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 25 baccalaureate degree programs through its ten departments in arts and sciences, selected professional and pre-professional areas and, four master’s degree programs in Biology, Elementary Education, Mathematics, and School Administration. As of May 2017, 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: In 2007, Diverse Issues in Higher Education ranked ECSU #1 among Historically Black Colleges and Universities for its black male student-athlete graduation rate. Between 1999 and 2015, ECSU repeatedly earned national acclaim in U.S. News and World Report magazine’s ranking of best colleges in the south. The U.S. News and World Report 2016 edition of Best Colleges ranked ECSU #2 in the category of Top Public Schools (Regional Colleges in the South) and #18 among Historically Black Colleges and Universities. For the fourth consecutive year, Washington Monthly ranked ECSU #1 among baccalaureate colleges (2012-2015). ECSU was also named on the 2015, 2016 and 2017 Military Friendly® Schools lists. The Military Times has also ranked ECSU 17th in the nation for Best Bet for Vets among 175 universities. In 2016, ECSU was ranked #20, according to BestColleges.com, for the best HBCUs in the country. Also, Money magazine in cooperation with Essence ranked Elizabeth City State University as one of the top 15 HBCUs in the nation, and one of the top 50 best universities for African-American students.
The Campus. Since 2003, ECSU has built a Physical Education/Field House, University Suites, the
Walter N. and Henrietta B. Ridley Student Complex, Viking Village, and Viking Tower.
In 2010, the Pharmacy Complex opened and, the Willie and Jacqueline Gilchrist Education
and Psychology Complex was completed in 2011. In 2012, Viking Tower residence hall
In January 2016, Dr. Thomas E.H. Conway, Jr. became Elizabeth City State University’s 11th chief executive officer and sixth chancellor. He was officially installed on March 10, 2017.
Updated March 2018
Source: Office of Communications & Marketing