Classes of 2016 and 1966 Celebrate Commencement

After more than 50 years, Bryant “Pete” Paris ’66 finally got a chance to participate in commencement at East Carolina University earlier this month.

Paris was one of 14 graduates of the class of 1966 who participated in the Golden Alumni Reunion hosted by the East Carolina Alumni Association on May 5-6, 2016. The 50th reunion class donned gold robes and led the class of 2016 into commencement ceremonies in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

“I didn’t get to walk in 1966, so I was thrilled to finally put on a cap and gown,” said Paris. He was supposed to complete his bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1965, but was just a few credits short. He started working full-time at the NC Medical Society while finishing his courses, and a travel assignment prevented him from participating in the next year’s ceremony.

In addition to commencement, about 25 total participants including family members participated in other activities like tours of campus and a special reception and champagne toast with the class of 2016, co-hosted by the Pirate Club. Paris, who lives in Raleigh, drove in for just the graduation ceremony.

“I loved being there,” said Paris. “It was a treat to see some faces I hadn’t seen in 50 years, and some I didn’t recognize. We told stories and had a wonderful time. I really enjoyed it.”

Paris also took pride in watching his niece, Kinsey “Palmer” Watson, graduate with the class of 2016.

“It was so special and neat knowing my uncle was a part of the commencement ceremony with me, as a 50 year graduate,” Watson said. “I know not many people share their graduation with a relative who is celebrating their 50th anniversary, so it made the day that much more special.”

Watson says she fell in love with the ECU campus the day she first visited. “The campus was so beautiful and homey feeling!” she commented. “Graduation was a very bittersweet feeling. I am not quite ready to leave behind the home away from home I have created during my time at ECU, but I am excited for what the future holds!”

Paris knows the feeling well. “I have a lot of fond memories there. I told Palmer [who had been considering UNC-Chapel Hill] that once you go to East Carolina, you won’t want to leave. You can’t help loving it.”

Originally from Alamance County, Paris came to ECU after serving four years in the Air Force, mostly at Langley Air Force Base. Paris said he chose ECU because “I wanted to focus on learning, but when I wasn’t learning, I wanted to have fun.”

Paris went on to work for the NC Medical Society for about seven years, and then spent more than 25 years with the NC Medical Board, a separate entity, before retiring in 1999. He says his experience at ECU prepared his well for his career.

“I believe I got an excellent education at East Carolina,” Paris said. “It fit me to a T.”

Click here for more photos from the Golden Alumni Reunion.

Click here for a video about Senior Celebration.

By Jackie Drake



Coming Home: Alumni to Speak to Graduates


Rick Atkinson ’74

Several alumni will return to campus to address graduates during commencement and other graduate recognition ceremonies May 6-7 at East Carolina University. For many, the visit marks a return to the origins of their careers and lives.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author and military historian Rick Atkinson ’74 will deliver the main commencement address on Friday, May 6. After earning his English degree at ECU, Atkinson worked for 25 years with The Washington Post as a reporter, foreign correspondent and senior editor.

“It will be both an honor and a pleasure to return to Greenville as the 2016 commencement speaker. I arrived at ECU as a boy in 1970 and left as a scholar in 1974, and I’ll always be grateful for the role the university played in that transition,” said Atkinson.

Click here to read more about Atkinson via ECU News Services.

In addition, several alumni will be speaking at graduate recognition ceremonies hosted by units across campus both Friday and Saturday. These alumni say coming back to ECU is like coming home.

“Every time I return to ECU, a flood of memories come to me of all the great times that I had here both as a student and as an alumnus. It always feels like I’m going home,” says Brandon Ives ’03, who will be speaking at the School of Communication graduate recognition ceremony.

Ives is the co-founder and managing partner of Brasco Marketing and CEO at

“ECU taught me many things, most importantly how to communicate effectively on both an individual and group level,” Ives says.

He’ll be talking to the graduates about the importance of time. “I plan to touch on that point because learning time management and being aware of your time is critical to success,” he said.

Mary Carroll-Hackett ’98, ’99 will be speaking at the Department of English graduate recognition ceremony. She earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and anthropology and a master’s degree in creative writing. She is an associate professor of English and creative writing at Longwood University in Farmville, VA. She is the author of multiple books and hundreds of literary journal articles, and the founding editor of SPACES literary/art online magazine.

“My time at ECU provided me the tools to succeed both creatively and professionally,” she said. “I learned discipline, how to think deeply and critically, how to take and use criticism, how to take on difficult material–reading it or writing it–and make it relevant to not only my life, but to the lives of others.”

Carroll-Hackett says she is very excited to return to ECU.

“I grew up in a little old trailer park out in the trees in eastern North Carolina. When I was a kid, ECU sat like the Emerald City from Oz in the distance, that place where my dreams could come true. And they have. So for me, coming back is literally coming home.”

Understanding the power of language is critical in any field or profession, she will tell the English degree graduates.

“I plan to tell them, as I do my own students here in Virginia, to remember, no matter your major, you will never possess a more powerful tool than the power of language. There is nothing more powerful than the power of words, and that is what those English majors have at their disposal, thanks to their faculty and the access they have to the fine education available at ECU.”

Alumni speakers at other units are as follows:

  • Department of Criminal Justice: Jeff Foster ’83, judge, Superior Court Judicial District 3A, alumni association board member
  • College of Business: Mark Copeland ’96, ECU trustee and executive at Ernst & Young
  • Department of Psychology: Dr. Garrett Hazleton ’11, clinical psychologist
  • Honors College: Linda Quick ’05, former EC Scholar, current professor of accounting at ECU

Visit for more information on the ceremonies.


By Jackie Drake



Commencement Memories

LarryBryantStarrLewisThe memories of graduation from East Carolina University are still fresh for Larry ’64 and Starr ’65 Lewis, since they participated in commencement both 50 years ago and again this past May.

Larry and Starr participated in the Golden Alumni Reunion, held every spring by the East Carolina Alumni Association. During commencement, members of the 50th reunion class lead the processional of current graduates into Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

“It was a very special opportunity to reconnect with the people and places we were so familiar with,” Starr said. “We had a grand time. It was exhilarating to be there during commencement.”

“We’re so thankful that East Carolina gave us this chance to participate in the current life of the university,” Larry said.

Commencement was even more special for Larry and Starr this year because they got to watch their grandson graduate. Bryant Lewis earned a bachelor of science in criminal justice.

“Having them at the ceremony was a great experience, and I know not many people get that opportunity,” Bryant said. “My dad and my mom’s dad also went to ECU, so it was definitely a positive influence on my decision to attend.”

“I’m so glad that Bryant and all the other students got to share in the joy of ECU,” Starr said.

While Larry and Starr have been able to visit fairly often throughout the years, they loved touring campus and seeing all the progress that has been made.

“All the growth that’s been happening on campus is tremendous,” Larry says. “And I love what’s happening downtown as well. I can’t wait to see the university and the city continue to improve and work together.”

Commencement Weather Update


East Carolina University plans to hold its Spring 2015 commencement ceremony at 9:00 a.m. Friday, May 8 in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. The president of the University of North Carolina system, Dr. Thomas W. Ross, will deliver the commencement address.

Commencement will continue even if showers or moderate rain is experienced. In the event of severe weather, the university commencement may have to be cancelled. In this case, students will still have their individual college and departmental ceremonies.

University officials will continue to monitor the tropical disturbance that is currently off the coast of Florida. If a decision is made prior to 9:00 a.m. Friday regarding canceling the outdoor ceremony, a notification will be sent to campus and local media.

“If the outdoor ceremony is canceled due to severe weather, we don’t have an indoor facility that could hold all of our graduates along with their family members and guests. However, the individual unit ceremonies will be held,” said Dr. Chris Locklear, ECU Chief of Staff.

Almost 5,000 students are expected to receive degrees this weekend, including approximately 3,480 bachelor degree candidates and 1,360 graduate degree candidates, of which 80 will receive medical degrees from the Brody School of Medicine. The commencement will also include the 50 graduating members of the inaugural class of ECU’s School of Dental Medicine.

Even if the outdoor ceremony is affected by severe weather, the individual college, school and departmental recognition ceremonies – scheduled across campus inside buildings – will be held as planned. A complete listing can be found at