Entrepreneur, former politician named ECU chancellor
Posted April 27, 2016
Chapel Hill, N.C. — An entrepreneur who served 10 years in the Georgia state Senate was named Wednesday as the next chancellor at East Carolina University.
The University of North Carolina system Board of Governors unanimously elected Cecil Staton to succeed retiring Chancellor Steve Ballard, starting July 1. Staton's annual salary will be $450,000.
Staton has served for the past year as interim president of Valdosta State University in Georgia. For a year before that, he headed the University System of Georgia's international, professional and continuing education efforts, handled military affairs for the university system and helped create the Georgia Film Academy to support the state's growing film production industry.
"Dr. Staton brings to the role of chancellor a rare blend of leadership experience in higher education, the private sector and elected public office, as well as a practical understanding of how to bring diverse communities and constituencies and organizations together to get things done," UNC President Margaret Spellings said.
Staton previously served 10 years in the Georgia legislature as a Republican senator. He chaired an appropriations committee responsible for higher education funding and the Senate Science and Technology Committee.
A native of Greenville, S.C., he founded and ran several broadcasting and publishing companies.
Before seeking public office, he spent 12 years as a professor and administrator at Mercer University in Macon, Ga., and began his academic career as a religion professor at Brewton-Parker College in Mount Vernon, Ga.
Wearing a purple tie and an ECU Pirate lapel pin, Staton recounted for the board his childhood in Greenville, where his father worked as a cobbler and his 80-year-old mother continues to run her own business. Neither of his parents went to college, he said, but they sacrificed so he could attain higher education.
He received a bachelor's degree from Furman University in Greenville, two master's degrees from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest and a doctorate from the University of Oxford in England.
"That was quite an unexpected journey for a kid who grew up with a textile mill just across the road," he said. "My life is a testament to the promise of America and to the power of higher education to change lives, families, communities and even the world."
Staton promised to making ECU a leader in a changing landscape for higher education and an economic engine for the eastern part of the state.
"We will measure our success by the students we include and embrace and how well they succeed," he said.
Ballard headed ECU for 12 years and is currently the longest-serving chancellor in the UNC system. He was credited with boosting enrollment and launching a College of Engineering, a School of Dental Medicine and an Honors College.
"By any measure, Steve will leave ECU stronger than he found it," Spellings said.