Alumnus Crafts Violins

Robert Isley

Robert Isley ’81 has built his career hand-crafting, replicating, and repairing violins and other string instruments. Isley’s instruments are played by members of the New York City Opera, Broadway players, and several freelance musicians in New York.

Isley was a music education major at ECU and he became interested in making violins through his work study job his sophomore year.

“I fell into a work study job which was to take care of the violins, violas and cello which belonged to the school of music. As a violin student I played one semester of viola and two semesters of cello with the school providing the instruments for me to do so,” Isley said. “Those instruments would need occasional light repairs and it was my job to do the repairs with my violin teacher Dr. Paul Topper advising me on the correct way it should be done.”

Isley says it wasn’t until his junior year that he realized that working on violins was more of a passion of his than playing the violin was.

“Through a friend I was able to inquire in the major violin shops in New York City as to how they recommended one get into the business. Without exception they all said attend the Violin Making School of America, which is located in Salt Lake City,” Isley says.

Isley earned a diploma from the Violin Making School of America and went on to work at a Houston music shop for two years and then joined a company in Mamaroneck, NY that sold, repaired and restored violins.

Today, Isley works a relatively normal work schedule at his studio/store located in Rye, NY. Violins and violas that he creates start at $16,000, and cellos start at $35,000.

“I recently was asked by the concert violinist Elmar Oliveira to make a copy of his Guarneri del Gesu violin, known as the ‘Stretton’ del Gesu. Another recent commission for a viola was from Eve Wickert, a violist who lives and works in Berlin,” he said.

To this day, Isley credits ECU for helping him get to where he is today. “I am proud and very glad that I attended East Carolina University. The environment of the School of Music and the course of study seemed to mesh very well with my desires to learn about music. The faculty, while very challenging and demanding on a daily basis, seemed to be enjoying what they were doing as much as I enjoyed what they were doing for us,” Isley says. “Most of all, my violin professor Dr. Paul Topper was a great mentor to me. He opened a door way for me, which led to the world of great violins and violin playing that I now live in. I was very fortunate to have Dr Topper as my violin professor.”

By Sara Strickroot

50 Years of Pirate Pride & History: Hubert Walters ’65

HubertsWaltersOne of East Carolina’s first African-American male graduates is returning to campus this spring to celebrate 50 years of Pirate pride – and history.

Hubert Walters ’65, a retired professor of black music who has taught at Harvard University and Boston College, is one of several alumni planning to attend the Golden Alumni Reunion for the class of 1965, hosted by the East Carolina Alumni Association.

After earning a bachelor’s degree from North Carolina Central University in 1955, Walters taught high school and served in the military before coming to East Carolina College for his master’s degree in music once integration began.

“ECU opened their doors to black students,” Walters recalled. “I was amazed and encouraged that East Carolina had done what many others had not.”

Though he could not attend at first, the East Carolina campus was familiar territory for Walters, who is originally from Greenville. His mother and some other family members worked at ECU, and his music teacher had brought his class for a visit. The first black students were allowed to enroll in 1962, and Walters started in the summer of 1963.

“I was anxious to get going,” Walters said. “I had the desire and the will to succeed. I felt I could complete the work. I knew I could afford it, and Greenville was my home.”

Being one of the first African-American students was “quite an experience,” he said. “I had no problems. I didn’t feel isolated or lonely at all. I became very close with one music professor, Tom Miller; he was very positive. I had no difficulty with any of my professors, but he really stands out.”

Miller, a graduate of Boston College, provided contacts and helped Walters get established in Boston. Walters was a charter member of the Afro-American Studies Department at Harvard University, and he taught at Boston College for more than 20 years. He also served as director of the Boston College Voices of Imani gospel choir, which performed at ECU in the early 2000s.

Though he has been back to campus before, the ’65 reunion will be a special opportunity for Walters to reflect on both the past and the future.

“It’s an honor to be part of a historic movement that opened doors for all members of mankind. Times have changed, but we must continue to move forward,” he said. “I had a good experience at East Carolina. It’s great to be a Pirate. I certainly am very excited to attend the Golden Alumni Reunion. I would encourage other ’65 graduates to attend.”

The Golden Alumni Reunion will be held May 7-8, 2015.

By Jackie Drake

Williamsburg Winery Tour

Join fellow Pirate alumni and friends for a tour, tasting, and lunch at Williamsburg Winery on Saturday, May 30! Whether you are a wine connoisseur, you’re new to wine, or you just want to relax at a beautiful historical property, this event has something for everyone.

Each guest will receive a guided tour of the winery, a wine tasting, and lunch in the Gabriel Archer Tavern overlooking the vineyards. Lunch includes a glass of wine, main course, dessert, and coffee or tea. This event begins at 11:00 a.m. and ends at 1:30 p.m.

Dating back to the 1600s, the Williamsburg Winery has been making award-winning wines for hundreds of years on Virginia’s beautiful coast. Bring friends or meet new ones at this relaxed social event, which is part of our “Bring the Whole Crew” series.

Alumni and friends must be 21 or older to attend this event. Tickets are $35 for members and $45 for non-members. All ECU alumni, friends, and fans are welcome. Register by May 20. Advance registration is strongly recommended, as this event is limited to 100 guests. 

Guests will be given an engraved tasting glass as a memento of the visit. Members will receive a gift bag with local candies/food items courtesy of the East Carolina Alumni Association.

Registration Open for Road Race!

Registration is still open for the Pirate Alumni Road Race & Fun Run on Saturday, April 11! This event is rain or shine but it’s looking more and more like it will be sunny that morning. So come out and get dusted in purple and gold colored powder and help us raise money for the Alumni Scholarship program.

You can register online today (Thursday) through 5:00 p.m. Online registration will then close to allow time to process entries. Tomorrow (Friday), you can register in person or over the phone at the Alumni Center at 901 E. 5th St. or at 252-ECU-GRAD (252-328-4723) during business hours (8:00-5:00). Day-of registration will be at UBE starting at 7:30 a.m.

If you’re already registered, check-in and packet pick-up will be at UBE on Friday 11:30-6:00 and on Saturday 7:30-8:30. (You can also register at check-in if needed).

Registration for either the 5K road race or the one-mile fun run is $25 today and tomorrow and $30 Saturday before the race.

Use #PurpleGoldRun to share your experiences and photos on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

Those who registered by March 31 are guaranteed an official race T-shirt. After that, T-shirts are on a first-come first-served basis while remaining supplies last. You are also welcome to wear a plain white T-shirt if you want to get dusted with color. Non-color lanes will be available.

If it is raining hard, the colored powder will not be used. If there is thunder/lightning, then the event would be canceled, but we do not anticipate this happening. We are closely monitoring the weather and as of now it looks like Saturday will be clear.

The 5K begins at 9:00 a.m. with the 1M fun run immediately following. The starting line for both is on Reade Circle near West End Dining Hall. The course will follow 5th St. in an out-and-back format. The 5K turnaround is at 5th and Sycamore St. The 1M turnaround is at 5th and Founders Dr.

No pets or strollers, please.

PLEASE NOTE that a portion of Reade and Cotanche streets as well as the Chico’s parking lot with spaces 100-112 will be CLOSED Saturday morning from approximately 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

If you can’t make it or you’re not a runner, you can still support our Alumni Scholarship program by donating online.

Please call us if you have any questions. Thanks for your support!


Upcoming Networking Events in Greenville and Raleigh

The East Carolina Alumni Association is hosting networking events in Greenville, NC and Raleigh, NC in April. Make some great connections with fellow ECU alumni and friends to build your professional and social networks! Hear from successful alumni and stay connected with your university. Featured alumni are leaders in their industries and communities. Take this opportunity to tap into the power of the Pirate alumni network!

The Greenville, NC networking lunch will be held Tuesday, April 28, 2015 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m at AJ McMurphy’s. The restaurant is located at 1914 Turnbury Drive. This event is open to all alumni and friends of East Carolina. Cost is $11.00 for Alumni Association members and $17.00 for non-members, which includes lunch and beverages. Please let us know of any special dietary needs when you register. Register by April 23.

Featured alumni will be:

  • Jeff Foster ’83, founder and attorney at Foster Fitzpatrick and member of the East Carolina Alumni Association Board of Directors
  • Diane Taylor ’06, CEO and founder of Taylor Made Publishing

The Raleigh, NC networking lunch will be held Thursday, April 30, 2015 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at 18 Seaboard. The restaurant is located at 18 Seaboard Avenue, Suite 100. This event is open to all alumni and friends of East Carolina. Cost is $11.00 for Alumni Association members and $17.00 for non-members, which includes lunch and beverages. Please let us know of any special dietary needs when you register. Register by April 28.

Featured alumni will be:

  • Heather Dickson Ransom ’06, owner of Consilium Connect
  • Jeff Tippett ’91, founder of Targeted Persuasion

For both events, dress is PURPLE and GOLD business casual. Be sure to bring business cards for our business card exchange and the opportunity to win ECU door prizes.

Our networking events are open to all alumni and friends of East Carolina. Members of the alumni association are eligible to pay a reduced price. Those who wish to join the alumni association to take advantage of member pricing on these and future events may do so directly on the event registration form. Please note that advanced registration is required before the deadline. Early registration is strongly encouraged, as space is limited depending on the venue.

We hold networking events in various cities throughout the year, so be sure to check out all our events listed on our networking event page!