On March 3, 1891, Hugh Cale, an African-American representative in the N.C. General
Assembly from Pasquotank County, sponsored House Bill 383, which established a normal
(teaching) school for “teaching and training teachers of the colored race to teach
in the common schools of North Carolina.” The bill passed, and the origin of Elizabeth
City State University was born. The institution's first name was Elizabeth City State Colored Normal School (1891-1939).
The first leader, Peter W. Moore, was called a Principal (subsequent leaders would be called President, then Chancellor). Moore served as Principal and then President until his retirement as President, Emeritus, on July 1, 1928. During his tenure, enrollment increased from 23 to 355 and the faculty from two to 15 members. During the tenure of the second president, John Henry Bias, the institution was elevated from a two-year normal school to a four-year teachers college (1937). Two years later, the institution’s name was officially changed to Elizabeth City State Teachers College (1939-1963). The growth and elevation to teachers college changed the mission to include training elementary school principals for rural and city schools. The first Bachelor of Science degrees in elementary education were awarded in May of 1939.
Between 1959 and 1963, the institution became more than a teaching college, adding 11 academic majors to the original elementary education major. In 1961, the college joined the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accrediting group (SACS) and maintains its accreditation with that body to the present. In 1963, the N.C. General Assembly changed the institution’s name from Elizabeth City State Teachers College to Elizabeth City State College (1963-1969) and on, July 1, 1969, the college became Elizabeth City State University. In 1971, the General Assembly redefined the University of North Carolina system with 16 public institutions, including ECSU. Together, those institutions became constituents of The University of North Carolina (July 1972).
Academics. Currently ECSU offers over 30 academic programs of study. From business to music
to aviation and education, ECSU prepares students to compete in the global work force. We
achieve our commitment to the highest quality education by maintaining a rigorous
focus on academic excellence through liberal arts programs and using innovative and
flexible technology-based instruction models to enhance our signature areas: integrating
technology with education, improving human health and wellness, and advancing the
natural and aviation sciences. As of May 2018, undergraduate and/or graduate degrees
have been conferred upon more than 20,000 students.
Rankings. Over the years, the university fared well among publications that rank institutions. ECSU has earned national acclaim for its advancements: U.S. News and World Report ranked ECSU as the #3 Top Public School in the Regional College South for its 2020 Best Colleges list, #7 for Top Performers in Social Mobility, #26 for Best Regional College South, and #28 Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Washington Monthly ranked ECSU #13 Best Bang for the Buck School (2019). Best Historically Black Colleges ranked ECSU #6 (2020). CollegeNET, Inc. ranked ECSU #7 for Social Mobility Innovator (2019). ECSU was ranked a Top 5 Military Friendly® School for small public institutions (2020-21). Military Times ranked ECSU 84th in the nation for Best Bet for Vets among 134 universities (2020).
On December 14, 2018 Dr. Karrie Dixon was named 12th Chief Executive Officer and 7th Chancellor of Elizabeth City State University.
Updated February 2020
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