Grad, SGA president Tucker Robbins relishes time at ECU

Tucker Robbins, East Carolina University Student Government Association president, speaks during commencement on May 7 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Robbins graduated with a degree in industrial distribution and logistics. (ECU photo by Cliff Hollis)

In the span of four years, Tucker Robbins journeyed from a self-described humble high school student to an honors graduate of East Carolina University.

“I could never put a dollar amount or even quantify the experience and the growth that I’ve seen myself undergo since joining ECU back in 2017,” Robbins said. “I could have never imagined it.”

Robbins received a bachelor’s degree in industrial distribution and logistics during ECU’s commencement on Friday. He was one of nearly 600 College of Engineering and Technology students to receive graduate or undergraduate degrees on Friday.

As president of ECU’s Student Government Association, Robbins ended his four years at ECU by speaking during Friday’s commencement.

“We didn’t choose East Carolina. East Carolina chose us,” he told the graduates. “No matter what brought you here — great academic programs, the school spirit, athletics, sense of community — East Carolina is special, and you become hooked.”

He told the graduates to live by ECU’s motto of servire, or to serve.

“Graduates, as we leave here today, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to shape your own destiny by taking the road less traveled, and most importantly, don’t forget who you are and where you came from,” he said. I’m Tucker Robbins, and as of today, a proud Pirate graduate like every one of you. Wear that title with dignity, seize every opportunity with resilience and attack life like a Pirate, and you can never go wrong.”

In an interview prior to commencement, Robbins said he never envisioned himself as SGA president when he came to ECU from nearby Wilson.

“I wanted to become involved beyond just completing my homework for the week and listening to lectures,” he said. “I wanted to find something to really get involved with beyond the academic side.”

He became a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, obtained leadership positions and eventually became the ECU chapter’s president. Feeling he wanted to do more for the entire campus, he ran for student body president in 2020 and won.

Tucker Robbins, center, is honored during his final ECU Board of Trustees meeting on April 22 by Chancellor Philip Rogers, right, and board chairman Vern Davenport. (ECU Photo by Cliff Hollis)

“It was a sense of achievement, a sense of pride. I just felt like the biggest Pirate on earth that day,” Robbins said when he learned he would be SGA president. “It was just overwhelming, a great feeling.”

That feeling of joy over his election didn’t last too long as the university faced an immediate crisis.

“When I won SGA president, that was right before the pandemic hit, so that was like the last hurrah before the pandemic closed everything down,” Robbins said.

As SGA president, Robbins reported on student matters to the ECU Board of Trustees and brought the perspectives of students during the pandemic to board members and university administrators, perspectives he experienced on a daily basis.

“It was definitely tough transitioning to virtual classroom settings, virtual learning and virtual meetings,” Robbins said. “All of a sudden, everything relied on virtual communication and virtual methods of learning. That came with challenges, as I’m sure every other student can relate to. You were doing all of your work at one setting at your house, not really being able to be on campus and get the student experience.”

The pandemic did shed light on Robbins’ major — distribution and logistics. During the pandemic, a rush on supplies caused shortages of products such as toilet paper, soap, hand sanitizer and cleaning products.

“We saw during the pandemic — not just with toilet paper but with everything — the frantic buying and supplies running thin,” he said. “People who come out with this degree like me, that’s our specialty, getting those products to the customer and making sure there are ample supplies. This major has taught me so much about the behind-the-scenes of what it takes to get that stuff where it needs to be and when it needs to be there. It’s a small major for the importance of it, and to some extent, I like that — small classroom sizes and a lot more personability with my professors.”

It’s a career choice he didn’t envision until he attended a presentation during freshmen orientation.

“It just kind of resonated with me,” Robbins said. “A lot of people don’t realize what all goes on behind the scenes to get products to the customers, and that was something I wanted to find out more about.”

Tucker Robbins is shown in the Student Service Learning Lab in the Science and Technology Building. (ECU photo by Ken Buday)

In June, Robbins will take his degree to Charlotte where he will become a rotational associate supervisor in a distribution center for Medline Industries, a medical supply company. He said he would carry with him two important lessons he’s learned from ECU.

“I think the biggest two things are efficiency and effectiveness,” he said. “One thing I’ve learned is that if I wake up every day and go to my job and know that I’m doing everything in my power to make their operation run as efficiently and effectively as possible, I know that I’m doing what I need to be doing. I think that is my major in a nutshell.”

As he graduates, Robbins admits to two things he will miss most — his SGA office on the second floor of the Main Campus Student Center and walks through ECU’s open mall area at the heart of campus.

“I really enjoy the mall and the cupola, seeing people out there playing football or spike ball or just out there with their dogs,” he said. “In the past couple of weeks, it’s been really great to walk out there.”

As a new graduate, he encourages students not to get discouraged.

“Don’t be afraid to create your own path. Taking the road less traveled is not a bad thing,” he said. “Stay driven, stay committed, stay the course. Get involved beyond the classroom if you can, and don’t let anybody tell you you can’t do it because you can, and I’m an example of a first-generation college student that did it myself.”

Robbins was a member of the Phi Kappa Phi academic honor society and ECU’s chapter of the Professional Association of Industrial Distributors. He received the Lemuel and Gail Clayton Scholarship for 2019-20 and the Edward Jones Landon Blackley Scholarship for 2020-21. He was the Greek Life President of the Year in 2019-20 and also served on the Uptown Greenville Board of Directors. He worked as a part of the ECU chancellor’s search committee that concluded with the hiring in March of Dr. Philip Rogers, ECU’s 12th chancellor.

“Having the new chancellor, Dr. Rogers, here, I think there’s a lot of excitement that is coming, especially for the fall,” Robbins said.

He thanks those in the College of Engineering and Technology and the Department of Technology Systems for helping him achieve his educational goals, and all the mentors, advisors and family who supported his journey.

“I think ECU has so many opportunities for students to thrive, to get involved outside of the classroom and inside of the classroom,” he said. “I think this whole university is a great opportunity in itself, but there are just so many smaller opportunities that can lead to the bigger ones like I’ve seen for myself. … I’m thankful for Pirate Nation and I’m thankful for all the opportunities.”