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Update: Staton resigns

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East Carolina University Cecil Staton applauds Jon Gilbert, the new athletics director during an introductory press conference in the Murphy Center in December.


By Bobby Burns
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, March 17, 2019

ECU Chancellor Cecil P. Staton announced this morning he is resigning.

Staton, the university’s 11th chancellor, said he will step down effective May 3 but will remain on as an adviser to UNC System President Bill Roper and the interim chancellor through June 30. 

“Catherine and I are very grateful for our time at ECU,” Staton said in a news release announcing his resignation. “We have enjoyed every moment working with our inspiring students and world-class faculty and staff. As we prepare for this transition in leadership, we remain committed to the idea we arrived with – ECU’s future is full of promise. There are no limits to what ECU can attain in service to the East, North Carolina, our nation, and our world and we look forward to following the progress of this great university in the years to come.”

Staton is the 11th chancellor of East Carolina University. Following is from a news release issued this morning on the resignation:

Staton came to ECU in 2016 following a 27-year career in Georgia where he served as a faculty member and administrator at three different colleges and universities, as a state senator responsible for Georgia’s appropriations to higher education, as a university system senior administrator, and as an interim university president. He was former UNC President Margaret Spelling’s first chancellor hire. After a national search, he was elected chancellor on April 26, 2016.

Staton, a graduate of Furman University, holds the M.Div. with Languages and Master of Theology degrees from Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, the Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Oxford in England, and the honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Mercer University in Georgia.

While at ECU, Staton led a complete rebranding effort to raise ECU’s national stature; launched the Rural Prosperity Initiative in partnership with SAS to improve health care, education, and economic disparities across rural North Carolina; and began a $500 million comprehensive campaign – the largest in university history – that has raised more than $213 million during the first two and a half years.

Through a new Strategic Plan extension, Capture Your Horizon, Staton led planning and investments that have improved student outcomes, increased financial aid, and grown ECU’s internationalization efforts, research activity and overall impact on Eastern North Carolina’s economy.

Staton provided leadership for numerous capital projects, including $70 million in residence hall renovations, a $60 million Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium Southside renovation, opening a new $37 million student center on the health sciences campus in 2017, opening a new $122 million student union on the main campus in January 2019, and preparing for the construction of a new $8 million innovation hub for the Miller School of Entrepreneurship and a $95 million life sciences building, due to be completed in 2021.

During his tenure, retooling the athletics program was a key priority. “Pirates have great passion,” Staton said. “I am grateful that we have been able to press the reset button for Pirate athletics and prepare a foundation for future success. I am enormously grateful that Dave Hart accepted my invitation to serve as Special Advisor to the Chancellor for Athletics. Together we have completed successful searches for a new Athletic Director, Head Men’s Basketball Coach, and Head Football Coach, and we’ve committed significant university resources to support our proud athletic traditions. I am confident that ECU athletics are in a good place and that our best days are ahead.”

Commenting on Staton’s tenure and leadership, ECU Board of Trustees Chairman Kieran Shanahan said, “Cecil Staton has served ECU with distinction, dedication and an uncompromising commitment to excellence. His and Catherine’s departure is a tremendous loss for our great university.”

UNC System Interim President Bill Roper said, “ECU’s importance to this state and to Eastern North Carolina is immense and I’m grateful that Chancellor Staton answered the call to serve the Pirate community over the past three years. I’m confident he is leaving the university in good hands and with a bright future ahead as it continues to build on its success.”

Staton added, “I am grateful to have been at ECU and to have worked with wonderful students, an enormously dedicated faculty and staff, a terrific leadership team, and lots of Pirate alumni, friends and governance members who understand the importance of ECU to North Carolina. As I like to say, if North Carolina didn’t have ECU, it would have to go out and build it tomorrow. Catherine and I will always be proud Pirates!”




Previous story

ECU Chancellor Cecil Staton is expected to announce his resignation Monday ahead of likely changes on the university’s Board of Trustees, according to multiple sources.

The university would not confirm reports Sunday night, but Chief Communication Officer Tom Eppes said there will be a news release Monday morning as well as a media availability with Staton at 11:30 a.m.

The online publication Carolina Journal obtained an announcement in which Staton said he plans to leave the job May 3. He’ll stay until June 30 to advise UNC System Interim President Bill Roper and ECU’s interim chancellor during the transition, according to the announcement obtained by the publication.

“Catherine [Staton’s spouse] and I are very grateful for our time at ECU,” Staton said in the announcement. “We have enjoyed every moment working with our inspiring students and world-class faculty and staff. As we prepare for this transition in leadership, we remain committed to the idea we arrived with — ECU’s future is full of promise. There are no limits to what ECU can attain in service to the east, North Carolina, our nation, and our world and we look forward to following the progress of this great university in the years to come.”

Carolina Journal did not report how it obtained the document. Members of the ECU Board of Trustees and the UNC Board of Governors and associates of Staton reached by The Daily Reflector on Sunday said they did not have the document. 

Carolina Journal reported incorrectly last year that Staton would be stepping down in January, but Sunday’s report jibes with information obtained by the Reflector on Friday that Staton had reached out to friends to alert them to the coming news.

The announcement comes ahead of a meeting of the UNC Board of Governors on Thursday at which the board is expected to name name a new slate of trustees. The recommendations are expected to be released with board material Monday, however multiple sources have confirmed with The Reflector who’s on the list:

■ Thomas P. Furr of Durham, founder and CEO of PatientPay, a payments service provider for specialty care agencies.

■ Phillip A. Lewis of Greenville, cofounder of Carolina Benefit Specialists, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina service provider.

■ Troy Dreyfus of Greenville, cofounder and operator of Pirate Radio 1250 & 930.

■ Mark Copeland of Dallas, Texas, a managing partner with the Ernst and Young accounting firm.

The UNC board’s governance committee is expected to vote on the nominees on Thursday during a meeting at Appalachian State University in Boone, followed by a vote of the full board on Friday.

If approved, Copeland will be serving his second four-year term on the trustees board. The others will be new to the board and will fill seats currently held by Deborah Davis, Kel Normann and Leigh Fanning.

Davis was not eligible for reappointment; Normann and Fanning are eligible for reappointment. Two more open seats must be filled by the state legislature by the summer.

Staton was hired by then-UNC System President Margaret Spellings in April 2016. The current board has supported Staton while vocal alumni and system officials including Board of Governors Chairman Harry Smith have raised concerns about spending, enrollment and other issues.

“We need to wish Cecil the best,” Smith said Sunday night. “It’s a tough job and he’s a good man.”

Normann said it’s a sad day. 

Staton was brutally and unfairly attacked for more than two years, he said, “but it’s time for ECU to move forward.”

Contact Bobby Burns at baburns@reflector.com and 329-9572.