STATON: "I have no regrets" on last day as ECU chancellor

Published: Mar. 17, 2019 at 9:27 PM EDT
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The outgoing chancellor at East Carolina University says he has no regrets on his final day.

Dr. Cecil Staton announced in mid-March that he was resigning as head of the university after three years on the job.

Staton said it was a move he did not initiate.

"I am very proud and I believe we have done about as much as you can hope to do in three years and I again hope it is a foundation on which others will build," Staton told us this morning.

Dan Gerlach will take over Monday as interim chancellor while the UNC System searches for a permanent replacement.

Asked about changes that he's made while at ECU, Staton said he is proud of the people they have recruited.

"I am very proud that we reset the button on athletic, that we have a new A.D., a new head basketball coach for both men and women and a new football coach," said Staton. "So, I think there are a lot of things that we were able to accomplish in a short period of time. I hope we have layed a foundation others will build on that will take ECU to where it righfully ought to go as America's next great national university."

The separation agreement says ECU will pay Staton his regular salary until the end of June and then fork over $589,700 by July 15th. He'll stay on as an advisor until then to help with the transition period.

Staton made an appearance this morning on a local radio show, "Talk of the Town" with Henry Hinton. Hinton has been a vocal supporter of the chancellor and was on the UNC Board of Governors when Staton was hired.

It was announced on the talk show that friends of Staton set up a scholarship in his honor. It will help ECU students study abroad.

Their goal was $125,000, and ended up raising $133,000 for the "Catherine Staton Scholarship Fund". Staton asked that it be named in honor of his wife.

Asked about future plans, Staton said there's nothing definitive. "I am certainly taking a look at a number of options and we certainly want to continue to be involved in education in some way. It is our passion."


East Carolina University's chancellor announced this morning he is resigning in a move that he didn't initiate.

Dr. Cecil Staton says he will step down as chancellor effective on May 3rd.

The chancellor's separation agreement says ECU will pay Staton his regular salary through June 30th, and then fork over $589,700 by July 15th.

Staton said there have been conversations about him leaving "for a little while" and that his resignation was not initiated by him. The chancellor told reporters that he signed a non-disparagement agreement and he would not be speaking ill about anyone.

"There are some dreams that don't get fulfilled and there are some storms you cannot weather," he told reporters this morning. "And so we've made the decision that we think is in our best interest and hopefully in the best interest of ECU moving forward."

UNC Board of Governors member Steven Long said Staton was forced out. "Chancellor Station was asked to resign by the interim UNC president, Bill Roper, in an effort to end the long-running campaign of false accusations and irrational attacks by Harry Smith, the chairman of the UNC Board of Governors."

Long claims Smith, a Greenville businessman, has been after Staton ever since the chancellor and ECU trustees didn't change university housing policy as Smith was proposing to buy an apartment complex near the university.

Smith told WITN he was not involved with this resignation process.

"We are always going to operate with proper governance and oversight and kind of stay out of the emotions," Smith said.

He said Roper and Staton came to a healthy understanding about this decision and said Roper would not make a decision that was not in the best interest of the UNC System.

"For anyone to assume that someone of that stature would do anything that wasn't in the right and best interest of the system of the state is wrong," Smith said. "I think it was a very healthy process and wish nothing but the best for the chancellor."

Staton served as chancellor since 2016, following a 27-year career in Georgia where he worked as a faculty member and administrator at three different colleges and as a state senator.

After hearing of his resignation, ECU Board of Trustees Chairman Kieran Shanahan says, "Cecil Staton has served ECU with distinction, dedication and an uncompromising commitment to excellence."

UNC System Interim President Bill Roper added, "I'm confident he is leaving the university in good hands and with a bright future ahead as it continues to build on its success."

During Staton's tenure, he lead numerous capital projects, including a $60 million renovation to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium and a $70 million renovation to residence halls.

He also began a rebranding effort to raise ECU's national stature.

Staton will remain on as an advisor to the president and the interim chancellor through June 30 to assist during the transition period.


East Carolina University Chancellor Cecil Staton is reportedly set to announce his resignation Monday, according to a report published by the Carolina Journal Sunday evening.

WITN has not been able to independently confirm this information.

A Board of Trustees member tells WITN they have not had a meeting regarding Staton's resignation and as far as they know, there are no board meetings scheduled for this week.

The Carolina Journal also has reportedly obtained an official document with Staton's resignation statement. In that statement, Staton writes:

"Catherine (Staton's spouse) and I are very grateful for our time at ECU. We have enjoyed every moment working with our inspiring students and world-class faculty and staff. As we prepare for this transition in leadership, we remain committed to the idea we arrived with — ECU's future is full of promise. There are no limits to what ECU can attain in service to the East, North Carolina, our nation, and our world and we look forward to following the progress of this great university in the years to come."

This report comes after months of speculation that Staton would be resigning as Chancellor.

Back in November, the Carolina Journal also reported that sources told them Staton would be leaving his position January 1st.

The University responded in November saying the Chancellor had not accepted a deal nor resigned.

Staton has been chancellor since April 2016 and his time at ECU has been turbulent, especially in dealing with athletics as the department transitioned to a new athletics director and head football coach.

During his tenure, ECU also bought a new $1.3 million off-campus chancellor's residence and in November trustees approved a controversial hike in student fees, most of which goes to help bail out athletics.