ECU alumni director quits in protest

Published: Jan. 30, 2019 at 2:14 PM EST
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The head of East Carolina University's Alumni Association has abruptly quit, over a rift between university leadership and alumni.

Heath Bowman, who was associate vice chancellor for alumni relations, resigned Tuesday after 3-1/2 years on the job.

The final straw for Bowman appears to be pressure from ECU leaders to change an alumni awards program, call the 40 Under 40 Leadership Awards.

Emails obtained by WITN News to Vice Chancellor for University Advancement Chris Dyba from Bowman says "it has been clear to me that the alumni of ECU are increasingly taking a back seat to political issues and distractions that exist between leadership and our constituents."

The emails say the university wanted to move the 40 Under 40 banquet from March to this fall. It also says the people selected for the honor were chosen by a group of alumni and friends so that "the process was sufficiently insulated from one person's rogue actions or political opinions."

Sources say some in the university leadership wanted one of two of the people picked for the honor to be removed from the list, and that's why the event was being moved to the fall.

"In my opinion, it shows a lack of commitment to our alumni and sends the message that we are willing to put private, personal or political struggles ahead of celebrating the worthy accomplishments of our alumni," Bowman said in the emails.

When contacted today, Bowman wouldn't talk to us about his decision to leave ECU.

Late Tuesday, the university issued a statement saying there were concerns raised about the "divisive nature" of some of those selected for the award. ECU said today that it has been decided to continue with the event on March 23rd, as originally planned.


“40 Under 40” is a program under the Division of Student Affairs that recognizes ECU alumni who have made significant contributions to the University and their communities.

Upon the release of this year’s honorees, there were concerns raised about the divisive nature of certain selections.

These concerns were voiced from both within the university as well as external stakeholders.

Given the widespread concerns and the need for an internal review, various options were considered for this year’s recognition event, including rescheduling the program to coincide with ECU’s homecoming celebration.

Contrary to some reports, at no time was cancellation of the event contemplated.

Ultimately, it was decided to continue with the event on March 23 as originally planned.

A review of the broader processes for managing the program will occur regarding future events.