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Chairman asks governors to reconsider trustee seats

Kieran Shanahan .jpg

By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The chairman of East Carolina University’s Board of Trustees has written a letter taking the UNC Board of Governors to task for ignoring ECU’s recommended slate of trustees candidates.

The Board of Governors is scheduled to select individuals to fill four of six seats on the trustee board. The other two seats will be filled later by the General Assembly. The governors are scheduled to vote on the appointments during their two-day meeting at Appalachian State University that starts Thursday.

While ECU trustees submitted eight candidates for the seats, including three current members, the agenda for the Board of Governors meeting shows only one person on the ECU list, current trustee Mark Copeland of Texas is on the list.

ECU Board of Trustees chairman Kieran Shanahan on Tuesday sent a letter to David Powers, who serves on the Board of Governors’ University Governance Committee. That body is scheduled to vote Thursday on the nominees. The full board will vote Friday.

Shanahan said ECU followed the procedures for nominating trustees that were explained by Powers in an earlier conversation only to find, “that our submission of highly qualified, diverse nominees was ignored in toto, and a slate was chosen without input from ECU or the ECU Board of Trustees.”

“Given the real and pressing issues facing the University, ECU is in need of the expertise, experience, and diversity that is reflected in our slate,” said Shanahan.

ECU Chancellor Cecil Staton announced Monday he is stepping down effective May 30 but will stay on in an advisory capacity until June 30.

Shanahan questioned why none of the nominees being considered by the governors is a woman.

“What does it say to our student population — 58 percent of which are women — that your board slate fails to include any women, and that, if not corrected, there will be zero women on the ECU Board of Trustees?” Shanahan asked. “What message will this send on recruiting a new chancellor?”

Later in the letter, Shanahan said, “If nothing else, please take into consideration the need for gender diversity for the ECU Board of Trustees and have your committee give a voice to the female population at ECU.”

The current 13-member ECU board has two women and one African-American representative.

The seats held by the two women, Deborah Davis, a hospital executive in Richmond, Va., and Leigh Fanning, an executive with R.A. Jeffreys Distributing Company in Greenville, are among the four the Board of Governors is filling. Davis, who’s served two terms, is ineligible for reappointment.

Fanning is one of two women among the eight individuals recommended by ECU’s Board of Trustees. There are no African-Americans or other minorities in the ECU group.

The other woman is ECU graduate and U.S. Small Business Adminstration Secretary Linda McMahon. McMahon was not included on a list provided to the Reflector and published on March 14.

According to the Board of Governors’ agenda, which was released Monday, the four candidates are:

■ 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. Copeland is the only current ECU trustee who is being reappointed. He was on the trustees’ list of recommendations.

Harry Smith, chairman of the Board of Governors and an alumnus of ECU, said earlier this week efforts are underway to add female representation to the trustees. When asked how that will happened he declined to provide specifics.

“ECU, like every other school in the system, has real and immediate challenges that must be addressed,” said Shanahan, who is not seeking reappointment to his seat, which will be filled by the legislature. Edwin Clark, who is not eligible to be reseated, is the six trustee that will be replaced.

“The membership of the ECU Board of Trustees must be derived from a fair process and result in a board that includes and encourages female participation so that the Board of Trustees can reflect the make-up and values of the entire ECU community.”

Bobby Burns contributed to this report. Contact Ginger Livingston at glivingston@reflector.com and 329-9570.