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Elizabeth City State University
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Elizabeth City State University

Growth & Development

Elizabeth City State University has been a growing, coeducational, undergraduate, public, and state-assisted institution since its inception on March 3, 1891, when House Bill 383 was ratified. The bill to establish the institution was introduced in the N.C. General Assembly by HUGH CALE (1835–1910), a black representative from Pasquotank County.

By law, the institution was initially created as a normal school for the specific purpose of "teaching and training teachers of the colored race to teach in the common schools of North Carolina." It was named Elizabeth City State Colored Normal School and began operation in the Rooks Turner Building on January 4, 1892, with a budget of $900, two faculty members, and 23 students.

During ensuing years, the institution survived a statewide effort to consolidate normal schools. Local citizens of both races were of immense help in this effort. The first Summer Session was in 1900 and on September 9, 1912, the institution moved to its current location.

Between 1891 and 1928, curricula and resources were expanded under the yeoman leadership of PETER WEDDERICK MOORE. Nine different academic programs—ranging from grade school to a "post-graduate" curriculum—marked Principal Moore's incumbency. The Normal curriculum had primary and grammar tracks. Enrollment increased from 23 to 355, and the faculty from two to 15 members by the time Dr. Moore retired on July 1, 1928. His designation of President-Emeritus is believed to be the first such honor in the state.

Under the leadership of the second president, JOHN HENRY BIAS, the institution was elevated from a two-year normal to a four-year teachers' college in 1937. President Bias served from July 1, 1928, until his death on July 15, 1939. During his tenure the name was officially changed, by an act of the legislature, to Elizabeth City State Teachers' College, effective March 30, 1939. A second purpose was given to the school: the training of elementary school principals for rural and city schools. The first Bachelor of Science degrees were awarded to 26 graduates by President Bias on May 19, 1939. The sole major was Elementary Education, with primary and grammar tracks; the Secondary School Department was discontinued in 1931.

Serving from November 18, 1939, until he resigned on December 31, 1945, the third president, HAROLD LEONARD TRIGG, laid plans for physical expansion and concentrated his efforts on aiding students through the National Youth Administration at the College. He also strengthened the Elementary Education major. While Dr. Bias had the onerous task of maintaining the institution during the Depression, Dr. Trigg faced the rigors of World War II which buffeted the fledgling teachers' college.

SIDNEY DAVID WILLIAMS, who became the fourth president, served from January 1, 1946, until he retired on August 31, 1958. During his administration, the Association of Colleges and Schools (an organization of historically black institutions) recognized Elizabeth City State Teachers College as an "A"-rated institution in 1957; and improvements occurred in the curricula and physical plant. Dr. Williams was designated the second President-Emeritus of the institution by the Board of Trustees on September 16, 1969. President-Emeritus Williams (born 1892) died January 21, 1974.

The college experienced significant growth and development during the administration of WALTER NATHANIEL RIDLEY, the fifth president, September 1, 1958–June 1968. Curricular offerings were expanded between 1959 and 1963 from the two track Elementary Education major to 13 additional degree-granting programs, providing 17 degree granting tracks. Students also earned certificates in five vocational-technical programs for a total of 22 curricular options. Ten departments of instruction came into existence serving students pursuing both teacher-training and, for the first time, non-teaching programs.

The College was elevated from the "approved" list to full membership in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) in December 1961. Its accreditation has been reaffirmed by this regional agency since that time.

The school's name was changed from "State Teachers College" to Elizabeth City State College by a 1963 legislative act. In honor of his contributions to the institution, Dr. Ridley became the school's third President-Emeritus on March 3, 1988. President-Emeritus Ridley died September 26, 1996.

MARION DENNIS THORPE served as the sixth president (July 1, 1968 – June 30, 1972) and became the first chancellor of the institution (1972–1983), when the university was made one of the 16 institutions of The University of North Carolina.

Dr. Thorpe's administration was marked by vigorous efforts to improve the institution academically and physically. Increased UNC System funding allowed employment of additional experienced faculty members with doctorates, doubling the faculty size. Special programs for freshmen and increased emphasis on inter-institutional cooperation also marked his administration. Various offices and components were established, such as a Planning Division, and offices covering Development, Institutional Research, Archives and Records Center (then one of the few historically black colleges with such), and Living-Learning Centers in student residence halls.

Other hallmarks of Dr. Thorpe's administration included: Trustee approval of recommendations for the school's first professors emeriti; completion of several buildings — including a 200-student residential complex; three new academic departments; 14 new degree-granting programs; six additional or variant program tracks; and an ROTC program. A Faculty Council was established; computer capability grew significantly; library holdings and usage increased; long-range and affirmative action plans were revised; a PABX telephone system was installed; a National Youth Sports Program was initiated; and the institution's history was written. Major fund-raising programs also highlighted Dr. Thorpe's tenure, including incorporation of the ECSU Foundation (1971).

Dr. Thorpe broadcasted the institution's message worldwide. Just as President Ridley made a round the- world educational tour, Chancellor Thorpe made a Far East educational tour and sent the university choir to Europe and the Bahamas. A sculpture, entitled "Life, Liberty, Pursuit of Happiness," was presented to the citizens of Elizabeth City. Dr. Thorpe served the second longest term as chief executive and was the second to die while actively in office — April 28, 1983. Two posthumous honors came that year: a Joint Legislative Resolution (June 27), believed to be a first of its genre; and an LLD 5 (October 28) granted by his alma mater, North Carolina Central University.

Following extensive service to the institution, successively as Assistant Academic Dean/Administration; Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty; and, from May 1, 1983, Acting Chancellor, JIMMY RAYMOND JENKINS, '65, became the first alumnus to be named chief executive officer of Elizabeth City State University on October 14, 1983. Prior to his elevation as second Chancellor, Dr. Jenkins was instrumental in establishing several institutional improvements. These include a Health Careers center, a Division of General Studies (1977), the institution's designation as a Bicentennial Campus (1976), inaugurating a faculty extravaganza for student scholarships named "Scholarcade," and beginning the Extended Day Program.

Chancellor Jenkins' administration fostered numerous other institutional improvements including seven new academic majors and eight degree-granting variants of existing programs. Other important innovations included community service efforts, his attention to campus beautification and aesthetic improvements, establishment of an Airway Science concentration, and formation of an Office of Sponsored Programs, Contracts & Grants.

Additional accomplishments of the Jenkins Administration included the completion of a science complex housing the only planetarium in this part of the state, the erection of a computing laboratory, and construction of the Commuter Center. A 200-bed residence hall was constructed on a newly acquired tract of land long sought by the university, and plans were initiated for constructing a fine arts building on another section of this land. Dr. Jenkins' staff was the first to occupy the newly finished M. D. Thorpe Administration Building named in honor of his immediate predecessor.

Having brought total alumni to just under 12,000 graduates while enriching his alma mater through the establishment of a Music Recording Studio, Teleconferencing Center, on-campus U.S. Postal Station, and accreditation with plaudits from SACS and NCATE, Dr. Jenkins resigned effective August 31, 1995. A grateful Board of Trustees named him ECSU's first Chancellor-Emeritus, December 19, 1995.

September 1, 1995, MICKEY LYNN BURNIM was appointed to serve as Interim Chancellor and on July 1, 1996, he became the eighth chief executive officer of the institution upon election by the UNC Board of Governors. Dr. Burnim quickly demonstrated his ability and interest in moving the university forward, giving special attention to developing a comprehensive strategic plan; enhancing faculty and staff governance; initiating new business, civic and educational partnerships; establishing the university's first two endowed professorships; providing leadership for the establishment of the university's first three master's degree program in elementary education, biology, and mathematics; and implementing several new baccalaureate degree programs, including marine environmental science, social work, communication studies, graphic design, aviation science, and pharmaceutical science. In fall 2005, under his leadership, the university implemented a joint pharmacy program in partnership with the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Dr. Burnim has also led the development of a campus computer network, and has established strong fiscal integrity.

To improve operational efficiency, Dr. Burnim is credited for having reorganized the university into four schools: Arts and Humanities; Business and Economics; Education and Psychology; and Mathematics, Science, and Technology. Additionally, he has directed the development of a comprehensive enrollment management and marketing plan, which, in fall 2005, yielded for the third consecutive year the highest enrollment in the university's history. In 2001, he began the oversight of the largest construction and renovation project ($46.3 million) ever undertaken at ECSU, including the construction of a physical education/fieldhouse facility, a student center, and a new residence hall. In 2004, the university opened its first privatized student housing facility.

Under the leadership of Chancellor Burnim, national validation of the university's exemplary status was received from US News and World Report, which ranked ECSU among its peers as #No.1 in the category of Top Public Comprehensive Colleges in the south in 2004 and ranked the university #No.3 in 1991, 2001, 2002, and 2005. In addition, the university was nationally recognized for its high student graduation rate by the Education Trust in 2004 and 2005, and by the NCAA Foundation and USA Today in 2001 and 2002.

In 1997, 2003, and 2005, accreditation of the teacher education program was reaffirmed by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). In 2001-2002, ECSU's university-wide accreditation was reaffirmed by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Additionally, the Department of Technology received accreditation from the National Association of Industrial Technology (NAIT) in 2001, 2003, and 2005, and the ECSU Laboratory School received accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children in 2003.

On September 1, 2006, WILLIE JAMES GILCHRIST was appointed to serve as Interim Chancellor. Immediately upon his appointment, Dr. Gilchrist focused on priority initiatives such as enhancement of master's degree programs and online distance learning; increasing grant and research options for faculty; and expanding opportunities within the university's aviation science, music industries, teacher education and pharmacy (UNC-Chapel Hill/ECSU Pharmacy Partnership) programs. On March 15, 2007, Dr. Gilchrist, '73, became the second alumnus to be named the chief executive officer of Elizabeth City State University.

In the fall of 2010, ECSU begins its third year with Chancellor Willie J. Gilchrist as the ninth, chief executive officer. Since his arrival, Dr. Gilchrist has emphasized the enhancement of master's degree programs, online distance learning and increasing grant and research opportunities for faculty. While committed to offering students an outstanding education through 36 degree programs, Dr. Gilchrist identified two signature programs at ECSU. Those programs were selected based on the state's shortage of professionals available for current jobs or the expansion of new jobs in those areas. The signature programs include Aviation Science and the UNC-Chapel Hill/ECSU Pharmacy Partnership program.

Students can earn a Bachelor of Science in Aviation Science at ECSU, the state's only four-year degree program. Students can choose from eight minors that will prepare them for an assortment of new jobs in aviation and avionics.

In July 2004, the NC General assembly allotted $428 million to construct facilities for the Pharmacy Complex which opened in the fall of 2010.  The UNC-Chapel Hill/ECSU Pharmacy Partnership prepares students for careers as practicing pharmacists or pharmaceutical scientists. Increasing the number of pharmacists working in northeastern North Carolina is an important objective of this program. The new Pharmacy Complex, a three-story, 52,895 gross square foot building, opened for classes for the fall semester (September) 2010. In the fall of 2011, a new director for the Drug Information Center was hired. The purpose of the Drug Information Center is to provide accurate and unbiased health information to health care professionals and the public in northeastern North Carolina and surrounding areas.

Due to a shortage of teachers across the state, Dr. Gilchrist also places strong emphasis on the university's teacher education program. North Carolina will need more than 12,900 teachers for the 2012-2013 school year. As current teachers retire and the state population of school-age youths grows, additional teachers will be needed. The university offers a Bachelor of Science degree in education and two master's degrees that will prepare skilled teachers and administrators to dutifully serve in state schools. Under the leadership of Dr. Gilchrist, the university has shown several signs of growth.

Since his interim appointment as chancellor in 2006, student enrollment increased from 2,681 to 3,307 students in the fall of 2010. The university's performance as a public institution granting undergraduate degrees drew praise from a publication highly recognized among those ranking academic institutions. The US News and World Report's 2012 Edition of Best Colleges rankings listed ECSU second in the Top Public Schools Regional Colleges (South) category. The Best Colleges report listed the university as #No.14 among the nation's Historically Black Colleges and Universities--three notches higher than 2011's rank. The Top Public Schools Regional Colleges (South) is one of four regions considered for this category. Other public colleges and universities are categorized by their location in the North, the Midwest and the West. 

The Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) were compared only with one another for these rankings. In order to be on the list, a school must be designated currently by the U.S. Department of Education as an HBCU.

The university's accreditation was reaffirmed at the annual meeting of SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges) in Orlando, Florida on December 6, 2001.  SACS requires that all schools are reaffirmed every 10 years. This reaffirmation of accreditation declares that the degrees ECSU awards are coming from an institution that is financially stable, and has academically qualified faculty and administrators and approved academic programs. Thus, the academic programs are sound-- are thorough and provide a solid education for ECSU graduates. It essence, the university is carrying out its mission.

To better serve the growing student body, faculty and staff, as well as guests from the community, more than 700 parking spaces have been added to the campus. Under Dr. Gilchrist's administration, the university purchased two 56-passenger busses that comfortably transport students, coaches, staff and faculty to destinations across the northeast and southeast. In addition, the university owns one 12-passenger van; a handicap accessible shuttle; one 25-passenger bus and two Cessna Skyhawks, (a single engine airplane) purchased for the purpose of training pilots enrolled in the Aviation Science program. Recent facility upgrades include the renovations of  E.V. Wilkins Academic Computer Center,  H.L. Trigg and Lane Hall, the G.R. Little Library, the Mickey L. Burnim Fine Arts Center, the auditorium of Moore Hall, and the lobby of the K. E. White Graduate and Continuing Education Center.

Construction of the Willie and Jacqueline Gilchrist Education and Psychology Complex began in July 2010 and was completed in December 2011. The $18.7 million facility contains 53 faculty offices, the dean's suite, 14 classrooms, 2 computer labs, 2 virtual classrooms, and a Global Education Center on the first floor. Construction of a new three-story residence hall began in May 2011 and was completed in August 2012. All are indicators of the growth and development that is underway at ECSU.