Our History
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Our History



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).


Early Leadership

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.


Continued Growth

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 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, with several online degree options. From business to education to aviation and emergency management, 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 2020, 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 #7 Top Public Schools, #14 Top Performers in Social Mobility, #22 Top HBCUs, #36 Best Regional College, South (2020-21).  Washington Monthly ranked ECSU #11 Best Bang for the Buck Colleges (2020-21).  ECSU ranks 4th in Best Colleges Top 10 HBCUs in the Nation (2021).  ECSU has, for the sixth time, been ranked as one of the nation’s Military Friendly Schools for small public universities, ranking 5th in the nation for small schools (2021-22).  Military Times ranked ECSU 84th in the nation for Best Bet for Vets (2020). Best Historically Black Colleges ranked ECSU #6 (2020).

On December 14, 2018  Dr. Karrie Dixon was named 12th Chief Executive Officer and 7th Chancellor of Elizabeth City State University. 


Updated March 2021
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