GREENVILLE, N.C. East Carolina University officially has a new chancellor. The UNC Board of Governors announced this week that Dr. Cecil Staton will take the reins of Pirate Nation after serving as interim president of Valdosta State University and vice chancellor of extended education for the University System of Georgia.
Also a business owner and former legislator, Staton grew up in Greenville, S.C., and holds a bachelor’s degree from Furman University, a master’s of theology and master’s of divinity degrees from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and a doctorate of philosophy from Oxford University.
“He comes from humble beginnings and he sees what higher education can do,” said Henry Hinton, a broadcaster and vice president of the East Carolina University Foundation. “He wants to make sure every student has the kind of quality experience they expect and that it is a life-changing experience, as education was for him.”
Staton also served as a Georgia state senator for 10 years and started several media companies. His combination of classroom experience, business leadership and political skills made him a perfect fit for the post, according to the UNC Board of Governors search committee.
“He is a rare combination and will be a tremendous asset as our next leader. We feel very fortunate,” said Hinton. “Higher education is a unique big business. It has a lot of challenges with funding, spending, allocating resources to the right place … it takes a CEO mentality these days to do it well, without sacrificing the No. 1 goal, which is student success.”
Staton follows Steve Ballard, who served at the helm of ECU for 12 years. Staton will be continuing the school’s work toward building the university’s influence and programs in STEM education, which includes ECU’s new engineering school. Staton brings a new perspective, though, saying that he wants to start linking art and design into the science and technology programs. The STEAM trend (Science Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) is growing in the education industry.
“East Carolina has really become a regional leader, and we would like to see the university play more of a role in the economic development of the eastern part of the state,” said Hinton.
Staton spent last weekend meeting faculty, students and school supporters, and plans to begin his work as the 11th ECU chancellor on July 1.