Chancellor Forums Begin Tonight

Tonight is the first in a series of public forums to be held across the state to gain input from the East Carolina community in the search for a new chancellor.

A regional forum will be held tonight from 5-6:30 p.m. at Craven Community College in New Bern. Other regional forums will be at NC State on Monday, December 7 and UNC Charlotte on Tuesday, December 8.

A local forum for Greenville and Pitt County residents will be held Tuesday, December 8 from 5-6:30 p.m. at the East Carolina Heart Institute.

Forums will also be held for ECU students and faculty/staff on Tuesday, December 1 and Wednesday, December 2.

Click here for more information about the public forums.

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Giving Back: Sheriff Asa Buck ’98 Serves his County

Asa BuckPeople are always looking for ways to make a positive impact. They want to see the work they do make a difference in people’s lives. For East Carolina alumnus Asa Buck III ’98, he makes his impact by serving as sheriff of Carteret County.

As sheriff, Buck is responsible for overseeing all of the operations of the Sheriff’s Office and all the personnel working with him. He leads 82 full-time employees, with 52 of them being law enforcement officers and the other 30 being civilian employees.

“I believe the education I received at ECU has helped me in many ways,” said Buck. “I enjoyed my classes, the process of learning, and many of my professors made lasting impressions. The culmination of my education (at ECU) and my interactions with people make me who I am today.”

After graduating ECU with a bachelor of science in criminal justice, Buck slowly worked his way up the offices of Carteret County. He started as a bailiff in 1998 and by 2006 had risen all the way to deputy sheriff. It was around that time he started to think about a possible future as Sheriff of Carteret County.

“I learned the various aspects of the Sheriff’s Office (as deputy sheriff) and once I decided I wanted to run for Sheriff, I worked hard to accomplish that goal,” said Buck. “I campaigned for 18 months in my off duty time and conducted a door-to-door campaign, visiting over 5,000 homes and meeting the citizens. My hard work payed off and I was elected Sheriff in 2006. I’ve been re-elected twice since then.”

Despite his successful career as sheriff, Buck didn’t see himself being a sheriff while at ECU. But he knew that a career in criminal justice was in his future.

“I knew from the start I wanted a career in the criminal justice field,” said Buck. “While I was at ECU I never had any idea that one day I would be the Sheriff of my county. It would be years later that I would begin to consider running for sheriff.”

Since becoming sheriff, a big issue that Buck has tried to tackle is the abuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs. He created two programs, “Pills Can Kill” and Operation “Who’s Next?” in an effort to stop the crime and death that go along with it. His “Pills Can Kill” program has collected an outstanding 1.2 million dosage units since its creation in 2008.

Buck also served as the president of the NC Sheriffs’ Association in 2014-2015. Buck was recently appointed by a North Carolina Supreme Court judge to serve on the NC Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice, a newly created group of leaders in law enforcement and the public and private sectors, to evaluate the court system and make recommendations for improvements.

Despite the 17 years since his graduation, Buck still holds Pirate Nation close to his heart. He left a piece of advice that reflects the type of attitude that has made him so successful.

“Find your passion and do what you can to make a difference. Go Pirates.”

By Michael Avila

Pirates Network in Raleigh

RaleighNetworkingNov2015

Pirates from around the Triangle got a chance to expand their professional and social networks at a networking lunch for alumni and friends of East Carolina University on Tuesday, November 10.

The lunch, which was hosted by the East Carolina Alumni Association, also gave the participants a chance to listen to featured speakers Keith ’94 and Shannon Frazier ’94 as they enjoyed delicious food from 18 Seaboard, located on 18 Seaboard Avenue in Raleigh.

“I loved the speakers and meeting new people,” said Taylor Volk, a senior technical recruiter who attended the lunch to network with possible candidates and hires.

The crowd of 33 was one of the biggest that the association’s networking events have had recently. This gave attendees like Jim Branson ’89, a founder of his own marketing company, a chance to network with a wide array of people.

“I met a few (people) that can potentially do business with me,” said Branson. “I enjoy meeting new people, learning about them, and hearing and sharing stories of our college days.”

Click here for more photos from the event.

The next networking lunch will be held in Greenville on Tuesday, December 1 at the Holiday Inn Greenville.

Visit PirateAlumni.com/NetworkingEvents for more information.

By Michael Avila

Geoff Handsfield ’08 Wins Early Career Research Award

HandsfieldAn East Carolina University graduate’s career is reaching new heights down under.

Dr. Geoff Handsfield ’08 received the Early Career Research Award from the Australia and New Zealand Orthopaedic Research Society in October.

“I was honestly very surprised,” Handsfield said recently via e-mail. “I’m new to the Australasia research community and the young researchers that I was competing against have done outstanding research. So it was very humbling to be selected for the award out of that field.”

Handsfield studies the musculoskeletal system to develop treatments for people with movement disabilities. “A big area of my research is cerebral palsy – I want to make sure that people with this disorder get treated early, consistently, and effectively,” he said. “I’ve ended up doing work in a lot of different areas, including muscle size profiles in athletes, the mechanics of the Achilles tendon, and of course muscle anatomy and image-processing. As a bioengineer, we are constantly trying to develop new tools and it’s often the case that our tools can be applied to different patients than the ones we had initially set out to help. So you often wind up doing research in a lot of different areas.”

Handsfield has been living in New Zealand for the past six months, working on a postdoctorate at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute.

“I was interested in [this program] because they have really fantastic research going on in musculoskeletal biomechanics and bioengineering,” he said. “Australia and New Zealand together are active in biomechanics research and coming here to interact with this research community was an incredible opportunity.”

After completing his doctorate at the University of Virginia, Handsfield received a fellowship from the Whitaker International Program, which funds American bioengineers to go abroad and do post-doctoral research overseas.

New Zealand is a great place to live, Handsfield says. “The weather never gets really hot or really cold, they have beaches and mountains all within easy driving distance, and there are tons of outdoor activities to do in your free time. People are also really friendly, which has been great since my wife and I didn’t know anyone here when we moved.”

Handsfield graduated from ECU in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in physics. He also studied math, and both subjects provided a great foundation for his career.

“Biomechanics, my area of specialization, involves applying principles from math and physics to the human body to understand how it moves and what goes wrong when someone has a disability.”

While at ECU, Handsfield was an EC Scholar and the recipient of an Alumni Scholarship. He was also a member of the swim team, which taught him a lot about hard work and discipline that came to benefit his research.

“We trained for 20 hours every week, including morning and afternoon practices, weight-training three days a week, and Saturday practices. You also have to stay on top of your classes, your nutrition, proper rest, and injuries, so you learn to manage your time really well,” he said. “I think the biggest thing that swimming taught me was to just put the work in day after day. Research is a slow process. You usually don’t get rewarded daily or weekly for your efforts and there are also setbacks where you spend weeks or months on something and it ends up not working. But in the long run, being able to put in good work everyday and not be deterred by the setbacks is what leads to success.”

By Jackie Drake

Meet Richard Chavez ’80

richard-chavezEast Carolina University alumnus Richard Chavez ’80 is a senior executive with the Department of Homeland Security.

As the director of the Office of Operations Coordination, Chavez provides counsel directly to the Secretary of Homeland Security. He leads more than 500 employees who are responsible for monitoring the safety of the United States on a daily basis. His office provides vital information to support decision making across all departments of Homeland Security as well as partners in state governments, law enforcement, and the private sector.

“I’m very proud that I went to ECU,” said Chavez, who graduated with a degree in corrections and law enforcement in 1980. “My experience definitely prepared me for my additional degrees and my career.”

Originally from southern California, Chavez came to eastern North Carolina when his father, who was in the Marine Corps, was stationed at Cherry Point. While living in New Bern, Chavez started looking at schools in North Carolina, particularly ECU.

“Of course football games were a big draw, but I really liked that Greenville wasn’t a big city; it had a rural atmosphere,” he said.

He was drawn to ECU’s corrections and law enforcement program because of its broader emphasis on social work and impacting the community.

“My favorite part of my time at ECU was the interactions I had in my classes and the different activities and field trips we did,” he said. “The law and policy classes really helped me understand how things work behind the scenes, and helped me learn how to interact with the community.”

After more than 25 years as an officer in the Air Force, Chavez served as a civilian advisor in the Department of Defense. He came to Homeland Security in 2010 as the deputy director of his office, and was promoted to his current position in 2011.

While with the Department of Defense, Chavez was responsible for leading the DOD’s largest, most comprehensive, and most extensive civil support mission ever in response to Hurricane Katrina.

During his time in Homeland Security, Chavez’s office has responded to several key events, most notably the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 and the tsunami and earthquake in Japan in 2011.

Chavez’s first time back on campus was after leaving the Air Force and bringing his son back for a football game after 26 years. “It’s nice to see how much the university has grown,” he said. “I loved seeing the Pirate State of Mind logo.”

Chavez resides in Washington, D.C. and attends ECU events in the area when he can. He says he loves running into fellow Pirates, and always recommends East Carolina to those who may not have heard of it.

Chavez also holds a master’s degree in public administration from Golden Gate University in San Francisco, CA, and a master’s degree in strategic studies from the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.

By Jackie Drake

Alumnus and WWII Veteran Nick Zuras ’43 to Conduct Coin Toss at Military Appreciation Game

ZurasYearbookAt 97, World War II veteran and former Pirate tailback Nick Zuras ’43 still remembers as much about tactics for college football as he does about D-Day.

This East Carolina alumnus will conduct the coin toss as part of military appreciation at Saturday’s football game against the University of South Florida. In a way, it will be his first play on the gridiron since he was a member of the undefeated 1941 team.

Nicknamed “the Greek,” Zuras helped lead his teammates in a classic single-wing offense to the Pirates’ only undefeated season to date before graduating in 1943. He then enlisted in the Navy and went on to storm Omaha Beach in 1944 and fight in the Battle of Okinawa in 1945.

ZurasCurrent“Of course I’m excited to come back to ECU,” Zuras said in a recent phone interview from his home in Annapolis, Maryland. “Yes indeed, I had lots of good memories at East Carolina. I got a great education.”

Zuras transferred to East Carolina from High Point College, now High Point University, where he actually played against the Pirates. After attending high school in the Washington, D.C. area, Zuras came to High Point on a football scholarship.

“High Point played ECU the year before I went there, and it was a very good game,” he said. “So I decided to go to East Carolina.”

Eventually, after sending a telegram to the college with his request, Zuras was able to transfer. “I was incredibly fortunate. East Carolina was a godsend,” he said.

Zuras majored in physical education with a minor in history. He also had a job in the dining hall to help pay for his education.

“I had some terrific professors who gave me a lot of encouragement. The team was well-schooled and well-coached. I met a lot of wonderful guys, and girls too,” he said.

ZurasWarDuring the war, Zuras became commander of a rocket boat with a seven-man crew. Crews like Zuras’ were sent ahead of the first wave of Allied troops landing in Normandy to try to destroy German defenses during D-Day, the largest amphibious assault in history.

At the end of the war, Zuras was stationed in Japan. Afterward, he went on to earn his master’s degree at the University of Maryland and taught history and coached football in high schools in Maryland and Virginia.

“ECU helped me become a good teacher,” Zuras said. He added that the education he received at East Carolina “can’t be beat.”

By Jackie Drake

ZurasTeamZuras, back row far left in #35, pictured with the 1941 Pirates.