Introducing the ECU Military Alumni Chapter

AFROTCflight

Retired Colonel Tom Shubert ’74, center

East Carolina University is known for its support of military students, and now it hopes to become just as well known for its support of military alumni.

The East Carolina Alumni Association is partnering with units across campus to form a chapter for those who have studied at ECU and served or continue to serve in the military. The association is working with both the Army and Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps units and Student Veteran Services.

The chapter will serve a variety of populations, including veterans who came to ECU after serving, and graduates who entered the military after college, either through ROTC or independently.

The first step is to gather data and build a master list of military alumni. While any existing military alumni outreach has been fragmented, this effort would update information across the entire central alumni database.

“We’ve got to figure out a good way to make sure we’re getting to everyone,” said Nicole Jablonski, assistant director of Student Veteran Services. “We’re so close to so many military bases, there’s a big population we can pull from, we just have to find them.”

Accurate numbers for military alumni at ECU are hard to come by. Prospective students applying to ECU have an option to self-identify as military, which doesn’t always happen, and wasn’t always an option in the past. “It’s hard to identify all military students, and alumni numbers are even harder to get,” Jablonski said.

There are roughly 1,500 graduates of the ROTC program at ECU, around 1,200 from the Air Force detachment and more than 300 from the Army detachment.

“There’s a huge untapped potential there,” says Tom Shubert, who graduated from the Air Force ROTC program at ECU in 1974. He retired as a colonel after 30 years of service and now works with the Civil Air Patrol, a civilian auxiliary of the Air Force. “What are these alumni doing now and what can they do to help current students?”

Shubert helped the Civil Air Patrol organize incentive flights for Air Force cadets at the Pitt-Greenville Airport in November. Many of the pilots were ECU alumni who showed students what it’s like to fly military aircraft. Shubert hopes the group will foster more experiences like this.

“I think military alumni would like to be more involved,” Shubert said. “I think they’d enjoy meeting other alumni, but I think they really want to engage with cadets and help them along their careers.”

Military alumni can provide valuable insight and guidance to students.

“A big thing when you leave the military is that you’ve lost your social network, and going to college and getting a degree can seem like an unattainable goal,” Jablonski said. “It can be helpful and motivating for students to see alumni who were once in their situation who have now gotten jobs or started businesses.”

One of the goals for the chapter is to host a military event as part of homecoming, as well as other events where alumni could mingle with students and network.

“This group could help alumni make connections with potential employers,” Jablonski said. “A lot of companies are interested with working with military alumni. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

“We need to put the call out, and when military alumni respond, we need to follow up,” Shubert said.

To find out more or get involved with the military alumni chapter, contact Assistant Director for Alumni Programs Lindsay Raymond-Weston at 252-328-1958 or raymondwestonl15@ecu.edu or visit PirateAlumni.com/MilitaryAlumni.

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.