Staton steps down, Gerlach named interim chancellor

Chancellor Cecil Staton, shown with his wife, Catherine.

Chancellor Cecil Staton, shown with his wife, Catherine, was named ECU’s 11th chancellor April 27, 2016.

Following Chancellor Cecil Staton’s March announcement that he was leaving his position at East Carolina University, Dan Gerlach, who for more than a decade has led the Golden LEAF Foundation, has been named interim chancellor.

Staton announced his resignation March 18, effective May 5. He was named chancellor in 2016. While at ECU, Staton led a rebranding effort to raise the university’s national stature; launched the Rural Prosperity Initiative in partnership with SAS to improve health care, education and economic disparities across rural North Carolina; and began the largest campaign in university history.

“Catherine and I are very grateful for our time at ECU,” Staton said. “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.”

During his tenure, retooling the athletics program was a key priority. He brought on former ECU athletic director Dave Hart to serve as a special advisor for athletics. Hart guided the efforts to hire Jon Gilbert as athletic director, Mike Houston as football coach and Joe Dooley as the men’s basketball coach.

“I am grateful that we have been able to press the reset button for Pirate athletics and prepare a foundation for future success,” Staton said. “I am confident that ECU athletics are in a good place and that our best days are ahead.”

Kieran Shanahan, chair of the ECU board of trustees, said the Statons’ departure is a great loss for ECU. “Cecil Staton has served ECU with distinction, dedication and an uncompromising commitment to excellence,” Shanahan said.

Gerlach, who has led the Rocky Mount-based foundation since 2008, was named to the interim chancellor post April 16. He officially began May 6.
Gerlach described his new role as “an honor and a privilege” and said reversing last year’s enrollment decline at ECU and stabilizing university finances will be priorities.

“I will measure success by convincing people, more North Carolinians, that ECU has the great breadth and depth of resources to offer them, and they can come here and get a high-quality education,” he said.

While Gerlach lacks experience in higher education administration, University of North Carolina Interim President Bill Roper said he was confident Gerlach would be a strong leader for ECU.

ECU Interim Chancellor Dan Gerlach

ECU Interim Chancellor Dan Gerlach talks with students Juan Chavez and Morgan Ridenhour at the Main Campus Student Center.

“He has a career-long pattern of making and implementing tough decisions to get things done,” Roper said.

Golden LEAF was formed to manage money received from a 1999 legal settlement with the big U.S. tobacco companies, which sought to avoid further litigation related to the health impact of cigarettes. The foundation has assets of about $1.1 billion and typically provides annual grants to N.C. municipalities, universities and other organizations totaling $50 million to $100 million.

Gerlach was serving on the transition committee assisting Roper, according to the Golden LEAF website. As a chancellor of a UNC System campus, Gerlach will report to Roper.

Gerlach has a bachelor’s degree from Notre Dame University and a master’s degree in public administration from Syracuse University. He also served as an adjunct instructor at UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State University.