ECU students, supporters discuss importance of scholarships

Each year, the Robert and Betty Hill Recognition of Excellence Awards Ceremony honors scholarship recipients and donors in the College of Engineering and Technology (CET) at East Carolina University.

The coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of the event this fall.

“We are really going to miss seeing everyone in person but want everyone to be safe,” Betty Hill said.

The cancellation of the ceremony did not make the scholarship recipients any less appreciative. Industrial engineering technology student Eddie Okeiga received a scholarship sponsored by the Hills. He said the financial support was crucial considering the pandemic.

“Honestly, that was the absolute best thing that happened to me,” he said. “Coming back to Greenville with COVID out there, you couldn’t find a job. My money was running down from what I had saved through my internships. I had to pay tuition and I had to pay rent, and I’m looking at my bills and books are coming, and I thought, ‘This is not going to be fun.’ I started freaking out. That scholarship opportunity came to me, and I could not be more blessed. It took a large burden off of my chest.”



Robert Hill is a 1962 industrial technology graduate, while his wife Betty is a former teacher. They created an endowment in 2008 to fund the college’s annual scholarship awards ceremony and support a scholarship each year. This year, 100 CET students received $205,000 in scholarships.

“We believe in giving back and helping others,” Betty Hill said. “We credit ECU with the things we have been able to accomplish and feel that others should want to recognize what ECU has done for them.

“The education he received from ECU enabled him to have a great career in the shipbuilding industry. The sponsorship of the awards ceremony is our way of recognizing the many outstanding students and the sponsors of the various awards. We sponsor a scholarship because we want to help other students gain the education he received.”

Okeiga could not thank the Hills enough for the scholarship.

ECU student Eddie Okeiga stands in front of a display of the Falcon 9 rocket at SpaceX, where he interned this summer. He received a scholarship from Robert and Betty Hill this fall. (Contributed photo)

“You have to be such a sweet soul to give someone that money, and they don’t even know me,” Okeiga said. “All they know is my name, so that was really sweet of them and it inspires me to do something like that when I graduate.”

Andy Ferrell did just that. He graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in industrial technology from ECU. He was the founder and CEO of PCI, a company that provides calibration, commissioning and consulting solutions to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device and clinical research industries.

In 2008, he decided to donate to create the Ferrell Family Engineering Scholarship.

“I was a first-generation college student and attended ECU on a scholarship,” Ferrell said. “I was on the advisory board for the engineering department back in 2008. This department had no scholarships to award. I wanted to be the first.”

Ferrell said he understands the needs of students.

“ECU is an access university and there are many students that need scholarship support in order to focus on classroom achievement instead of working 25 to 40 hours a week to support themselves and attend college,” he said.


Holden Duckworth, a mechanical engineering student from Clayton, received one of the Ferrell scholarships. He said receiving it came as a bit of a surprise.

“I basically jumped up and down and danced a little,” he said.

Duckworth said the scholarship could not have come at a better time.

“This scholarship allowed me to replace the long outdated and deteriorating laptop I was using,” he said. “That dusty old thing had long served its purpose and could barely run the modeling software required in my courses. Without this scholarship, I could not have afforded the technology necessary to complete my degree.”

Holden Duckworth works to fasten a sound array as part of a research project last month. (ECU photo by Ken Buday)

After some confusion with his financial aid paperwork this summer, the scholarship also served as a bridge to allow him to continue toward his degree.

“Without those funds in my account from the scholarship, I would have been dropped from all my classes,” he said.

Duckworth encourages all students to apply for scholarships, the list of which can be found through the ECUAWard portal. The deadline is Jan. 15.

“This scholarship is a gift that has not gone unappreciated,” he said. “ … The scholarship is an extremely helpful act of philanthropy that inspires me to want to do the same in the future.”

Ferrell said he enjoys meeting scholarship recipients, calling them “very gracious and very smart young people,” and has actually hired a few. He’s glad to play a role in the success of students at ECU.

“I’m so proud to be a Pirate helping Pirates,” he said.

Anyone interested in supporting student scholarships in CET can email Stephanie Bunn at


A list of College of Engineering and Technology scholarships and recipients.


David J. Smith Leadership Award — Julian Cruz

Keihin Carolina Systems Technology Scholarships — Mina Akhnoukh, Stephen Edwards, Coleman Ferrell, Joseph Ha, Billy Holloman, Jeremiah James, Hannah Roberson, Luke Thompson, Meredith Umphlett, Mackenzie Wheeler

Keihin College of Engineering and Technology Development Fund Scholarship — Isaac Carlos

Robert and Betty Hill Scholarship — Eddie Okeiga

Universal Leaf North America U.S., Inc. Scholarship — Leigh Nobles


Angela Williams Allen Scholarship for Computer Science — Nicholas Weaver

Barry and Karen Carter Scholarship — Anthony Perry

Samanage Success Scholarship for Computer Science — Luis Vazquez-lazaro

Shiv and Rajni Ajmera Computer Science Scholarship — Abelson Abueg


C.W. Brinkley Construction Scholarship — Giovanni Cavalotto, George Hughes, Pablo Sollecito

Carl J. Hirrlinger/James G. Davis Construction Corporation Scholarship — Dawson Armstrong

Coastal Plains Chapter of the Professional Construction Estimators Association of America Scholarship (PCEA Chapter 8) — Giovanni Cavalotto, George Hughes, Pablo Sollecito

Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA) Endowed Scholarship — Wilson Gallagher-Smith, Belen Olvera

CMAA-NC Construction Management Scholarship — Joseph Livesay

Construction Management General Scholarship Fund — Patrick McComas, Collin Chappell, Raymond Hock, Andrew Landry, Sean McHugh, Ethan Wolcott

George C. Turner Scholarship — Leondre Horne, Davis Latham, Melena Puerile

H.A. Hardy “Butch” Masonry Scholarship — Grayson Hayter, Tristan Merritt

Home Builders Supply Company/W.G. Blount Scholarship — Kevin Devlin

Owen F. Carr IV Memorial Scholarship — Pablo Sollecito, Dylan White

Rick Judson/NCHBA/National Housing Endowment Residential Construction Scholarship — Tristan Merritt

Robert E. Barnhill Sr. Scholarship — Larry Lancaster, Dylan White

S.T. Wooten Scholarship — Christopher Briley, Joseph Livesay

Service Roofing and Sheet Metal Company Scholarship — Connor Cortez

SPC Mechanical Scholarship — Jeffrey Deal

T.A. Loving Company Scholarship — George Hughes

Tom and Ann Gibbs Scholarship — Jeffrey Deal

Triangle Chapter of the Professional Construction Estimators Association of America Scholarship (PCEA Chapter 3) — Thomas Dawson, Wilson Gallagher-Smith, Joseph Livesay

Whiting-Turner Contracting Company Scholarship — Giovanni Cavalotto


Cummins/Kauffmann Scholarship — Faith Cobb

Department of Engineering PIRATES Scholars Program — Caleb Anderson, Connor Cossette, Stefan Falso, Mariah Gavin-Foy, Sophia Hall, Anthony Hill, Christina Leach, Margaret Leland, Oscar Maldonado, Erica Miller, Ronaldo Moreno-Antonio, Leah Rumble, Paul Shore, Christopher Spillane, Eelco Tinga, Shiloh Uter, Brandon Wright

Engineering Alumni Scholarship — Shelby Wiggins

Engineering General Scholarship Fund — Hannah Roberson

Ferrell Family Endowed Scholarship I — Holden Duckworth

Ferrell Family Endowed Scholarship II — Muzaffer Konu

James and Connie Hackney Scholarship — David Harr, Julie Miller

Joseph (Joe) Michael Albany Jr. Memorial Scholarship — Gabriel Glosson

N.C. Electric Cooperative Electrical Engineering Endowed Scholarship Fund — Jarryd Ashby

Yates Family Scholarships for Engineering — Colleen Brady, Brady Gelezinsky, Jeremiah James, Luke Thompson, Meredith Umphlett


Barry Duvall–Timothy Gomez Teachers Choice Scholarship — Donnie Hines, Michael Lee

Bob Lee Memorial Scholarship — Christopher Pace, Brandon Kornegay, Noah Wiggins, Ryan Fowler

Eastern Safety School of Occupational Safety Scholarship — Christopher Lott

Elizabeth Brown Sledge Scholarship — Julianna DeDominick, Alexander Hodges

James P. Kohn Memorial Scholarship — Lauren Harden, Christopher Lott

Lemuel and Gail Clayton Scholarship — Anna Braxton, Tucker Robbins

Society of Manufacturing Engineers Coastal Plains Chapter 302 Scholarship — Isaac Carlos, Lam Nguyen

Technology Systems General Scholarship Fund — Stephen Edwards, Richard Morton, Grace Newell, Laura Saunders

W. Ashley Smith Jr. Transfer Scholarship — Jean Montero Montero