Shirley Carraway Oral History Interview


Dr. Shirley Carraway
Narrator

Donald Leggett
Interviewer

East Carolina University
June 29, 2020
Greenville, North Carolina

Donald Leggett:
This is Monday, June 29 2020 at proximately 3:35 in the afternoon. My name is Donald Y. 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 a Associate Vice Chancellor Center for Alumni Relations at ECU. Today, I'm here in my home in Greenville, North Carolina, conducting an oral history interview with Dr. Shirley W. Carraway, an East Carolina University graduate, and currently serving as the North Carolina liaison with the Southeast Comprehensive Center. That's a mouthful Shirley. We're doing this by way of the WebEx system as a part of a project entitled, The Rise of Alpha Dog. airways. So as to put all this in perspective, why don't we begin by asking you to just give us a little brief biographical outline, such as where you were born, where you've lived, jobs you've held and actually what you're doing now? (02:53)

Shirley Carraway:
Okay. I was born in Kinston, right down the road. Came to East Carolina inn '71, got my BS in speech language and auditory [unclear]. worked for [unclear] county schools and [ [unclear] schools for a while. Went back to school, got a master's in supervision and also at that time, got a certification and it ended up that a principalship was available before, what I thought I wanted to do, which was to be a supervisor of special ed, and after I started that assistant principalship, [unclear] fell in love with administration. So I ended up being a principal in Pitt County, at Elm Elementary School, I was principal at Rose High School in in Greenville in Pitt County and then Assistant Associate Superintendent for Pitt County Schools before taking on the superintendency of Orange County Schools. I did that until I retired in '19, when did I retire, '97.After being a superintendent, I worked at ECU believe [dog barking]. You have a dog too, I do is well. I worked at ECU I worked out the chancellor's office as the as Special Projects Director. I did the Chancellor's Leadership Academy for a few years. It was wonderful. I really enjoyed it. And then I was asked to be the PI for a [unclear] Partnership Grant in the College of Ed and I did that for a while as well. At the time I was doing that, I was also working with the Comp Center, the Southeast Regional Conference Center. And I had an opportunity to do some contract work specifically with [unclear] schools and between the two it was a full time job and so I stopped working at ECU and ended up working with Comp Center for about 10 years and then completely retired in 2017. So I don't work for them anymore. I am retired. worked with the the [unclear] AIR, with the American Institute for [unclear] money for the comp center. And I'm not doing that anymore. I am working for free. I am a trustee for Pitt Community College, the chair of the Vidant Health Board, and you know, I'm on Boys and Girls Club and Board of Visitors for ECU and you name it, I'm just out, twittering around doing free stuff, the forum board. I'm enjoying doing things like that, that I really didn't have a chance to do, an opportunity to do when I was working. So that's that's what I do now. I work for free. (05:44)

Donald Leggett:
Well you surely have a lot of variety in your in your career and I was interested as you're going through it because so many of the aspects of your career and mine are so similar because the only thing I didn't get my doctorate but I did come up through the public schools as a as assistant principal and then ended up here and retired and haven't started working for free yet but I think I'm right at that point. (06:15)

Shirley Carraway:
[Unclear]

Donald Leggett:
That's absolutely it. The people talk about not having anything to do, I don't think there's any possibility of that. Well, let me ask you this. When were you first aware of East Carolina University, as it ultimately is when you come? (06:46)

Shirley Carraway:
You know, I was I had no earthly. Well, I knew it was [unclear] over. I'm from Kinston, but you know, believe it or not, I've never really even been on campus until my senior year in high school, and I was in the first class for a totally integrated school system in Lenoir County. And so my senior year, we were moved from our high school, which had been a predominantly black high school, to Grainger High School, which was they named Kingston High School. So I was in that first graduating class. And the counselor that I was assigned to told me that I just need to go to Lenoir Community College, that was really all I needed to do and that was her plan for me. Well, fortunately, the counselor, another counselor said that it's not what you're going to do. She put me in her car, she brought me to Greenville. And, and that's how I ended up there. I had not taken SAT, anybody in my family to ever graduate from college and so nobody knew how to do that. And she told me, you're going to college girl, and that was how I ended up over there. I said, okay. She said, you're going. She helped me with getting the SAT and I did financial aid and all that. And so that that's all I was enrolled. And there I was. (08:10)

Donald Leggett:
Well, I told you, you'd probably be about four questions ahead of me on the interview. But I was going to ask you do some follow up to when you first aware of East Carolina, and i still will, because I'm interested in knowing what your first impression was when your counselor brought you over here and said here it is. What was your first impression of, of East Carolina? (08:35)

Shirley Carraway:
I felt lost. I mean, I was lost for a long time in fear. I was a DECA student, my senior year. In fact, they allowed you then to work half a day and I only had to take the classes that I needed to graduate. So I thought I was going into marketing. That was my thing. And so of course, my major was business or that's what I thought. And so, you know, she took me over there to see what that looked like. And I was just in awe because it was like nothing I'd ever seen. And I was lost, probably right through that first [unclear]. That's when I would be there in quarters. Right through that first quarter. It took me a while to kind of figure out where and what. I was impressed that it was so big and there were so many people and the fact that I was in a, in a classroom with over 100 people. I mean, I was I was not prepared for the difference with what I saw. (09:32)

Donald Leggett:
You know, I was much the same way I came here from a graduating class of 13 students. All right, he's gone. He normally lies in here and it helps me do this but then sometimes something's gonna happen needed to get totally agitated, so I had to get rid of him. But when I came here, after a high school of basically 100 students in the top four grades, I thought it was the biggest place I've ever seen, I would stay lost forever and I did for a while. But then I kept wondering, well, when am I finally going to take that course that's going to bail me out of here because I know I'm not gonna be able to pass all this stuff. And, you know, you just had to get used to it and but it was impressive to me how helpful everybody was in trying to help me get through that period of time that you're talking about. Well, now that we've some times passed and whatever, has that impression of ECU changed? I'm sure to some degree it has. But there might be some ways that you expected it to be and you haven't found out that it was gonna be that way. Maybe for better or for worse. (11:10)

Shirley Carraway:
I have just always been pleased with university. You know, I've kind of had interactions back and forth from time to time for [unclear]. You know, having served on various advancement councils, the College of Ed at one point and Harriet College for a while, you know, getting rid, getting being able to see kind of the inside, I'm sorry and hear those, my phone. Being able to see things from the side that you're not able to see always from the outside. I've always been impressed with with a number of things. The students there are students that are kind of similar to what I was, and there always appear to be thoughtful thoughtful kind of planning to ensure that people like me, who came to college who had never had that opportunity or didn't have anybody to help them navigate it like parents or brothers and sisters who had already been to college, seemed to have there was enough support there for people like that. And I will say one of the things that I was most pleased about, particularly when I was working on my doctorate was, and I said this to one of the people who were on my committee, it was almost as if it meant as much to them for me to be able to finish as it did to me. And they were so in, in my being able to complete something that meant so much to me, that it became personal for them. And I don't know whether you get that always. The other thing that was so impressive was the fact that the realization. (12:52)

Donald Leggett:
Shirley can you hear me? We've lost sound.

Alston Cobourn:
You ended up getting muted it looks like.

Shirley Carraway:
Is that better?

Donald Leggett:
Yeah, well I'm hearing you.

Shirley Carraway:
I can hear you.

Donald Leggett:
Okay, I'm hearing Shirley now but we we lost about 10 seconds there so.

Shirley Carraway:
All right. I don't know where I stopped.

Donald Leggett:
We'll probably pick it back up later on.

Shirley Carraway:
Okay. Well.

Donald Leggett:
As we talk we will probably come back through again.

Shirley Carraway:
It was just impressive to me, particularly when I was working on my doctorate how important it seemed to be for the folks that were working with me, the people on my committee seemed as committed to my being successful as I was it was almost like they took it personally. And the fact that in most instances, the realization that most of us people who were there were working people and it makes a difference when you're dealing with folks who can only concentrate on school. It's different when you're dealing with people who are more mature and who have families and jobs and things of that sort and that realization and that understanding of that was was something that has always, always impressed me. (14:18)

Donald Leggett:
Are you, looking back now, glad that you made those decisions that you did, that you ended up here or do you think well, if I had it all to go over again, would I do it the same way? Would I go somewhere else? Would I still choose East Carolina University, knowing what I know about it now. And at that would I still, that's a heck of a question, isn't it Shirley? (14:45)

Shirley Carraway:
It is.

Donald Leggett:
But you will make good on it, I'm sure.

Shirley Carraway:
Once I took that SAT, I was accepted at both ECU and Chapel Hill. And I came to ECU. Well I really did come because it was closer to home and again, I was kind of in awe of this whole idea of. I had friends that went to Chapel Hill. I really was, I was really glad. I felt that it much it suited me much more. And I thought many times that had I gone to Chapel Hill I might not have ever gotten out. I'm not sure whether I would have made my way out of there. I have friends who didn't, people that I know that did not. So I think that I made the choice I did. (15:36)

Donald Leggett:
Well let me, when I do these Shirley, I kind of break them down into three categories because of the theme in that we are talking about ECU maybe being perceived as as an underdog institution and then moving on to the time when we feel like that maybe it has become a, what we call an alpha dog institution. And so now we, we've talked about the early years. Now let's move into this underdog thing for a little bit. When you enrolled here, and then later when you were associated with ECU, did you get the feeling anywhere along the way that ECU was looked down upon or we sort of had an inferiority complex in anyway, that type thing? (16:32)

Shirley Carraway:
Well, I would say yes, I was aware of that, but I heard it more coming from inside the university than from outside. I didn't hear that many people from the outside talking about ECU as if it were an underdog. I mean, you know, I hear things like easy tc and you know, the party school and things like that. But most I heard about that inferiority complex, I guess if that's what you'd call it that we seem to have, came from people on the inside, not from people on the outside. I didn't hear that much derogatory coming from outside. (17:13)

Donald Leggett:
Yeah, it's amazing that through the interviews that we've done to this day, that seems to be an item that is pretty consistent with with everybody who we sit down with, in that they say that most of so much of the negative stuff or the underdog stuff, whatever, the closer you get to the university the more of it you hear. And then the further you get away from the university, the better the opinion of the university seems to be even nationally. That does all of that stuff we hear, and I suppose because we hear, hear it here, we don't hear it somewhere else. I think, well you know it's the old thing about sometimes the closer you get to the flagpole, the harder it is to see the flag. But I think sometimes the closer we get to something it' harder to see all the various good things about it as well as some of the others. But that underdog attitude that seems to kind of be a little stream that runs through maybe the Pirate Nation, and just trying a little bit, kind of isolate that and just see where it comes from and well, it's still around or how prevalent it is and that type thing so. Do you think that ECU has been or is currently perceived as an underdog university? Not necessarily being inferior, but do people, and I think you pretty much answered that, but say when our students are about and talking and interacting, do they generally see us as sort of an underdog when we are going up against the old all the other institutions in the country? And particularly in North Carolina even? (19:16)

Shirley Carraway:
Again, I don't think so. I think if you, if for me, I'm looking at what what do we have and you know, maybe not necessarily our brand, but what is it that we do. When you think about what happens on the inside of university and the fact that we're the largest teacher training institution in the state, and we train all of these physicians, and we train all of these nurses, and we we train all of these people that go out and go across the state and across the nation. How can we be underdog when we're making when we're producing those kinds of results? So for me, you know, sometimes I think you create your own complex and I think that might be a thing that has happened with university. I think you know when you compare yourself with it with something or someone that that you shouldn't be comparing with, I mean we're all different we all have our strengths. Somehow or another this thing about not being Chapel Hill seems to be the bone of contention that you, we're not like Chapel Hill we don't get as much money as they do, we don't have as many benefactors you know, all these kind of things. So [dog barking] no, there are a whole lot of other places that we don't have as much as they do, and there are a lot of places that we have a lot more so. I don't know, I I don't really, I want to see results. I'm the one one that wants to see what are you what are you doing, not what people say about you necessarily. (20:50)

Donald Leggett:
Yeah.

Shirley Carraway:
So um, I just don't hear it that much but like I said, from inside, from inside.

Donald Leggett:
I want to ask you this, obviously you've heard a little of it somewhere around through the years, and maybe are aware of it sort of like I am that, you know, it's out there somewhere, but just where is it and how much. Where and when was it most apparent to you that there was such a thing as as an underdog attitude? Do you remember how it sort of manifested itself so that you would realize it's out there or was it obvious or? (21:38)

Shirley Carraway:
I really wasn't as aware of it until I was out and working, you know, surely [unclear] while I was there as an undergraduate. So when I got out and started working, and maybe it was when I started coming back and interacting when I was working on my master's degree that I maybe was a little bit more in tune with that kind of thing. Because I guess you know, as an undergraduate, you're, it's a whole kind of different in a whole different place. So your attention may not be on that kind of thing. But as even as an undergraduate though, as I went to other places, other universities, you know, we're always visiting each other, I never heard any of that then. So I would have to say it must have been after I was out and working that I heard, and I'm at I've heard more of it since I was completely through with the university, maybe, I would say, and really out and about in the world. You know, once I was out and about in moving a little bit further along in my career, that was, I guess, when I heard it most and it could be that it was out there all the time and I just didn't hear it because I wasn't paying attention, because my focus was different, but surely it wasn't when was on campus. (23:01)

Donald Leggett:
Yeah. You know, my list of things that I passed on to you, some of the questions that we will be talking about today. I labeled it is the rise of alpha dog, blessing on millstone. And so I'm wondering if there are some aspects of this underdog thing that might possibly be an advantage. Can you think of any advantages that it might be to the university generally to be perceived as an underdog rather than a alpha dog? (23:34)

Shirley Carraway:
Well, the first part of question but I think I got enough of it to answer. You know, it's always nice to be a surprise to someone. They're coming in [unclear]. You can show them I mean, that's, that's a pretty that's a pretty good thing. You know, if indeed, it doesn't stop them from from delving deeply enough to really figure out who you are. There's not there's a [unclear] to being the unexpected, yeah, and being able to surpass what somebody's expectations are. I think that's always a good thing. I kind of always like to do that, you know, you don't want to show all your cards, not all not all at once. Yeah, and as long as that doesn't prohibit you from whatever it is you're trying to do, I think that's not a bad thing. But, you know, I don't know. You know, I as superintendent, one of the things that I used to tell my, my gosh, my public information officer was, you know, you always want to write your own story. You know, it's important that you decide what you want to tell what you want people to know. And you only get a chance to do that one time. I mean, you know, when something's going on or something's happening or you try and report on something or share information, you want to get your story out first, because more than likely, the story that a person hears first is the one that they're going to believe and anything that comes after that, it means you got work to do, because you got to, you got to undo whatever it was they thought they knew based on what that first story was. So, um, maybe the issue [unclear] as good a job as we should have in telling our own story. (25:19)

Donald Leggett:
Yet a lot of institutions Shirley, we know, don't always follow that rule and they wait until it becomes public knowledge all over everywhere what the issue is, and then you start trying to get your message out there and by that time, the image is already there, and it's to late to change it. So what you're saying, I wish a lot of other people could hear it too, because it's so important, as you said, to get your message out there first. And now, let's look at another aspect of this and and I think maybe we'll see a little more of the reality of it all in that, has this underdog role, I suppose for lack of a better term, been a positive for athletic teams? Has that sort of been a rallying cry for the athletic teams? (26:23)

Shirley Carraway:
I don't know about that now. It doesn't seem to work as well for athletics as it does for the other parts. I mean, people have a whole different mindset around athletics for some peculiar reason. You know, I'm not that much of an athletic person myself, you know, I go to football games and things like that, but it's mostly because my husband wants to go. I've just never really got into that as much as I have some of the other. And people people's expectations for athletics are sometimes unreasonable, I think, because they expect you to do things in spite of, you know. They expect coached to come in and do miraculous things that you know and unless you've got the players you can't do but so much, you know, good coach [unclear] are dependent on the players to do what needs to be done so, I don't know about that now that. This issue of athletics, just particularly with when you're losing, kind of takes on a whole world of its own and. (27:37)

Donald Leggett:
Yeah it does, it really does. But Shirley I have, in my time before I arrived here, was a high school athletic coach and, and I coached some teams that actually hardly ever won a championship, we on some ballgames, but we hardly ever won. championship. And those kids were easy to motivate. I mean, they every time they went on that floor, they left skin and blood out there on that floor. And and then I've been, I left there went to school that they expected to win every year. And, and it's not that one is harder or easier to motivate, but it's a different form of motivation. I mean, it's a whole different process of motivating a front runner and motivating a underdog. So, I wonder if at some point, we will eventually change to change from that chip on the shoulder type attitude to, okay we're as good as you are, we're and we are going to show you that, that we belong where we are. And so anyway, let me ask you this, do you think that we will wear this, however much image there is of it, out or will it require a conscious effort to to shed this image? Should we do something that's tried to squelch that that image and start focusing on the alpha dog or really just kind of eventually do sort of like the party school thing did, that's about worn itself out I think, at this point? (29:31)

Shirley Carraway:
Well, I don't know what you do other than continue to show what you who you are and what what you are about. I think sometimes having other people who you are partnering with, share your story to and the importance of it. I think you have to do your part, but you also have to make sure that people understand how for East Carolina, for eastern North Carolina, East Carolina is just so critically important. And I think sometimes there are a lot of people who are not [unclear] don't really understand how important the university [unclear] and I don't know whether we play up that as much as we should. I think I'm catching up, can you hear me because my thing was going. I don't know whether we play up this regional university supports the region as much as we should because, you know, some we might see connections, but a lot of people out there don't see connections. And I think that's something that we should and could do better is show how this university is so intertwined in this region, and it's so important to the region in so many different ways, that without it, we would really suffer. So I, you know, I think we we know the story, but we also have to have other people tell our story and we have to be able to show the connection so that everybody understands how important University is and how actually good it is, and what it does for this for this region, and for that for the state and for the country really. (31:24)

Donald Leggett:
Well Dr. Carraway, we have kind of moved over now through the first phase, the second phase, and I think we're now in, so you'll know how much longer we're going to be doing this, I think we're in phase three now. We're in the alpha dog phase, going from the beginnings of things to to underdog and now we're to alpha dog. We've started talking about the university is an alpha dog university. Do you think it's time that we really started to try to shift our focus to the alpha dog image rather than continuing to, to, to go through this underdog chip on the shoulder bit of where we're going to show you, you know this type thing? (32:18)

Shirley Carraway:
Well, I think we approach it from not so much as I've got a chip on my shoulder, and I'm going to show you, but just, you know, we know what it is that we do well. I think showing what we do well, you know, you you, you know, you. I don't think there's any need to, you know, to [unclear] it in we're going to show you we're better than what you think, in that because, you know, people are pretty good, pretty consistent with their thoughts. If there's somebody who wants to think that then they probably don't think that anyway, I mean, if somebody is coming, coming with that kind of an answer But we know what we do well, and I don't think we sing that song loudly enough and enough. I think, you know, there, we can't be everything, but the things that we do we do really, really well. And I think that's what a lot of universities do. They, they, they, they use those things that they do well to accentuate themselves and and I think that's what you do. I don't think you have to continually tell people how pretty you are. (33:30)

Donald Leggett:
I agree with you, Dr. Carraway. You know, the Pirate pride thing and the Pirate spirit, which we all are also proud of, and of course we are proud of what our university is and has become and was even and when we go to an athletic event and then the the people there are at fever pitch and supportive of our athletics and and I think you know that same pride carries forth into the all the other areas of the of the university but it's not quite as apparent because we don't get everybody together at one time and say rah rah chemistry or rah rah rah whatever. You know, it's just a, so my thought is, in this alpha role that we're talking about, where will our passion for success and dominance come and will the Pirate spirit and the Pirate pride that we know of now be as moving in as intense as it is now? Will it be as apparent as it is now? I think people when they think of ECU, they have sort of an image in mind about how special this place is to everybody down east. (35:00)

Shirley Carraway:
I do think that that schools, I you know, I used to hear about schools wanting to have you having have because they know that that wherever ECU goes, they're gonna have lots and lots, particularly sporting events, you're going to have lots and lots of participation because people just love to follow us athletically. Unfortunately, the same thing with with athletics, unfortunately, you know it I think it's across all high schools and colleges and some something about athletics and your right, it's because you get so many people together at one time. [unclear] do that with academics. I mean, I really wish you could, but you really can't or you don't. You know, we, high school principal we did, we had academic boosters because we had athletic boosters, and [unclear] things. But we didn't have academic boosters, so we had a group of academics boosters who would do some of the same things for the kids who are excelling academics that they did for those that were say like excelling in athletics. I think we seize on that the opportunities for, for an example, I happen to know that there are some wonderful things that are happening collaboratively between the School of Medicine and university and Vidant. I mean, tell me what [unclear], how many other universities are as integral as integral, trying to say the word, in this COVID fight as as ECU is and the school of medicine. I mean, that's, that to me is what you do you find those things that are so special and so important to not just us, but to everybody else, and you you use those things to to help people understand the worth of your your institution. I just think we just need to be more, we need to brag more. (37:14)

Donald Leggett:
And I think you're exactly right. I think we need to brag on ourselves and I think I mean as in the individuals in terms of where we have attended school and what we think of our university and all this, but the university itself, and you know, I think everybody is aware of the need for publicity and that kind of thing. But it is so important and, and this is what I harp on with my Kiwanis Club, which I am president of this year, telling them that we need to have the community to understand the good work that we do. Because I'm not sure that people even know, the good things that we do every day for the community and same with the university. If you don't blow your horn, no body gonna honk it for you. (38:04)

Shirley Carraway:
That's absolutely right.

Donald Leggett:
And so I really do put a great deal of importance on on publicizing the good things, boasting as you just said. You know, we were talking about doing things well when we when we do them and there are two or three things I think that kind of runs through all of this, and, and, and it kind of runs through the reasons why we have been so successful as a university. And one of those you hit on a while ago and I was gonna make sure to remember because I knew I wouldn't remember long I would probably forget it so I wanted to pick up on it before it slipped by me, but you were talking about the need to whatever we do to do it well. And I think really, that's one of the reasons we have been so successful as we have been, because when this all started back with teachers and it through nursing, and through the medical school, and through the dental school, and through everything else that we've done. The attitude that I have been able to pick up on from the administration is, if we do it is going to be done well. And, and the same thing I know, they told the story of our Chancellor's who was making a pitch for us to join a higher athletic conference, a stronger more prestigious athletic conference, and the chances were pretty slim that we were going to do, I mean they were gonna do it. But anyway, he made his his pitch and he said, I wanted to know, if we join this conference we're coming here to beat you. We're not coming here to lose that, that we're going to be champions of this conference, and we're going to be here to win, so just know that. And he seemed to think that had a lot to do with them letting us in because we were determined that whatever we do at East Carolina, we do well, and we have proven that through all these years. Now I didn't mean to take it from you, but I just wanted to add that because I'm so aware of that having been discussed among the administration and so forth. But moving ahead and another area that I think is, has been discussed a whole lot, and might have something to do to do this alpha underdog type thing. Is there an ongoing conflict, do you think Dr. Carraway between ECU's role in terms of the economic development of the eastern part of the state or the region, and at the same time striving for the highest tier of academic excellence, there is? Is there any conflict there you think? (41:00)

Shirley Carraway:
No, I think that part of it, some of it may be that people think, if by chance, you know, for a lot of the students, well at one point I think, it was felt that that you could get in ECU, but you might not be able to get in any place else, you know, and as a result that university might be taking students of less caliber. And I don't look at it like that. I think that there are a lot of kids who may not test well or who may not have had opportunities, that are really really good students and who lead the university and do really wonderful things. So I see it, I see it, I guess, as the university really wanting to ensure that any student who meets whatever the minimum criteria would be, who wants to come and work hard, has an opportunity to do that. And I think that is what it is supposed to be about. I mean, you know, I think what what happens as a result of that is you have students who are much more engaged in what it is they want to do and they have a much clearer path or plan for how they're going to use that to impact their lives and the lives of other people. So, you know, I don't know, I might have completely missed the question on that one, I'm not really sure. (42:26)

Donald Leggett:
No, I think if you're doing well with it. I but there's always this notion, I suppose, floating around as to whether we really should be more of a regional university and, and be of service to our region and that sort of be our charge. Or, can we do that, while at the same time, rising to the tier nationally as a major national academic institution. (42:57)

Shirley Carraway:
Well I don't [unclear] we should [unclear]. I think that, um, yes, there's a lot of support that happens because of where we are, because the university is in the region and as a result, the region benefits significantly from that, from from that from, from the context in which the university [unclear]. But oh my gosh, I do honestly think that the university should, should be not only statewide, but nationally and internationally. I mean, you, well again, we focus on what it is that we do, and we do well. And I don't know why we shouldn't be able to draw people from all over as a result of that. Absolutely, because that strengthens the university. If we we're only limiting our focus to the region, we would, that would not be a good thing for us, it really would not. The strength comes from bringing students from all over, bringing faculty from all over. That's what that diversity in and and where you come from and what you know, and all of those things is what makes the university strong. (44:04)

Donald Leggett:
That's all part of education.

Shirley Carraway:
Absolutely.

Donald Leggett:
Now another thing to that, and I mentioned two or three things that I thought was a constant stream through all of this, is that in the very earliest years of this university, Dr. Wright made a very strong statement about our mission to serve and the motto to serve. It ended up of course on our seal became our official motto. And that attitude has and that philosophy has been with this university from the first day until today as we sit here. And I think that commitment to to serve and and also not just to serve, but to serve well and to do whatever we do and to do it well, has brought us largely to where we are. I think that separates us out in the sense, that service attitude that we want to do good, and we want to help other people in other regions and, and we are here to serve the people who support and, and, and to actually sponsor this university that is the people of the state, the people of this nation, and we are here to serve. And so that my little statement about the things that I see in sort of constant streams through all of this, doing things well, service, and you might have other things that you have picked up along the way that you think is sort of carries through all of this. (45:58)

Shirley Carraway:
No, I think that that that to me is. I mean, this whole idea of, of not just being and doing, but having a purpose for that and that purpose is serving. And the fact that the idea of giving back is something that permeates the university and the work that the university does. I think, you know, and I think you can see that all in our approach to regional efforts and our approach to the way that we regard our students and our approach to what we focus on and the importance of [unclear] focus on. I just i think that that is, I think that's really, really important. And I think that's something that I'm not sure everybody understands, I don't know, I'm thinking about some of the things that I see and some of the information that I get from the university, and I don't know whether that is emphasized as much as maybe it should be. I don't know what the general public would know, of that mission to serve. I don't know. I mean, maybe they do. (47:11)

Donald Leggett:
If there's anything that we have publicized through the years, I think, that has been sort of in the forefront of things. Now, like you said, how much attention is paid to it, I don't know. You do see it a lot, you know. (47:29)

Shirley Carraway:
Yea, but what does it really mean, and how do you connect that? I mean, because if you if it's in your motto, and you know, I see the motto there, but how does that manifest itself into the work that you do? (47:41)

Donald Leggett:
I understand what your saying.

Shirley Carraway:
I'm not sure and it may very well be, but you know, that would be something maybe to look at. I think you know, the idea is you have to make connections for people. The assumption that if you say it, people are going to understand it, I've figured that out a long time ago, that is not necessarily the case. And if they they do, they put their own spin on what it means. So if you're not clear about what you are saying, then you give people the license to, you know, to create their own meaning around whatever it is. And I think that's kind of the key, you just have to make sure that what you're doing is creating the image in people's minds that you want to have created, and you're not leaving it to chance. It's a very intentional, yeah. (48:27)

Donald Leggett:
And it all depends on communicating. And that communications is so important in everything we do in this world. And that's one of the reasons I'm so frustrated through all of this stuff that's going on now around us because we're so limited in communicating. I just don't feel comfortable that I can't freely communicate with any and everybody. I just reckon that's my nature and the business. I've been in all these years, but I just as you said before, I like to be where I can see people and see the face when I'm talking to them and that type thing. Well, you know, for all these many years, and I've been here like I said earlier 50 plus years as an employee and then before as a student, but I've always hoped that I would finally see the day when we have arrived. Now, I don't know what arrived means, but I keep waiting for us to get, we seem to be and maybe everybody is that way I don't know. I wonder if there institutions that other people don't feel that need to, to get better, to get bigger, to get stronger, to to get to somewhere where they might not be at this time. Or they just sit back and defend in their complacency and just say, well this is what we are, this is where we're gonna stay. Anyway, I just keep waiting for, just to say okay, we've reached all these things that we've been striving for all these years and now we have arrived. Do we ever arrive Shirley? (50:12)

Shirley Carraway:
No, I don't [unclear]. I think you are either moving forward or you are moving backwards. There is no such thing. I just think that's the case. I think, you know, the thing that we have to just make sure is that we're always moving forward, that we're always striving that if we, once we reach a level, if we've got it out there as a goal, then we move on to whatever the next one is that we just keep moving, because life changes, needs change, people change, focus needs to change along with that to some degree. So you either getting better or your getting worse, but you can't stay in middle. You can't stay still. (50:49)

Donald Leggett:
And there's so many clich�s about that role that you're talking about. What is the old saying about you walk down the middle of the road you hit get hit by cars coming both ways? So I reckon, you got to, you know, you got to take a stand, you got a as you said, you only coast one way and that's downhill, so you got keep pedaling. And so maybe I need to accept that because I just somehow the other think that I am gonna die one day and we will not have arrived during that period of time and I won't see it. But I think maybe I'm seeing it. We have a great university, as you well know, and all of us should be and are proud of it and and we are going to get better as time goes along and they are going to continue to be proud of it. What else, do you have anything on your mind that you'd like to talk about that I haven't covered? Or maybe as we went through this you thought, well I hope he'll come back and ask me this, but anything you want to add to this? (52:00)

Shirley Carraway:
I don't think so, um, it's been an interesting conversation. I'm really proud of the university. I mean, you know, I tell people all the time, look, I have four degrees from ECU and I'm so glad that I get to do that and that it was accommodating and for me to be able to do that, as a single parent, as a working parent, you know, it's, it fit my needs, and I know it fits the needs of so many others and it has enabled so many other people to be successful. I'm just proud to be a Pirate and I am always listening and watching and hearing and things that the university is doing that makes me proud to be a Pirate, and I just think we need to pounce on that, to capture that, that pride and then move forward and quit looking backwards. We just got to quit looking behind us and start forward and let the naysayers naysay all they want and we just keep moving forward doing what we do and doing it very well. (53:07)

Donald Leggett:
Absolutely. And the university is proud to have you as an alum and just happy that you found your way here, howsoever it was in the beginning. Just the fact you ended up here, it makes us all proud and we appreciate all that you do for East Carolina University. So with that, I'm going to ask, unless there is something else you want to add here, I'll tell Alston to close use out and, and we'll be talking to you, but thanks again for doing this. (53:42)

Shirley Carraway:
Well, thank you [unclear]


Title
Shirley Carraway Oral History Interview
Description
Sound recording of Shirley Carraway'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 29, 2020
Extent
Local Identifier
UA95.18.09
Location of Original
University Archives

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