The Blount family has been very special to East Carolina University, and vice versa.
"East Carolina University has always had a special place in my heart and always will," said William (Bill) Blount.
Bill and his family have been proud Pirate supporters for several decades. ECU's intramural athletic complex located behind the Belk Building is named after the Blount family in appreciation of their generous contributions over the years. And now, with their most recent contribution to ECU and its Second Century Campaign, they are taking another milestone step forward with a gift that will directly benefit the lives of future East Carolina students.
On a fateful day in June 1960, when East Carolina student Jimmy Kirkland met fellow Pirate Evelyn Johnson on the steps of Wright Auditorium and made plans to go out the following Saturday night neither of them imagined they would be where they are now—married for nearly 46 years, with two grown children and one grandson.
They also never imagined their life together would have such a tremendous impact on East Carolina students for generations to come. But it will.
Now, 48 years after meeting at ECU, Jim and Evelyn Johnson Kirkland have established the James Bryant Kirkland Jr. and Evelyn Johnson Kirkland Middle Grades Scholarship Fund to provide a scholarship to an undergraduate ECU student majoring in Middle Grades Education with a concentration in either language arts, or math and science.
In 1986, Dr. Jesse Peel of Atlanta, Georgia, established the J. Woolard Peel University Scholars Award, along with his mother, Helen Peel of Everetts, North Carolina, in order to memorialize his father. Jesse and his mother were among the first 10 families to help establish what is now known as the EC Scholars Program.
Woolard Peel graduated from North Carolina State University, and Helen attended Louisburg College. Jesse completed his undergraduate work and medical school at UNC-Chapel Hill, but Jesse and Helen decided to establish this scholarship at East Carolina University because Woolard often said ECU was the future of eastern North Carolina. They had also heard that the EC Scholars Program did a good job of connecting the donors with the students who received their awards. Jesse and Helen both got involved with the Scholars Selection events—Jesse annually served as a judge and Helen made personal presentations to scholarship recipients at their high schools' award days.
When Scott Cooper graduated from East Carolina University in 1990, he knew he had earned much more than a diploma. The graduate with a degree in industrial technology realized he had a head start on other jobseekers.
"The construction management program [at ECU] gave me a solid base to succeed in the construction industry by preparing me to understand my customers' needs," Cooper said. "It was beneficial that everything in our program was hands on. We also were supported by a staff that knew everyone personally and made us feel like our family away at school," he said.