand, representative of his first job working behind the fountain of a drug store in his native Greenville, S.C. He then hopped on stage between students’ musical performances to say a few words.

“Our students are what it’s all about here at ECU,” Staton said. “Job One for us is student success, so it’s very important to me as we prepare for Friday’s installation ceremonies that we have this time together out on this beautiful mall. We are very proud to be here with you at ECU and we look forward to many great days to come as we work together to make sure that East Carolina University is all that it can be.”

As the students wandered the mall, The Daily Reflector asked random students to name ECU’s chancellor.

“I don’t know his name,” junior Darya Abar of Irvine, California, said. Her friend, Caroline Ratkus, a freshman from High Point, took a stab and did pretty well. 

“Cecil ... Stanton, I think,” Ratkus said. “I think he’s new.”

Allison Moore, a senior from Asheville, thought she might know the chancellor.

“I think his name is Michael. I don’t know his last name, but I get an “L” coming in mind,” Moore said.

Her friend, Krissy Smith, a senior from Baltimore, decided to help Moore out.

“It’s Land, or something like that; Michael Land, I think,” Smith said. “I’m not sure what he’s done so far, so I can’t say how he’s doing. But I’d like him to clean up Greenville. It’s pretty dirty.”

“Free tuition would be a good thing for him to do, and giving student government more of a voice,” Moore said.

“Cecil Stanton is the chancellor,” Rachel Dean, a junior majoring in special education, said. “I’m just not sure what he’s done yet.”

Dean’s friend, Olivia Collins, a sophomore from Newport, had some requests for Chancellor “Stanton.”

“A little decrease on tuition would be nice, and better food on campus,” Collins said. “They don’t have many healthy options, so a good salad place would be nice.”

Freshmen seemed better at relating to their chancellor. Heather Mosesso of Sterling, Virginia, and Meredith Cordell knew their chancellor’s first and last name. Mosesso said she admired his accomplishments.

“He gets everyone involved,” she said. “Things like Rock the Mall today. Great games, and it’s such a nice day.”

Staton spent a few minutes talking more seriously with reporters before heading off to be with the students. He said the university is a complex place, with 29,000 students, 5,800 faculty and staff, 12 colleges and schools and an enormous impact across eastern North Carolina, the state and the world.

“Every day I am more surprised by the assets of this great university and the impact that it has,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of great things ahead for this institution, including a $500 million capital campaign that will raise resources to insure we have the future we want for our students. We’re focusing on research so our students will be better prepared for the world they’ll be working in.”

The capital campaign could be critical as Staton faces a stingy N.C. General Assembly that already has made several cuts in its support for ECU and the Brody School of Medicine during the past several years.

“The mantra (out of Raleigh) for the better part of a decade has been about finding (operational) efficiencies,” Staton said. “In reality, we’ve done that; finding ways to tighten our belts due to the constraints in public financing. But certainly for Brody, the state’s medical school founded 40 years ago with a specific mission from the General Assembly.

“Frankly, I think we haven’t done as good a job as we could telling our own story. I’ve met many times already with our legislators as part of my job to make sure they fully understand the contributions that Brody makes in eastern North Carolina and across this state, including a $3 billion annual economic impact. But that’s my job, to tell the story and make sure they understand.”

Contact Michael Abramowitz at mabramowitz@reflector.com or 252-329-9507.

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