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The Year in Higher Education: New PCC chancellor, ECU buildings rise

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Lawrence Rouse, the second candidate for PCC President, speaks during a public forum in the Walter and Marie Williams building Friday, May 4, 2018.


The Daily Reflector

Monday, December 31, 2018

Pitt Community College selected a new president and East Carolina University’s building boom continued during a year that also saw a number of Greek houses close on ECU’s campus and a move to limit or eliminate smoking at both PCC and ECU.

Lawrence Rouse became the first African-American president of PCC and just the fifth president in the college’s history as he replaced G. Dennis Massey, who retired after 15 years of leadership.

At ECU, work progressed on a number of major building projects, including a new student center and an ungraded Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

ECU also grappled with a series of fraternity and sorority closures on campus and formed at task force to examine its Greek system.  

1. PCC names new college president

The State Board of Community Colleges in May approved the nomination of Lawrence Rouse to become the next president of Pitt Community College.

Formerly the president of James Sprunt Community College in Kenansville, Rouse replaced President G. Dennis Massey, who retired.

Rouse was nominated by the Pitt Community College Board of Trustees following a national search.

Rouse, who has more than 36 years of experience in community college administration, was named the N.C. Community College System’s President of the Year in 2016. His professional background includes work as dean of students at Johnston Community College and associate vice president for enrollment management/dean of students at South Carolina’s Central Carolina Technical College. He also served as director of cooperative education and placement services and as an admissions specialist with CCTC.

Rouse is the fifth person to serve as PCC president in the college’s 57-year history — and its first African-American president — joining Lloyd Spaulding, William Fulford, Charles Russell and Massey. PCC is North Carolina’s sixth-largest community college in terms of student credit hours. The college serves more than 23,000 students in credit and non-credit programs annually.

2. ECU construction projects build momentum

Work continued to raise ECU’s new centerpiece student center and adjacent parking deck, which will officially open in January, while work on several other major construction projects also is progressing well.

The 217,000-square-foot student center on main campus off 10th Street and near Joyner Library is being funded by student fees and auxiliary receipts at a cost of $122.2 million. Work began in November 2016.

The $60 million Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium southside renovation, with nearly $33 million funded by Pirate Club supporters, moved forward. The project will add add about 1,000 premium seats in a four-story structure that will house a new club level, suites and loge boxes.

The ECU athletics ticket office will be moved and team locker rooms added to Scales Field House, according to ECU News Services reports. An 8,000-square-foot open area also is planned between the west end zone and the Murphy Center to provide close-up viewing of on-field action.

Construction also amped up after baseball season ended on June 3 on an indoor hitting facility connected to Clark-LeClair Stadium.

Concurrent with the football stadium project, a first-floor reconstruction of the Ward Sports Medicine building took place, including a new athletic trainers’ facility, football locker room, lounge and equipment room.

Also in progress, the $95-million, 141,500-square-foot Life Sciences and Biotechnology building was designed by Chapel Hill-based Lord Aeck Sargent. Construction is contracted by Charlotte-based Rodgers Builders

The four-story building (plus a mechanical storage area above) will house interdisciplinary and cross-functional programs that involve external partners, faculty, and students in the fields of biology, chemistry, and biomedical/process engineering. The project will construct state-of-the-art classrooms, laboratories, offices and support space, providing a more direct interface between the university community and regional partners.

Floor-plan layouts are progressing and have been approved. Design development has been finalized and submitted.

3. ECU Greek houses closed; committee formed

A series of Greek house closures or suspensions sparked the formation of a task force to look for ways to strengthen ECU’s sororities and fraternities.

Chancellor Cecil Staton formed the task force to examine national issues and assess the culture of Greek life at ECU.

Staton’s 16-member task force, composed of alumni, faculty, community leaders and students, was formed in July in the wake of suspensions and closures affecting five fraternities and one sorority. Five of the closures have come since January. Several resulted from drug-use, hazing and other violations of campus rules and the rules the national Greek organizations.

The series of closures began in May 2017, when Sigma Phi Epsilon shuttered its house at 505 E. Fifth St. for multiple hazing and risk management incidents, according to officials.

The Delta Chi fraternity closed its chapter indefinitely in January after an investigation that found actions by members constituted hazing and other violations of the fraternity’s policies, the university reported.

Tau Kappa Epsilon also closed its chapter in January through the conclusion of the fall 2021 semester. Neither the university nor the national organization provided details about the closure.

In February, Sigma Alpha Epsilon closed its local chapter for hazing and other policy violations, the university reported. The closure is for a period of four years.

Phi Kappa Tau closed its ECU chapter in May as a result of an investigation it conducted in collaboration with and support of the university. An April 11 police raid at the fraternity house at 409 Elizabeth St. prompted the investigation.

In July, Alpha Phi International to moved to suspend operations of its chapter at ECU pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation by both Alpha Phi and the University.

Staton’s task force will examine practices surrounding internal governance and accountability of Greek organizations, review recruitment and education of new organization members, assess policies and practices for social, educational and other activities engaged in by Greek organizations and review university governance and oversight of them.

4. PCC reveals renovated Health Sciences facilities

Pitt Community College in November cut the ribbon on its newly-renovated health sciences facilities and gave visitors a closer look at the state-of-the-art equipment used in training skilled health care professionals.

Renovations to the William E. Fulford and Herman Simon buildings began shortly after the college’s science programming moved into the new Walter and Marie Williams Building in August 2017.

PCC turned the space left behind into a 10-bed simulation hospital, simulation laboratories, an Emergency Medical Science classroom and laboratory, a Medical and Cardiovascular Sonography classroom and scanning laboratory, and a hot lab for Nuclear Medicine Technology.

According to PCC Health Sciences Dean Donna Neal, the project, which included new equipment, cost $1.61 million, with much of the funding provided by Vidant Medical Center and the Golden LEAF Foundation. Vidant, she said, awarded the college a $500,000-grant during the summer to help purchase high-tech patient simulators, while Golden LEAF provided a $200,000-grant.

5. ECU to establish School of Rural Public Health

A new School of Rural Public Health will focus on the needs of North Carolina’s rural population and take East Carolina University’s mission of service to the next logical step, officials said when announcing the new program.

The school will be established in August 2020 now that plans have been approved by the UNC Board of Governors’ Committee on Educational Planning, Policies and Programs, officials said in a news release making the announcement.

The school initially will combine departments and centers already in existence at ECU, including public health, health education and promotion, biostatistics, health services and information management and the Center for Health Disparities, officials said in the release. The departments are housed in three buildings on the university’s two campuses: The Brody School of Medicine, the College of Allied Health Sciences and the College of Health and Human Performance.

6. PCC begins tobacco-free era; ECU limits smoking

Pitt County, which once topped the country in tobacco production, achieved what just a few decades ago might have seemed unthinkable: its institutions of higher learning are shunning smoking.

Pitt Community College celebrated becoming a tobacco-free campus, joining East Carolina University which this year established a policy prohibiting all forms of tobacco use within 100 feet of buildings on the main campus and banning tobacco completely on the health sciences campus.

PCC’s new policy took effect in August. Johnny Smith, vice president of student development services, said the policy had not drawn much objection from students, including those older attendees who might have been smoking for many years.

“Folks seem to be excited about us going in this direction, and we’re looking forward to this change,” Smith said.

7. ECU alum Smith elected to lead UNC Board of Governors

The governing board of North Carolina’s public university system on Thursday elected an East Carolina University alumnus and Greenville businessman as its chairman.

Harry L. Smith, a vocal Pirate Club booster who has faced controversy and sometimes clashed with other university officials, was the only candidate for the job and was elected unanimously by the 32-member board.

He replaced Asheville attorney W. Louis Bissette Jr. The board also elected former N.C. State University trustee and boat manufacturer Randy Ramsey as vice chairman and Pearl Burris Floyd as secretary. Ramsey is founder of Jarrett Bay Boatworks of Beaufort.

8. ECU chancellor controversy

In November, rumors swirled that East Carolina University Chancellor Cecil Staton would leave his post Jan. 1.

Carolina Journal of Raleigh published a story citing unnamed sources that Staton requested a severance package during a Board of Trustees meeting.

But Staton spoke in a radio interview with 94.3 the Game and stated his intention to stay at ECU.

“No, I have not accepted any kind of deal with anyone and I have certainly not resigned as ECU's chancellor,” Staton said. “I'm on the job and that's what I plan to keep doing.”

Staton also pointed to his recent performance review.

“We just went through a 360 review which is done on chancellors every four years,” he said. “We actually did one after my second year here at ECU. I'm in my third year and that 360 review was overwhelmingly positive.

“This is not the time to even be thinking about or talking about a change for the ECU chancellor,” Staton said. “That's not what we want to do. We don't want to talk about that. To me, candidly, it's a distraction.”

9. PCC coach wins 2018 MAIN Man Award

Pitt Community College head men's basketball coach Darrick Mullins was presented with the 2018 MAIN Man Award on Tuesday at the second annual Males Addressing Issues and Needs Summit.

Mullins, a Greenville native and a graduate of North Pitt High School and Elizabeth City State University, has coached the Bulldogs since 2010. He also is founder of Hightower, a basketball program that over more than two decades has allowed him to use basketball to influence more than 1,000 youth.

At PCC, Mullins has seen his overall team grade point average improve over eight seasons. Jasmin Spain, PCC assistant vice president of Student Development and Community Standards, said Mullins also has been successful at helping keep student athletes in school.

“Coach Mullins has built a program where athletes must be students first and athletes second,” Spain said.

In presenting the award, Spain said Mullins, a husband and father of two, is a father figure to many more.


The Daily Reflector is looking back on the biggest stories of the year today through Jan. 2. This Series is divided into categories, as follows:

Wednesday: ECU sports

Thursday: Education

Friday: Arts & Entertainment

Saturday: Business & Industry

Today: Pitt County

Monday: ECU & PCC

Tuesday: City of Greenville

Wednesday: Crime & Rescue

Coming tomorrow

Pitt Community College selected a new president and East Carolina University’s building boom continued during a year that also saw a number of Greek houses close on ECU campus and a move to limit or eliminate smoking on both Pitt County campuses.

Follow the series online at reflector.com.