Richard Eakin Oral History Interview


Dr. Richard R. Eakin
Narrator

Donald Leggett
Interviewer

East Carolina University
June 16, 2020
Greenville, North Carolina

Donald Leggett:
June 16, 2020 at approximately 2:40 pm. My name is Donald Yates Leggett and I'm a 50-year employee of East Carolina University and currently working out of the Chancellor's Division on a part time basis, doing special assignments. I retired in 1997 from full time service as an Associate Vice Chancellor for Alumni Relations. Today, I'm here in my home in Greenville, North Carolina conducting an oral history interview with Dr. Richard Eakin, former ECU Chancellor, via the WebEx system as a part of a project entitled The Rise of Alpha Dog? Dr. Eakin was my boss for his entire term as Chancellor and a wonderful boss and leader he was and he is. Dr. Eakin, so as to put all this in perspective, why don't we begin by asking you to give us a just a brief biographical outline of, say where you were born in and some places you've been, some jobs you've held and all of that before arriving here at ECU and then we'll pick up with that after you have done that for us. You can go right ahead then. (01:27)

Richard R. Eakin:
Okay, Don. I was born in New Castle, Pennsylvania. I spent my formative years there. I attended, and Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, where I received a Bachelor of Arts degree. Then subsequently went to Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, where I received both the Masters and PhD degree PhD degrees in mathematics. Following that, I took my first job as an assistant professor at Bowling Green State University in 1964. And my wife and I began to raise our family there. I had seen it through a succession of administrative posts, ultimately becoming the Vice President for Planning and Budgeting. And, and from that point, I was employed by East Carolina University as a chancellor in 1987. (02:38)

Donald Leggett:
Tell me when you were first aware of East Carolina University that before anybody had contacted you about the chancellorship, or just as you were doing the things that you just outlined, when did you first hear of East Carolina University or become aware that there was such a place and have some curiosity about it maybe? (03:06)

Richard R. Eakin:
I believe I became aware of East Carolina via the president at Bowling Green State University, who told me about the position opening at East Carolina and suggested I might want to apply he thought it would be an excellent opportunity for me. And so that was really the first time that East Carolina appeared on my radar. (03:30)

Donald Leggett:
Well, after you heard about it, and probably began to investigate a little about it, what was your first impression of it? First things that you thought about or how did you perceive it and whatever?

Richard R. Eakin:
I, I guess my first interaction with anybody at East Carolina was via the search committee that was host that was chaired by Ralph Kinsey, then of Charlotte, North Carolina and he and the committee began to introduce me to, to the university. I began a serious study of the university and, and applied, of course for the job. And lo and behold, I was invited to interview at the North Raleigh Hilton in Raleigh, North Carolina. The met the committee was very impressed by them, was impressed by their commitment to the university and, and by their excitement with the possibilities that East Carolina provided. Subsequently, I was invited to the university for a visit and I was hosted by Max Ray Joyner, Sr., and his wife Kitty. And they were incredible hosts. And they gave me a just a wonderful view of not only East Carolina University, but of Greenville and eastern North Carolina. I came away from that visit even more interested in in East Carolina, I began to realize that this was indeed as the President had told me, an outstanding opportunity for leadership. And, and I was fortunate enough to be selected as Chancellor and began my duties in March of 1987. (05:42)

Donald Leggett:
Very good and after that initial impression that you got through the search committee and all of that, and you got more involved with the university and having visited here, has your impression changed since then or if it has when? Or why may it have done so? (06:04)

Richard R. Eakin:
Oh no, it's only my impression

Donald Leggett:
That's a tough one Dr. Eakin.

Richard R. Eakin:
Well, my impression of East Carolina has only grown with over the years and with positivity, I view the university as a wonderful part of the University of North Carolina system that I think has a unique role in serving eastern North Carolina. And in providing opportunity to students throughout the state and throughout the region. It's a it has evolved over those years since 1987. To be a different university than I met when I came here, ever, I think ever improving through the years and each Chancellor who's come in has been able to put his mark on the university in an in a positive way. And I think University today is a very, very, it's an incredibly strong University, which has a wonderful research component now. And, has always stayed true to its mission. (07:20)

Donald Leggett:
Um, after you, of course went through the search process, as we all know, it's quite an extensive process and many, many things have to happen for it all to fall in place and ultimately to decide to come here. What was the thing do you think that that tipped it? What was the thing that really attracted you to East Carolina University? Well, do I? Yes, this is the place I want to go. Was it some one thing maybe that stands out in your mind? (07:58)

Richard R. Eakin:
Well, I think initially, it was very much like the institutions that I had formerly been affiliated with. And so I was very comfortable with East Carolina. As I began my work here, the faculty and staff, welcomed me. And we began together to work together in a way that I think is probably the thing that impressed me more than anything else was the commitment that the faculty and staff had to the institution, the willingness to go the extra mile and do what was necessary to provide an outstanding educational environment for our students. Moreover, the faculty and staff seemed to me to have an unusual commitment to the region that we were we are located in and they understood that we began as a as a teacher training school. And that was can always be an important part of what we were about. But they also realized that there was many, many other opportunities that provided were provided to us if we would only grasp them, and indeed we did with some bigger. (09:24)

Donald Leggett:
After you, of course, had served as chancellor for well for the most part for a career and looking back on it, what was the thing that might stand out in your mind as being what you were proud of all that happened, or accomplishments that occurred during that period of time? I'm sure there were many, but is there one accomplishment that you look back and think that's really the thing that I want to be known for and proud of. (10:00)

Richard R. Eakin:
There are many things that we

Donald Leggett:
Now, I know there are a lot of things you remember but I don't know about that well that you want to remember and what not.

Richard R. Eakin:
There are many things that we accomplished together all of us. The thing that I think probably cast us on a new course and changed the university virtually overnight was the attainment of the Research University Status in the University of North Carolina system. We had always had doctoral programs affiliated with the Brody School of Medicine right, there were six in number, but I knew that our faculty was entirely capable of educating students at the doctoral level, and that many of them were anxious to do so. And so we were able to convince the General Administration of the University to afford us the designation research university. And that made a great deal of difference. It's fundamentally changed the university. It gave us a different designation in terms of the financial obligation of the state to us, increased our revenue substantially and put us on in a new direction really. And that I think, was the thing that there are many things to remember but that was the one thing I think that was a turning point in how we were viewed by the University of North Carolina, our self and by others, particularly in the academic sector. (11:56)

Donald Leggett:
Yeah, I remember those years very well and how exciting they were and just an exciting time for the university really. Now let's shift gears just a little bit moving in another direction, maybe get to the core of the project that we're working on. And that is The Rise of Alpha Dog.? And I want to ask you this when you came to ECU, did you feel that ECU might be kind of looked down upon? Or if it was why was how it was? Did you get that feeling that maybe we were sort of a, quote underdog unquote, institution? (12:46)

Richard R. Eakin:
You know, I did, primarily because of the way we viewed ourselves. Not because others viewed us that way necessarily, but have to remember we were at that point, the third largest university in North Carolina, which means that University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University were larger than we and they had significantly more resources because they were research universities. And because they had a long and storied history. The thing I found initially was that I didn't if we were considered an underdog it was by us, not by anybody else, necessarily. The University of North Carolina General Administration, the Board of Governors, everyone else were very look very favorably upon us. We, you know, we, we sort of had an inferiority complex frankly, and, and it was not deserved, and so I think I really set about to try to help all of us understand that we were not deserving of that appellation and that we were we were not East Carolina we were not North Carolina State University, and we were not Chapel Hill. But that didn't mean that we weren't deserving and we weren't something we could be proud of. We had a different mission. And if we thought of ourselves as an underdog, I think we did so undeservedly. (14:34)

Donald Leggett:
Well, Dr. Eakin, you probably remember we talked about some of this before. And I remember, during this period of time too, there was a lot of conversation about party school, you know, people were talking about labeling us as a party school and we are sometimes I think are our own worst enemy when it comes to these types of things. And finally, I took my staff aside and says, look, let me tell you what you can do about doing away with this party school image. Don't ever say the word again. And sooner or later, it will wear itself out and you won't hear it anymore. So they became very conscious of not talking about party school, party school, party school. And of course, you know, this was something that was just part of what had gotten ingrained in the, in the, in the, in the pirate faithful and they enjoyed the parties that they had, but probably no more than the usual institution. But still, it was something that stood out and they talked about it a lot. But from that point on, my staff didn't talk about it a whole lot. I think, in this situation that maybe if we as you said, think of ourselves as an Alpha Dog rather than underdog that sooner or later the underdog image will wear itself out but I'm taking your thunder away from you because I was going to ask you something about that same thing. How do we do away with it, but anyway we'll get to that in a little bit. (16:10)

Richard R. Eakin:
Well, the way you do away with that is you take pride in what you're doing and who you are, and you don't try to be somebody else, you try to be the best East Carolina University you can be. And then continue on a path of improvement. And there's just there's just so end to the possibilities if you recognize the fact that you are indeed worthy of merit. This party school notion, Don I've been at a lot of universities across the country, and a lot of universities worry about being called a party school. (16:55)

Donald Leggett:
Oh yes.

Richard R. Eakin:
I think we you know, that party school thing is a local thing that we think nobody else suffers from. But, you know, students college age students are of a young and vital age and they are going to have a good time. And so why not not be too concerned about the fact that that our students at East Carolina enjoy the university and enjoyed each other. (17:24)

Donald Leggett:
And wouldn't it be a dull place if you went through four years, and forbid were forbade to have parties and enjoy yourself. I don't know how we would work that out.

Richard R. Eakin:
It's everything in perspective, of course.

Donald Leggett:
Oh sure, yes.

Richard R. Eakin:
We, all of us realize that the comportment of our students is important to us. And it's important to our community. And so how we relate to the community is a real important issue and I think over the years are students have been a credit to university as they have interacted to Eastern North Carolina. (18:10)

Donald Leggett:
Absolutely. Well, do you think that ECU is currently perceived as an underdog institution? Then if so, where do you feel like it manifests itself? Is it within our athletic fans or just where the if in fact, you feel like that we still have some of that ingrained in our culture? Um, like I said, where do you think it is most apparent? (18:48)

Richard R. Eakin:
Oh, I think probably you've identified where it's predominantly evident if it is evident, and that would be in our reception of our relative stature in athletics. We've always wanted to, to be in a better conference, we've always wanted to achieve at a higher level. None of that is something to worry about, but I think it has among our faithful resulted in some feeling that we were always in second or third place. (19:27)

Donald Leggett:
Um, well, here again, to expand on just what you were saying. Do you feel that this underdog role has maybe been an asset or an advantage to the athletic teams along the way?

Richard R. Eakin:
Oh, perhaps it might be. I guess anybody, any athletic team that goes into competition thinking that they have to achieve at a certain sort of a super high level to be successful. I think that that gives them a little bit of an edge I think in competition. And athletics, of course, is something that every university seems to place a great deal of emphasis on emphasis on increasingly so. So I think, yeah, I do believe that athletics is a source of the, as you describe it, the underdog notion. (20:36)

Donald Leggett:
Do you think it's been a positive for any other parts of the university or any other ways for the university to keep us motivated in doing bigger and better things or make it improving something or that proverbial chip on my shoulder kind of attitude? (20:55)

Richard R. Eakin:
Oh, I don't know if that's been an advantage or disadvantage. I think it can be both. The notion of always spoiling for a fight is is it's going to engender a lot of friends and, and in the academic process of the university and I just have to say this is, as important as athletics is, it is definitely in my mind not in first place at the university. The first thing we do is educate our students and we provide excellent opportunities for them to do their studies and to do research. And that is fundamentally what we are about and we need not forget that. I think everyone who tries to seeks to achieve in this world is going to be a bit competitive I think, but not so much that that they let that be sort of an overriding feature. That to me is could be destructive. (22:13)

Donald Leggett:
Yeah no. Looking back to the narrative that that I put together about this issue and I've said something about it takes a lot of room and a lot of time for a big ship to turn around and I think that applies here if in terms of trying to do away with that underdog attitude, impression, or perception or whatever it might happen to be it's not going to happen overnight. It's not going to happen by saying we all do away with it. (22:49)

Richard R. Eakin:
It's going to be evolutionary, yeah. And you know, I have been involved with the university now for about 33 years, you've been involved for 50 years. You know, I'm just a newcomer. But you and I both know that over those periods of time, the university has evolved. It's changed, it's become a different entity. And, and in so much as it's done that, it's brought in new students, obviously, but new faculty, new staff, and many of those newcomers new to us have not had a history of this notion of being in second or third place being an underdog as you describe it they see themselves as being first rate. And so I think, that evolutionary process well, that process is exemplified by the fact that I recently looked at a list of faculty in a number of different departments. And as you know, I left the chancellorship in 2001. So it's been some 19 years. You know, Don, I don't know. I go down through the list of faculty and they're very, very, very few that I remember that it's to say. (24:25)

Donald Leggett:
I know the feeling very well.

Richard R. Eakin:
It's the new faculty, it's the new staff.

Donald Leggett:
And I know the people that the return faculty meetings, but beyond that, I don't recognize many people anymore.

Richard R. Eakin:
Yeah. So the university today is the university is the people who inhabit it. It's the students, it's faculty, it's staff. It's the leadership and the trustees. All of that has changed remarkably over certainly the period that I've been here and I'm confident you've been here. And so the university is a different organism, but it was, and that's good. (25:13)

Donald Leggett:
I know I go back to a remark that Jim Smith made in, I think in his address to the faculty back a few years ago, in that he was talking about why a university cannot function like the usual average business out there somewhere. And he went through all the reasons and whatever along the very interesting speech. And then at the end, his closing remarks was, it is what it is. So I think that's sort of where we are with this. It is what it is and we're not going to change it by snapping our fingers or make an ultimatum or a suggestion or anything of the sort. It's like running paper through a copying machine after a while it'll just go where you can't read it anymore. So I think maybe that's what will happen to this generational thing that you were talking about a while ago. But you know, you hit on a point that is very dear to me, because I preached that from the day I arrived here, even when I was in school here. That whatever we do, whatever our charge is that we do the very best job that we possibly can. If we are charged with being a regional university, then we serve our region as best as it could possibly be served. And eventually you work your way up the ladder. You can't skip all the stages in between and get to where you want it to. Whatever you're charged to do the best job you can with it, make it successful. And then sooner or later you will get what it is that you ultimately want to do. And that's, you know, just the way I see it, I reckon this is the way I was raised. (27:07)

Richard R. Eakin:
Yeah, I

Donald Leggett:
In working at a service station or whatever says whatever your job is, do it well and what I've tried to tell my son if you are cleaning restrooms and you be the best restroom cleaner there is in town. So I think you know, that's just the way we have to approach things. Well, we've talked about shifting gears a little bit a while ago. Let's shift them one more time now. We've talked about the basis of, as you were arriving here, and you're informing your impressions of the university, and then we talked about the underdog role. Now let's talk about Alpha Dog for a little bit. And as you know, the premise of premises was that maybe it's time to begin to focus on Alpha Dog and try to get past the chip on the shoulder underdog type thing. And then, you know, where is the tipping point between underdog and Alpha Dog? But do you feel, Dr. Eakin, that there's a reluctance to abandon the underdog role that it's sort of a comfort zone and? (28:25)

Richard R. Eakin:
Oh, I think it is a comfort zone for some, I really do. I think that's the underdog notion I, to me is, is unfortunate that it persists as long as it perhaps has. We need to, as you describe it be the best we can at what we are about and we need to take pride in that. I think there's nothing wrong with being a little proud of your accomplishments, and there's nothing wrong with trying to accomplish at a higher level. None of that necessarily implies that you're an underdog. It just you're, you're seeking to be better and that is the constant thing that throughout our lives we must seek for improvements. And I guess I just don't much like the underdog notion. I'm not sure we need to be the Alpha Dog. But we certainly need to be something different than some than an institution that that sees itself somehow is second best or in some way inferior. We're none of that. (29:46)

Donald Leggett:
Mm hmm. You know, I've coached in the high school ranks prior to coming here and two of the schools I coached in. During the time that I was there and seldom did I remember even before then, that they had won a championship in the sports that I was coaching. And it was easy to get these guys motivated. I mean, they would go out and just leave their skin on the on the floor out there that to win a ballgame because they had something to prove something that they wanted to show that we are as good as you are type and then left there and went on to a school that was affected with the championship every year. (30:42)

Richard R. Eakin:
Mm hmm.

Donald Leggett:
And it was a whole new motivational scheme one to the other, and it's difficult to motivate those front runners as much more difficult than it is if you're the underdog. So but it can be done and is done but it's a whole different process. And so where do you feel like, if we become the we shed the underdog and take on the alpha dog role from whence where we derive our passion and success for dominance? How do we how do we motivate them? (31:29)

Richard R. Eakin:
Well, I think you've put this in an athletics motif and I understand all the ins and outs of that having been a sometime athlete myself. I think that if you were to talk to your faculty and your students in terms of their educational process, I think they will probably be almost be immune to this underdog or alpha dog concept. It just doesn't translate really, really very well it seems to me into the academic sector. And if we're going to be recognized as truly fine University, it probably is going to be in the classroom and in research lab, as opposed to being on the athletics fields or courts. If that success comes, that's terrific. And I'm you know, I've always been a proud supporter of pirate athletics. But that's not really where it is if you're going to make it as a university, you're going to have to be successful in the academic realm. And I once had an athletics director at another university tell me or say to me that just show me one university that does not have a terrific football team. And my response to him was, did you ever hear of the University of Chicago and that caused him to come up a little short because he did then recognize that what universities are known for primarily is the quality of the education that they provide, and the quality of the research that they do. Incidentally, Chicago had no football team. I don't think it does to this day, although I'm not sure. But I think sometimes we measure ourselves unfortunately, by our athletic prowess, and we probably ought to be saying how confident we are in our academic prowess. (34:36)

Donald Leggett:
I think it was Dean Smith who was quoted I'm not sure it was but anyway, that said that athletics is the front porch of your university but the real substance of universities in your academic programs. But athletics surely is gives you a lot of exposure and a lot of publicity and a lot of opportunity for kids to participate and do well. (35:10)

Richard R. Eakin:
It does and, and I don't want to come off as someone who does is not supportive of the athletic enterprise. I just think we ought to keep in mind what we're about first.

Donald Leggett:
You the thing, Dr. Eakin, that runs through all the the constant that runs through this whole thing from beginning to end and which sort of brings me down to breaking this all to a head and bringing it to conclusion. But the thing that I think of as we go through each of these phases is the commitment to serve. And that has been with us since Dr. Wright, on through all of you who have done such wonderful service with the university and the various chancellorships. And until today, as we sit here, that is something that stands out and is foremost in all that we do is as we pointed out a while ago to serve our region well or to serve whatever our charge is, and to serve it well. So with that in mind, let me kind of put two questions together at one time. (36:30)

Richard R. Eakin:
Okay.

Donald Leggett:
And let me sort of read through them, so I won't get them totally discombobulated. But is it possible for ECU to be among the best and most respected institutions in the nation and also serve the needs of the region, given that as primary service also includes one of the most impoverished and economically and culturally deprived regions in the state? And is there an ongoing conflict between ECU's role in terms of the economic development of the region and striving for the highest tier in academic excellence? Is that too much to swallow at one time? Well I'll break it down point-by-point. (37:14)

Richard R. Eakin:
I'll take a crack at it.

Donald Leggett:
But you get the gist of where we're going with this, I think.

Richard R. Eakin:
I don't like a lot of things that are posed as questions people seem to want to say either or,? and I want to say both and.? I think there's no reason that we cannot achieve those goals all at the same time. We are an institution now of 27-28-29,000 students. We have a robust faculty and staff who are accomplishing great things on a number of levels. Most particularly of what comes to mind recently, some of our faculty in the School of Medicine are being looked to as experts as we deal with the coronavirus epidemic. There's a lot of room for us to accomplish in all those aspects. We ought to realize that notion of being a great national university is an evolutionary matter. And as we described already, we're not the university we were 50 years ago, and we will be a different university 50 years from now. And during the course of that time, I believe that East Carolina will continue to play a stronger and stronger role on both the regional stage and the national stage. And let's not decide that we need be one and not the other. I think we can be both. (39:13)

Donald Leggett:
Mm hmm. Um, I'm glad you mentioned just a moment ago 50 years from now because I was sitting here thinking, how far in the future can we even possibly visualize or surmise as to what is going what things are going to be like. But what do you see, as our as East Carolina's own manifest destiny? Where will we ultimately go and what are we ultimately expected to go and to be? (39:56)

Richard R. Eakin:
Well, if I knew that I would probably be a rich man.

Donald Leggett:
You could go into the planning business, couldn't you?

Richard R. Eakin:
You know, as I said, I think we will continue to change in many different ways, positive ways. We will who would have thought a few years ago, that we would have a School of Dentistry, we would have a College of Engineering. Who would have thought we were would have the many, many doctoral programs that we are now producing students from those things would have been, even 30 years ago those things would have been considered to be maybe not impossible, but very improbable. So as we look ahead, let's take let's not take 50 years, let's take it 25 years. If someone were doing this interview 25 years from now, I think they would have a number of new things that East Carolina has taken upon itself to accomplish and, and that indeed, East Carolina would be once again a different place. 25 years from now, you will probably have very many of the faculty that are here now. We have new blood, new ideas, new opportunities that present themselves and, and I think probably 25 years from now we will have maybe seeing not as many vestiges of the, as you describe it, the underdog syndrome. (41:49)

Donald Leggett:
But you know, it always bothers me a little bit, I think when we have a major victory in athletics and we go to all lengths to express our delight that it has happened that in particularly if it's what we consider an upset over a bigger institution or one that has more tradition in athletics. And I think why don't we just assume that or to want people to think that this is usual for us. We are as good as you are, we expect to win. This is not necessarily an upset for us. We're equally win sometimes you win sometimes, but it's not unexpected. In other words, we've been there before. This is not new for us. (42:54)

Richard R. Eakin:
Yeah, we have been there before

Donald Leggett:
We have been there before. But anyway, this will all equal itself out I'm sure as time goes along, and

Richard R. Eakin:
Two of my fondest memories Don from athletics, I guess would be the Peach Bowl victory.

Donald Leggett:
Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

Richard R. Eakin:
So many years ago, and moreover, not only that victory but the fact that when the final rankings were announced for football that year, we were number nine in the nation. We've been there before and, and I can remember to that one Saturday we went to NC State to play the University of Miami because of the flood that we were enduring at the time. And we were the flood was caused by a hurricane and we were playing the Hurricanes. (43:54)

Donald Leggett:
They really wanted to see to see what we do with hurricanes [unclear @ (43:59)] these football games.

Richard R. Eakin:
Yeah. And we, that day, did a spectacular job of representing our university. We were sitting I was doing an interview much like this one on ESPN at halftime at that game. There was a lot of interest in the game because of the hurricane and all the fact that the team couldn't return home and so on. But the, the interviewers said, look, your pirates are down we were down, I don't know, a lot of points at halftime and he said doesn't look too good for you. And I said in a moment of unbelievable brashness, that's why we play a second half and it turns out, it turned out okay, and I can recall the President of the System, then Molly Broad, was our guest at the game and as the game completed and we had won. She turned to me and gave me the biggest hug that I think I've ever had. And it was a it was kind of to me was saying, you know, you guys are pretty great and you've accomplished a great deal given some substantial hardships. (45:25)

Donald Leggett:
And you know there have been some wonderful times like that. You and I shared a lot of those and all these nothing is ever more wonderful than having succeeded as you're talking about and enjoying it and basking in it as long as we can till we play the next game. (45:45)

Richard R. Eakin:
Yeah, for sure.

Donald Leggett:
It's always nice. And I don't have to tell you how much pride and love I have for this institution and anything we can do well, surely pleases me and I take great pride in and surely want to see it continue to happen. But you were talking about your quote about the second half and reminds me of a quote that I read of yours just a while ago and it's so appropriate I think in this day and time in that I'm now of course working at home because of the virus crisis rather than my office and I don't work very well at home, I [unclear @ (46:31)] to distraction and my wife is too prone to not respect the fact that I might be doing something else when she has something to be done. (46:41)

Richard R. Eakin:
Donald, you need remember that what your wife wants you to do is more important than anything else.

Donald Leggett:
Well, I'm getting ready to read your quote here out of Henry Ferrell's Promise Kept: East Carolina University and it says one of your quotes here says there is no substituted in a marriage for the liberal use of two words: Yes, dear.?

Richard R. Eakin:
Amen brother.

Donald Leggett:
That's what I'm dealing with. I'm working at home, so I will be glad when time comes to get back to a more degree of normalcy. Let me go through a couple of little things here and we'll wrap this up because I know that you've got other things to do this afternoon and, but I'd love to talk all day because so much of this is just so, so important to me and so meaningful to me. You know, we've talked about Manifest Destiny or wherever, or what where do we ultimately want to be or to go and how and maybe it's not possible to even do so how do we know when we've arrived? Do you ever arrive? Or the institutions in the country who feel like that they don't have something to really strive for, or somewhere else to go, or we've arrived so we just go into take the status quo, or how do we know when we've arrived? (48:17)

Richard R. Eakin:
Well, I think if you if you ever get to the point where you think you have arrived, you have come to a very difficult point in your history. Because arrival isn't something that is possible in my mind, there's always room to improve, there's always room to do something new and different, whether it be in, in university work or, or be in the business world, or in government, wherever you might be. If you think that you have achieved everything there is to achieve, you have made a terrible mistake. So I think arrival is, is something maybe on a temporary basis you can say, we have arrived because we are now a research university. We have arrived because we are number nine in the country in athletics, or we're we've arrived because we have a new School of Dentistry. But those are very transient things, those are to be celebrated for an hour, a day, a week, a year, but they are not the be all and end all and we need to always continue to strive and, and when in the striving is what the striving, to me, is what makes for the enjoyment. The fun of being involved with an organization. (49:59)

Donald Leggett:
And maybe to have arrived is better measured by increments. You set your goals here and when you arrive there, then you set more and you arrive there and

Richard R. Eakin:
Always arriving always arriving, yes sir.

Donald Leggett:
Always striving for something, I think you're exactly right that if we quit striving, then you know, we've surely as you said, lost a great deal. But what a wonderful university and I'm so proud that I chose to come here and still proud of things that are happening and I'm going to miss it when I finally do retire. And but that is I'll always love it and support it. And is there something else, Dr. Eakin, that we might have missed in this that you were thinking about with all these? I'd like to bring this out? We missed talking about this? (50:56)

Richard R. Eakin:
Well, the fact that you refer to my quote in Henry Ferrell's book reminds me and it's been on my mind during the whole interview actually that the anything we've, we've accomplished here has been the result of a very large team, and a more modest team of my wife and me. My wife has been a very stalwart supporter, not only of my career but of East Carolina University. And she has given as much to the university I think, as I have over the years and so I just want to give her that credit. (51:54)

Donald Leggett:
I'm glad that you did and because she is a wonderful person. And it has been great to know her through all these years and I hope she's doing well. And but she really does have our highest esteem and we surely recognize the role that she played all the years that you that you were in that office and always enjoyed having conversation with her and in being in her presence. Anything else that comes to mind? (52:33)

Richard R. Eakin:
Not really, I just I guess the pride excuse me, I'm sorry, voice is going away. The pride of my career, my entire academic career, to be involved with East Carolina University and having the chance to lead the institution and having the opportunity to work with people like you and countless others who have always had the best possible hope and aspirations for East Carolina. It's always in my heart and it will always remain so. (53:21)

Donald Leggett:
Go pirates.





Richard R. Eakin:
Yes, sir.

Donald Leggett:
Dr. Eakin, thank you so much. I think this might have been the longest time that we've ever had together just to talk about things in the total time that we both have been together here in Greenville.

Richard R. Eakin:
Probably so.

Donald Leggett:
So really a treat for me and I just appreciate your doing that. This will be one the highlights of my 50-year career here at ECU. Thank you so very much and I'll get Alston back in the picture here and we'll see if we can find a way to close this out and give you some rest. (54:04)


Title
Richard Eakin Oral History Interview
Description
Sound recording of Richard Eakin's interview for the "The Rise of Alpha Dog" oral history project conducted by Don Leggett. The project explores perceptions of East Carolina as an "underdog" or "alpha dog".
Date
June 16, 2020
Extent
Local Identifier
UA95.18.04
Location of Original
University Archives

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