The value of a good education is proven 50,000 times over.
That is the ironclad belief of Patricia Anderson, professor and interim chair of the Department of Elementary Education and Middle Grades Education at East Carolina University. For 39 years, she’s touted the importance of early and middle grades education to aspiring teachers.
“Without a firm basis in learning, or a positive learning environment, children will struggle as learners for the rest of their lives. Elementary educators give kids the firmest foundation and the most positive learning experiences that they can, and everything builds on that,” Anderson said. “Our goal is to put out teachers who can meet that need. Frankly, we do a really good job of that.”
ECU’s elementary education program is nationally recognized for its innovation and effectiveness in preparing knowledgeable, informed, professional teachers who impact the lives of thousands of students annually.
Donors Edward and Sara Coble Roos recently made the largest financial gift ever received in the College of Education (COE) to establish the Roos Elementary Education Scholars Program.
The Roos scholarship will award $5,000 a year to outstanding incoming freshmen and graduate students who wish to become, or already are, classroom elementary teachers.
“The generosity and magnitude of this gift will positively impact the preparation of teachers for many years to come,” Dean Art Rouse said.
Including graduate students in the scholarship program is significant. There is less incentive for teachers to pursue graduate degrees because North Carolina lawmakers in 2013 eliminated a provision that granted automatic pay raises to public school teachers who completed master’s degrees.
“When that occurred, the bottom fell out of our graduate program,” Anderson said. “Although our numbers have increased, graduate scholarships are almost unheard of.”
However, there are signs those incentives could be reinstated, and when that happens, ECU’s teachers will be ready, she said.
Roos Scholars will also be a part of the College of Education Living Learning Community and will have leadership development and travel opportunities in addition to other programming.
While the whole program hasn’t been designed yet, it could include trips to visit and observe outstanding schools like the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta (run by COE alumnus Ron Clark). There will also be an emphasis on the most up-to-date teaching methods and technologies, including innovative approaches for virtual learning and student engagement, Anderson said.
“We’re beyond excited for the opportunities that are going to come out because of this gift,” Anderson added. “It’s an honor that someone wants to support our program and what we’re doing.”
Gifts to College of Business to have immediate impact
Two recent gifts from College of Business (COB) alumni will improve the college’s existing student success center and create a new faculty position.
Steve Cunanan and his wife, Ellen, both COB alumni, established the Cunanan Center for Professional Success, while alumnus Clark Stallings and his wife, Lisa, created the Stallings International Scholar position.
According to Dean Paul Schwager, College of Business alumni gifts are increasingly important due to the effects of COVID-19 on students.
“Our students want both an education and a social experience while at ECU, and regrettably, they’re only getting one of those,” Schwager said. “So, what can we bring them that will mitigate their sense of loss, but enhance their education and knowledge of and preparation for the world? That’s what I’m hoping these new gifts will do.”
Universities are even more reliant on donor gifts these days due to the coronavirus and its negative economic impact. Thankfully, ECU donors continue to be generous even during difficult times. For example, since the beginning of the pandemic in March, Pirates near and far raised more than $207,000 for student emergency funds. Overall giving to the ECU Foundation was $13.2 million as of Oct. 31, compared with $8.5 million at the same time last year. In the COB, in particular, philanthropy is strong. For this year’s Pirate Nation Gives , the largest gift of the day — $1.8 million — went to the college’s accounting department.
Steve Cunanan ’87 ’91 and Ellen Cunanan ’88 established the Cunanan Center for Professional Success, which will move the business school career center into a modern and accessible location on the third floor of Bate Building on main campus. The center annually interacts with approximately 5,400 undergraduate and graduate students in various ways designed to improve career chances during college and after graduation.
Steve Cunanan believes this gift is in line with the university’s goal of serving the region and helping individuals better their situation, whether economic or personal.
“(Students) getting a job is really important to the university,” he said. “It’s important to the community, and it’s important to the region.”
In the Cunanan Center for Professional Success (CCPS), students and alumni will find a more comprehensive, unified approach to providing career and professional services. All CCPS staff will be in the new space instead of separate offices scattered across campus. Resume building, practice interviews, career and development workshops and internship opportunities will continue to be the focus. One new element will be stronger community engagement, through which local industries and businesses can use the CCPS services to better their employees.
Another gift came to the College of Business courtesy of timing. ECU COB alumnus Clark Stallings ‘89 and his wife, Lisa ’91, are Pirates through and through. The Stallings live near campus, where they like to take walks. They and their four children attended ECU games. Lisa Stallings is an advisor for Alpha Delta Pi sorority. And Clark Stallings, an entrepreneur, hires many of his employees from ECU. When he retires, his dream job is to volunteer and lead campus tours.
Their gift to the college’s priority fund allowed Schwager to immediately create the Stallings Distinguished International Scholar.
Stallings refers to his relationship with the college as a journey.
“I’m very proud and blessed to be a part of it. If Paul (Schwager) needs something, he knows that we’re available,” he said. “We’re willing to roll up our sleeves and help where we can.”