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'Painting 'em Purple'

From the Booth
Monday, October 14, 2002
By Jeff Charles
Voice of the Pirates

Four decades later, Leo's 'Century Club' in its prime


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On Friday night, October 4, the East Carolina University Educational Foundation, better known as the Pirate Club, celebrated it’s Fortieth Anniversary. It was a gala event with over three hundred of ECU’s biggest and best supporters in attendance.

The surroundings were plush — the beautiful new Murphy Center — but the dress was casual and the food was hamburgers and hot dogs. We’re not really a wine and cheese crowd here.

It was a fun evening that highlighted recognition of so many wonderful people, who’ve dedicated many years of service to help the Pirate Club, and thus the athletics program, grow to it’s present stature.

One only has to walk into the new facility and peer out of the solid glass side facing Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium Bagwell Field to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Many folks gathered on the patio overlooking the freshly manicured field and everyone was in agreement that ECU truly has outstanding facilities now. I heard a couple of people say that the Murphy Center feels like it’s been here for a long time because of the way it fits into the scheme of things.

Some professional people really did a nice job of tying in the stadium and Williams Arena Minges Coliseum with the new end zone facility while landscaping the whole project to perfection. The area outside the Murphy Center center is as impressive as the building itself inside.

The Pirate Club in it’s early years was known as the Century club, and a handful of Greenville businessmen led by then Chancellor Leo Jenkins started knocking on doors to solicit some much needed funds for athletics. These guys were known as the “Greenville Mafia” and you get the idea they were very passionate about their mission.

From that small group of men has evolved an organization today that has 7,754 members who contributed 3.1 million dollars in support last year.

The Pirate Club has raised more than twenty million dollars in the last decade for two capital improvement projects, the expansion of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium Bagwell Field and the Murphy Center. Nearing completion is another six million dollar campaign for East Carolina’s new baseball stadium.

The architect of this success is the Executive Director of the Pirate Club, Dennis Young. Young is a 1969 ECU grad and football letterman who realized a dream in 1991 to come back home and work for his alma mater.

He must have thought, “Hey, this is going to be easy.” Remember, 1991 was the greatest year in Pirate football history and there was such incredible excitement that season which translated into a big time growth spurt for the Pirate Club.

Athletics, as we all know, has its ebbs and flows, its good times and its not so good times, it’s ups and downs. Just like any job, you have to roll up your sleeves and work even harder during the tough times.

Every opportunity I get publicly I mention the outstanding work ethic the people in the Pirate Club have. Dennis sets the pace. There’s an old saying, “The speed of the leader, the speed of the pack.”

Young works tirelessly and with great passion, as does his staff. Associate Director Mark Hessert came with Dennis in 1991. Everyone knows Matt “Big Guy” Maloney and his legendary dedication to this program. Mick Crawford is an ECU grad and Assistant Director. Pete Triebenbacher is the computer guru and serves as the systems coordinator.

Three ladies round out Young's staff, Shannon Padrick, who handles special projects, Beth Kirkland, data entry clerk and secretary LaTrenda Britt.

I’ve been around college athletics for twenty-three years and I can assure you of one thing. No one in the country works harder in the fund raising department than these folks. They pat a lot of people on the back, and it was good to see them get a few pats on the back last Friday night. Here’s to everyone in the Pirate Club, “You can paint this one purple.”

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02/23/2007 10:24:07 AM

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