Pirates Network in Norfolk


Pirates in the Norfolk, VA area were able to make new professional and social connections at a networking reception for alumni and friends of East Carolina University on Tuesday, October 20.

About 17 Pirates attended the reception, which was held at Supper Southern Morsels on 21st Street in Norfolk and hosted by the East Carolina Alumni Association.

“Overall this was a good event. It was held in a really first class venue with great service, food, and beverages,” said Dave Englert ’75, a previous member of the alumni association board and retired CFO of Southern Tile Distributors. “The best part of the event was the combination of meeting new and interesting ECU folks and learning about their hopes and plans, as well as reconnecting with alumni who are already good friends and just having a chance to catch up with them. Also worthy of mention is the delicious food that was offered. This just added to the enjoyment making the evening a quality experience for all.”

While the crowd was a little smaller than Englert had hoped, he said there was a good mix of class years and professions. He particularly enjoyed meeting a recent grad who is in the beginning stage of his management career with a major bank.

“I think everyone who attended met some new and interesting people and you always hope that these connections will prove helpful,” Englert said. “Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and the event lasted longer than planned, which was a great sign. As events like this become more of a tradition and more people attend, the benefits will only increase.”

By Jackie Drake

As Warden, Psychologist Nneka Jones Tapia ’03 Helps Mentally Ill Inmates

An East Carolina alumna is a leader in a nationwide shift in how mental health issues are handled in our nation’s jails and prisons.

Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia, who earned her master’s in psychology at ECU in 2003, is one of the first clinical psychologists in the country to work as a warden. In the spring of 2015, she was named executive director of Cook County Jail in Chicago, an institution where as many as one-third of the inmates are mentally ill. With up to 9,000 detainees, it could be considered the largest mental institution in the country.

In addition to focusing on security, as wardens traditionally do, Jones Tapia is developing programs to help inmates with mental illness get treatment both inside and outside jail walls. One program she is particularly proud of is a transition center where mentally ill inmates receive therapy and job skills training to transition into the community.

“We focus on the crises of the mentally ill,” she said. “Other institutions rely on us for our expertise. Unfortunately, the reality we’ve been contending with is not going away anytime soon. We’re trying to draw attention to this issue.”

Growing up in Grifton, Jones Tapia saw several of her family members go to jail, as she recounted in a July 30 article in The New York Times.

“I know all too well what it’s like to hope that your loved ones make better decisions,” she told the paper. “And I think about my own life and how I was probably one bad decision away from being in a correctional institution myself.”

Jones Tapia didn’t even realize she was considered “at risk” until she heard the term in an elective psychology class at UNC Chapel Hill, where she completed her bachelor’s degree. After that she took a year off school to work, but she remained fascinated by psychology, believing she could continue studying it to improve her life and the lives of others. She decided to get her master’s at ECU in psychology in part because it was close to home. She completed an externship at a community mental health center in New Bern.

“My master’s degree gave me a foundation for my career. I realized I had a knack for helping underserved populations,” she said. “The professors in the program – I won’t say they made it easy, but they assisted me when I needed it.”

After her master’s, she went on to complete a doctorate at the Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology. She started working at Cook County Jail in 2006. Jones Tapia says she is very proud that she got a degree from ECU.

“Throughout my life, including my time at ECU, I’ve learned the benefit of resilience,” she said. “Once you’re inspired to do something, you can do it, you just need the tools to succeed, and I try to relay that message to our detainees.”

Click here to read the full New York Times article about Jones Tapia.

By Jackie Drake

Nneka Jones TapiaPhoto courtesy of Cook County, IL.

Marching Pirates Alumni Reunion a Success!


Marching Pirates of years past descended on Greenville as they came to participate in this year’s Marching Pirates Alumni Reunion, hosted by the East Carolina Alumni Association. The weekend was filled with old friends, good memories, and great football as ECU faced conference rival Tulsa on Oct. 17 during Homecoming 2015.

And just like in years prior, the reunion did not disappoint.

“I really like seeing old friends from my time at ECU, seeing the new ones that I’ve made at the reunions, and being a small part of a big band again,” said Roger Holmes ’88. “If the Pirates call me to play, I’m going to want to do my best to get back!”

Barry Garrison ’69, a former band instructor, echoed a similar response.

“Being back on campus was as great as always,” said Garrison. “I’m very emotionally involved in ECU, I have always loved it. I truly do bleed purple and gold.”

Alumni relived their college years as they had a weekend full of events leading up to the big game. During that time they had a chance to practice with current Marching Pirates, march to the stadium with them, and even participate in the pregame performance.

Out of the 40 or so total attendants, around 25 of them marched with current Pirates!

“My favorite parts of Homecoming were singing the alma mater with the present Marching Pirates, arm-in-arm, after practice, marching up College Hill with older alums cheering us along the way, and playing the national anthem on Bagwell field again,” said Garrison.

“Being back on the band practice field is like stepping back in time to those that spent many hours there,” said Holmes. “That and looking up from the football field to the press box side of the stadium. Those are two wonderful things to experience!”

Some alumni forget about their instrument after leaving ECU. The reunions give them a chance to wipe the dust off their instrument and play again. For some, it can rekindle a passion.

“In the time I left ECU, I hardly touched the trumpet. I started playing again because I wanted to be ready for the 2011 reunion,” said Holmes. “The 2011 reunion motivated me to work harder. It has taken four years, but now I think I’m playing better than ever! I owe it all to that first reunion!”

By Michael Avila

Meet Bridget Todd ’07

ecu screenshot

Bridget Todd knows a thing or two about multi-tasking. In addition to working as the social media and community editor for MSNBC, Todd is a writer, digital strategist, educator, and activist.

After graduating from East Carolina University with an English degree in 2007, she worked on a doctoral program in English at the University of Maryland College Park. She then taught courses on the intersections of new media and social justice at Howard University before accepting the job at MSNBC and moving to New York City.

“I’ve been lucky to work alongside some brilliant people running amazing campaigns to change our world,” she said. “It was also pretty exciting to work out of 30 Rock alongside folks like Rachel Maddow. It can be kind of dizzying, but it’s very satisfying work.”

Todd’s writing on politics and culture has appeared at the Atlantic, the Huffington Post, Jezebel, BuzzFeed, Talking Points Memo, and several other outlets. She has appeared on several national television and radio programs including the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. She once questioned President Obama on policy on national television.

Todd has held regular contributing writer positions at Mic and Generation Progress, the millennial arm of Center for American Progress, a progressive public policy and advocacy organization.

Her work organizing digital trainings for political organizers and activists has been covered by the Washington Post. She has been invited to speak about politics at Georgetown University, Netroots Nation, NYC’s Social Media Week and the Personal Democracy Forum.

“I’m always juggling different things at once. To anyone else, that might seem kind of crazy, but it’s not that far off from all the activities I was involved in while attending ECU,” Todd said. “ECU taught me that it’s okay to try out a dozen things and just see what you like to do. Because ECU is a big diverse university, there were seemingly endless possibilities of activities to be involved in on campus. At ECU, it was normal to wear many hats, which prepared me for my current work.”

Todd was very involved while she was on campus, working as a DJ for WZMB and writing for the East Carolinian. She wrote for Expressions magazine, worked as an editorial intern for the North Carolina Literary Review, and submitted to the Rebel literary awards. She also volunteered at the local community center.

She said, “I don’t think I would have felt as prepared for working in newsrooms and getting freelance publications if it hadn’t been for these rich and diverse experiences.”

Todd can still remember the day she decided to become an English major.

“I was walking through the Bate building to meet with my Freshman Composition professor Dr. Gary Weissman. I loved Dr. Weissman; he was this really cool guy who always talking about good bands and interesting films. When I was walking through the English Department to his office, I noticed a lot of the professors had their office doors open and were having conversations with students in the halls. You could tell they weren’t talking about assignments or textbooks; they were just having interesting conversations for the sake of it. That was the moment I knew I wanted to be in the English department. I wanted to be able to hang out in my professor’s offices having conversations about film, and politics, and books just because. I went straight from Dr. Weissman’s office to declare my major.”

Todd always knew she wanted to be a writer. “I’m very lucky that ECU offered so many outlets to try it out before I graduated.”

Todd says ECU did a great job preparing her for her current life.

“I’m extremely proud I went to ECU. I’ve worked all over the country and I feel like I’ve taken a little bit of ECU with me wherever I go.”

By Jackie Drake

Black Alumni and Staff Honored

Several black alumni and staff were honored at the inaugural Black Alumni Chapter Awards Banquet and Gala on Saturday, October 17 during Homecoming 2015 at East Carolina University. The theme of the event was “an evening of celebration, inspiration, and success.”

“The first BAC Awards Banquet has been more than I ever could have imagined,” said BAC President Sheridan Barnes. “East Carolina University has so many wonderfully diverse and talented alumni. I am humbled by the support of the attendees and the many campus and community contributors.”

Three new awards were presented by Karen Evans ’80, an attorney and partner at The Cochran Firm in Washington, DC, who served as chair of the awards committee.

“These awards were created by the Black Alumni Chapter to recognize extraordinary individuals who have made significant contributions to their communities, their professions, and to East Carolina University,” said BAC Vice President Dr. Anthony Jackson. “We are continuing to grow, lead, impact, and influence. We also appreciate the support and participation of the Division of Student Affairs and the East Carolina Alumni Association in making this evening a success.”

The Dr. Andrew A. Best Trailblazer Award, which recognizes groundbreakers, innovators, and pioneers, went to Brigadier General James R. Gorham ’81. Gorham is the first African-American officer in the NC National Guard to become a general. He retired in 2012 after 38 years in the military. Gorham also delivered the Fall 2010 commencement address at ECU.

The Laura Marie Leary Elliott Courageous Leader Award went to ECU Trustee Danny R. Scott ’84. Recipients of this award demonstrate significant accomplishments in their fields, model principled leadership, and exhibit civic, cultural, or charitable involvement in the community. In addition to being a member of the ECU Board of Trustees, Scott has 27 years of experience in marketing and has endowed a scholarship in the College of Business. This award is named for the first black full-time student to graduate from ECU.

The Ledonia S. Wright Outstanding Faculty/Staff Award went to Tarrick Cox ’96, ’07, the senior associate director for undergraduate admissions. Named for the founder and first director of the Afro-American Cultural Center at ECU, now the Ledonia Wright Cultural Center, this award recognizes past or present faculty or staff members who have made outstanding contributions to educating ECU students. Cox works to recruit students to ECU, particularly underrepresented populations, and is also an adviser for three student groups on campus.

“I was very surprised! I am very humbled by this honor and look forward to doing more for the ECU community,” Cox said. “I thoroughly enjoyed the event. I have attended a number of black alumni events but this one was has set the bar for the future. My favorite part of the night was meeting and chatting with the many alumni from the classes before me. To hear the stories from graduates of the 80s and early 90s was wonderful. Our institution has come a long ways but still has more work to do.”

Also recognized was ECU student Joseph Bryant, the first recipient of the Laura Marie Leary Elliott Scholarship.


Click here for more photos from the Black Alumni Chapter Awards Banquet and Gala.

By Jackie Drake

Networking Lunch in Greenville on December 1

Spend your lunch time with the East Carolina Alumni Association! Join us and meet fellow Pirates from around Pitt County as you expand your professional and social networks.

Our networking lunch will be in Greenville on Tuesday, December 1 at the Holiday Inn from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. The Holiday Inn is located on 203 Greenville Boulevard.

Featured alumni are:

  • Henry Hilton ’76, owner of Inner Banks Media
  • Amanda Tilley ’03, owner of the Greenville Krispy Kreme and the Coastal Banking Company

The cost will be $16.00 for alumni association members and $26.00 for non-members, which include lunch and beverages. Everyone attending must register by Monday, November 23. Please let us know of any special dietary needs when you register.

Attire is purple and gold business casual. Don’t forget to bring multiple 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 and take advantage of member pricing on this and future events may do so directly on the event registration form available on our website. Please note that advanced registration is required before the deadline. Early registration is strongly encouraged, as space is limited depending on the venue.

Our networking events are a great way for alumni to build their professional and social networks. Each event is led by featured alumni who are leaders in their industries and communities. 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!

Bring Your Crew to Mother Earth!

Mother-Earth-LogoJoin fellow ECU alumni and friends for a brewery tour, tasting, and lunch at Mother Earth Brewing in Kinston, NC on Saturday, November 14! This event is part of Bring the Whole Crew, the East Carolina Alumni Association’s series of family and social events for Pirates and their friends and family members.

Each guest will receive a guided tour of the brewery, tickets for a tasting, and lunch from Queen Street Deli. The event will take place from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at 311 N. Heritage St.

This is an exciting opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at a successful local business while meeting fellow Pirates in the Pitt and Lenoir County area.

Born in the summer of 2008, Mother Earth is the dream-child of Stephen Hill and Trent Mooring, both originally from Kinston. Their philosophy is to create world-class beers with a local process, using natural ingredients from the land around them.

Participants can taste Mother Earth’s classic beers, such as Weeping Willow Wit, Endless River Kolsch, Sisters of the Moon IPA, Dark Cloud Lager, and Old Neighborhood Oatmeal Porter, all on tap for this special event. In addition, seasonal offerings on tap include the Fig and Raisin Ale from the Windowpane Series, and a special cider.

This event is open to all alumni and their friends and families. Participants must be 21 or older. Tickets are $20 for members and $30 for non-members. Cost includes a meal from Queen Street Deli, two drink tickets, and a tour of the brewery. If you wish to go on the tour, you must wear closed toe shoes. Don’t forget to wear purple and gold! Please remember to bring a state issued ID.

Advance registration is required by November 4. No tickets will be sold at the door. Click here to register.

For more information, contact Assistant Director of Alumni Programs Megan Howard ’07 at howardme14@ecu.edu or 252-328-5557.