Steadfast Champions

Thanks to two families, ECU’s top undergraduate scholarship program will support students for decades to come

The names Brinkley and Lane are synonymous with excellence at East Carolina University. In May, Robert Gentry Brinkley ’78 and Amy Woods Brinkley and Lewis Patrick Lane III ’67 and Lynn Lewis Lane made a transformational commitment to the university that elevated their names to legend and secured the future of the university’s most prestigious undergraduate award program, which now bears their name.

Chancellor Philip Rogers described their passionate commitment to ECU, the Honors College and future generations of Pirates as evidence these families are committed to the ideals of ECU, committed to delivering on the mission of advancing ECU as a national model for student success, public service and regional transformation.

Brinkley-Lane Scholars are known for their leadership in the classroom, in campus programs and at university events. Program director Katherine Ford describes the students as the program’s best ambassadors. The students hold the most prestigious undergraduate award offered at ECU.

From left, Robert Brinkley ’78, Amy Woods Brinkley, Chancellor Philip Rogers, Lynn Lewis Lane and Lewis Patrick Lane III ’67

For these 80 scholars, the student experience is amplified, providing additional opportunities for leadership, service and professional development. Within the Brinkley-Lane program and the Honors College, the students find mentorship from their peers and faculty and inspiration to pursue every opportunity.


Noah Sampson

“Our faculty within the Honors College are always pushing us to take advantage of different opportunities so that we can be the best possible version of ourselves.”
- Noah Sampson, Brinkley-Lane Scholar


Noah Sampson, a junior studying biology and chemistry, says being a Brinkley-Lane Scholar has given him access to support systems that have helped him make the most out of his time at ECU. He’s channeled that motivation into being an assistant in a research lab at the Brody School of Medicine and being involved in Pirate PALS (Peers Advocating for Learning and Success) and the Pirates vs. Cancer organization.

“Our faculty within the Honors College are always pushing us to take advantage of different opportunities so that we can be the best possible version of ourselves,” he says.

The program has opened doors for Emily Bronson, who is working on a dual major in political science and communication with a minor in leadership studies.


Of all the wonderful opportunities I have found here at ECU, I can credit them all to the Brinkley-Lane Scholars program.
- Emily Bronson, Brinkley-Lane Scholar

Emily Bronson



“The staff and the other students have helped me navigate my passions in a way that I didn’t realize college could,” Bronson says. “I am a freelance journalist for The Daily Reflector, and I have served as the campaign manager for two local elections. Of all the wonderful opportunities I have found here at ECU, I can credit them all to the Brinkley-Lane Scholars program.”

Engagement with the students extends beyond the campus. Program alumni and donors are actively involved in the scholars’ success. Lauren Humann, a junior studying entrepreneurship, remembers being nervous at her first Celebrating Excellence dinner for Brinkley-Lane Scholars, where she met her scholarship donor.

“I was hoping that I would be able to represent the college in a good way. She remembered from my interview how much the Walt Disney World companies’ leadership inspired me and gave me a book called The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Bob Iger,” Humann says. “I was blown away by the financial support, and the additional emotional support that I got was unexpected and greatly needed and appreciated.”

Marzuq Islam

Marzuq Islam’s Brinkley-Lane Scholarship allowed him to spend five weeks abroad with the Doctors in Italy Fellowship. “I got a lot of experience in specialties I might be interested in,” he says.


Learning around the world

Marzuq Islam’s Doctors in Italy Fellowship participation was influenced by fellow Honors College student Ono Abhulimen ’23.

Following her experience with Doctors in Italy, Abhulimen, Islam and other engineering students created a color-changing bandage that could detect infections based on the pH of the infected wound. The team presented it at a conference in Boston, where it got a lot of attention. “We were about the only ones doing a demo,” Islam says.

Thanks to his Brinkley-Lane Scholarship, which includes a study-abroad component, Islam spent five weeks with the Doctors in Italy Fellowship shadowing physicians at facilities such as the San Giovanni Addolorata Hospital near Rome.

Islam rotated through internal medicine, emergency and other departments and learned how to read EKGs. He also observed surgeries and saw how heat stroke is treated during a week of 100-degree temperatures.

“I got a lot of experience in specialties I might be interested in,” the future physician says.

Sampson, who studied in Dortmund, Germany, says he was able to study abroad because of the Brinkley-Lane program.

“Less than a year ago, I had never left the country, but now I’ve been to 15 countries and have had a wealth of life-changing experiences,” Sampson says.

I was blown away by the financial support, and the additional emotional support that I got was unexpected and greatly needed and appreciated.
- Lauren Humann, Brinkley-Lane Scholar

Lauren Humann

Leading in service

Following the university’s mission and values, Brinkley-Lane Scholars are motivated to serve ECU and the community.

“Serving the East has been the bedrock for my passion in public service, so choosing ECU to pursue my undergraduate degrees was an easy decision for me,” Bronson says. “ECU and the Brinkley-Lane Scholars program have made it simple to get involved in local communities beyond the university.”

Her ECU experiences have solidified Bronson’s plans to pursue a career in policymaking and legislation, and she hopes to earn her doctorate in legislative policy.

Islam and Sampson plan to pursue careers in medicine. Islam will graduate in May with a degree in engineering. He intends to take a gap year and work as an EMT and engineer before continuing his education.

Humann says she is honored to serve on the executive board of A Moment of Magic, a national nonprofit organization, and on campus as a Pirate Navigator with undergraduate admissions.

She will be applying for internships with Disney parks and products and is considering the immersive MBA program at ECU.

Emma O’Brien ‘20 turned her Brinkley-Lane Scholarship into a job with USA Triathlon.


Creating a career trajectory

Emma O’Brien ’20, an alumna of the Brinkley-Lane Scholars program, credits it for transforming her college experience and career trajectory.
“When I first started at ECU, I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to do,” she says. “I was given the space to be curious, take classes in all different realms, say yes to experiences I was unsure about and truly figure out who I was and who I wanted to be.”

Twenty-five years of student success


ECU establishes the EC Scholars program as the most prestigious undergraduate merit scholarship program at ECU.


Honors program established as a college within the university. Former Chancellor Richard Eakin becomes founding dean of the Honors College. EC Scholars program incorporated into Honors College.

May 2014

Eleven EC Scholars are among the inaugural Honors College graduating class.

April 2023

Todd Fraley, who holds the Bill and Emily Furr Honors College Distinguished Professorship, is named dean of the Honors College.

May 2023

EC Scholars renamed Brinkley-Lane Scholars program to honor $30 million commitment to the institution from Robert Gentry Brinkley ’78 and Amy Woods Brinkley and Lewis Patrick Lane III ’67 and Lynn Lewis Lane. The program ensures full cost of attendance for all scholars.

August 2023

Katherine Ford named director of the Brinkley-Lane Scholars program and associate dean of the Honors College. She is the Linda McMahon Distinguished Professor of Foreign Languages.

One of those opportunities was the chance to study abroad in Italy, Australia and New Zealand.

“Studying abroad opened up a world of cultural immersion and personal growth that I couldn’t have achieved through traditional classroom learning alone,” O’Brien says. “These experiences not only enriched my academic journey but also equipped me with invaluable life skills that will benefit me in all aspects of my future.”

During her four years, O’Brien was able to explore her interests in sports studies through research with Greenville Recreation and Parks and further her leadership skills through the Mount Vernon Leadership Fellows Program in Washington, D.C. These experiences culminated in an internship with the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee that led to her current role as the youth programs assistant manager for USA Triathlon.

Looking back on her experience, O’Brien credits the high-impact trips and the community created with her cohort for building a supportive environment that helped her thrive.

Representing the Brinkley-Lane Scholars program holds personal significance for O’Brien and is a chance for her to lead by example, inspire others and give back to the community around her.

“They were my biggest cheerleaders, and the bond that we created will last far beyond our time at ECU,” she says. “I was supported every step of the way by my fellow scholars and faculty when I had no idea what the future held for me.”

Brinkleys believe in ECU’s regional impact

Robert Brinkley grew up in Greenville, where ECU’s influence and impact are always present. Proximity helped him realize how important ECU is to the region. His experience as a student furthered his appreciation of the university.

“I received an outstanding education at ECU and feel like it prepared me extremely well for life,” Brinkley said. “The university is also a very good steward of its public and private funding. Amy and I firmly believe that ECU deserves our support.”

Brinkley was a summa cum laude graduate from the College of Business and a four-year letter winner on the Pirate baseball team. He earned a law degree from Wake Forest University, has practiced law in North Carolina for more than 35 years and is a partner in the Charlotte office of Womble Bond Dickinson.

He has served on the ECU board of trustees including two years as chair; the ECU Foundation board of directors; the ECU Board of Visitors and the ECU Real Estate Foundation. He served on the steering committee for the Campaign for ECU Scholars and the ECU baseball stadium steering committee and serves on the Honors College Advancement Council.

Amy Brinkley had a three-decades-long career at Bank of America. Over the course of her career, she served as the company’s marketing executive, president of consumer products and chief risk officer. She was named to Fortune magazine’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business for nine consecutive years and cited by Forbes and The Wall Street Journal as one of the leading women in business.

The Brinkleys have been champions of ECU for more than five decades, supporting the EC Scholars program, Honors College, College of Business, Access Scholarship program and athletics. Among their many gifts supporting the university, they established the Robert and Amy Brinkley Access Scholarship Endowment, Robert G. and Amy W. Brinkley Scholars Award and the Robert and Amy Brinkley Honors College Endowed Fund for Excellence.

In May, the Brinkleys followed their belief in ECU’s mission with a historic commitment to the Honors College and the EC Scholars program.

“North Carolina is known for its excellence in public higher education, and ECU is the cornerstone for this quality education in eastern North Carolina and beyond,” Brinkley said. “Simply put, ECU’s excellence mission requires a top-drawer merit scholarship program. The (Brinkley-Lane) Scholars program is critical to the continued success and growth of the ECU Honors College.”

As an ECU trustee, Brinkley helped envision the Honors College to make sure ECU is and will continue to be an attractive place for high-achieving young people who seek academic challenges.

Lanes motivated by student success

Being recognized at campus events is overwhelming for Pat and Lynn Lane, and the greetings and thanks from others in Pirate Nation reinforce their pride in supporting ECU.

Their philanthropic decisions demonstrate how much the couple believes in higher education and in ECU. Their scholarship support began with a Marching Pirates scholarship and later shifted to an endowment in performing arts.

In addition to their estate gift and endowment supporting the Brinkley-Lane Scholars program and performing arts, they have an endowment in STEPP and annually support four scholarships in the College of Education. Additionally, they have established an endowment and leadership gifts at Lynn’s alma mater, Greensboro College.

“For us, it is all about the students. They are the true motivators of our giving back,” Pat said. “It is the best way to positively influence the most members of society.”

The Lanes are invested in ECU beyond their financial gifts. They also are doers and advocates, serving ECU on boards and committees, mentoring, and engaging with their scholarship students.

“We see this as the opportunity for us to give back to society. If we can help students in their time at ECU, we are happy to, and it also makes us feel fulfilled in many ways,” Lynn said.

Pat remembers watching the Marching Pirates change formation from ECC to ECU as a symbol of support for former Chancellor Leo Jenkins’ effort to earn university status in 1967. The moment is one of the early points on the chart of Pat’s unwavering dedication to his alma mater.

He is a College of Business accounting graduate and earned an MBA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He is a retired CPA. He has served on the College of Education advisory board, the alumni association board of directors, the Pirate Club executive committee and the Pirate Club Circle of Excellence as executive director.

For Lynn, the memories have come over time. There was attending ECU’s football win over Miami after Hurricane Floyd and, more recently, attending the Brinkley-Lane Scholars celebration with their granddaughters.

She has served on numerous ECU boards, including as chair of the ECU Foundation board of directors, the Health Sciences Foundation, the College of Education advisory board, and she is chair of the Honors College Advancement Council. She is also the 2001 ECU Honorary Alumni Award recipient.

One memory both share as a full-circle moment was when one of their College of Education scholarship students started a scholarship at her high school in her hometown. During her senior year at ECU, she announced she was changing the name to the Pat and Lynn Lane Scholarship.

Doug Boyd and Kristen Martin contributed to this article