All good things
must end. Time dictates it. The career clock has summoned two of ECU’s
most impressionable and faithful employees.
One, a burly man with a low voice and a big heart, has inspired and
tutored more than an estimated 4,000 physical education majors during
his 39 years in education. The second, a soothing voice in a land of
looming deadlines, has become synonymous with her job’s department.
Both Dr. Jimmie Grimsley, associate professor in the exercise and
sports science department and Pam Forrest, secretary for media
relations and the Pirate Sports Networks are days away from their
respective retirements. Though each has served the university in
different capacities, they have remained every bit as genuine as the
day they arrived. Both epitomize the old southern culture that is
dwindling in today’s fast paced society.
“People are different today,” said director of electronic media and
17-year play-by-play voice Jeff Charles. “Pam is old school and Jimmie
Grimsley is old school. And those kinds of people, from that
generation, are the kind that came to [Greenville] and made their home
here. When those people leave, it just never feels like it’s the same.”
In a day where computers are replacing the old fashioned handshake,
both Dr. Grimsley and Forrest are about people. To them, relationships
trump money and good deeds come naturally. That’s why with their
retirements, ECU is losing the last of a dying breed and more
importantly two vital links to its past.
Added former ECU baseball coach Dr. Gary Overton, “They will not be
forgotten for quite some time.”
Dr. Jimmie Grimsley
Countless students have stepped into Dr. Grimsley’s exercise and sport
science office seeking academic advice. What they got, more often than
not, was a manual on life.
“He understands students and their needs,” said close friend and
colleague Carol-Ann Tucker, director of advising for the College of
Health and Human Performance. “He understands the human side of it.”
Saying that students’ personalities haven’t altered much over the
course of his career, he’s developed a philosophy rich on relationships.
“My teaching style has evolved,” recalled Dr. Grimsley. “I consider how
you teach, how you conduct yourself in class and the impression you
make on kids much more important than the content that you deliver.”
The youngest of eight children, Dr. Grimsley grew up on a farm in rural
Wilson, N.C. When legendary coach Clarence Stasavich offered a
grant-in-aid to play football in 1962, a younger Dr. Grimsley gladly
obliged. A self-termed “brief football career,” ensued, but more
importantly, the scholarship helped to ensure a college education.
After finishing a four-year undergraduate degree, Dr. Grimsley
completed his graduate work in 1967. During the same year, he joined
the ECU faculty and was named Head Coach for men’s soccer and tennis.
Despite spending 1972 at the University of Georgia to complete his
doctoral work, Dr. Grimsley has spent the last 39 years in education.
“Students have always been his No. 1 priority,” said Bill Cain,
assistant to the dean of the College of Health and Human Performance
and former athletic director.
However, when a student failed to get in gear, Dr. Grimsley sometimes
had to deliver some tough love.
“He is old school,” said Jane Moore, department of exercise and sport
science secretary. “He’s not a friend to the students, he’s an
authority figure. He is type of faculty member that students come to
when they have problems. If they need a swift kick, he’d do that.”
Pirate Sports Radio Network color commentator Si Seymour credits Dr.
Grimsley with motivating him to complete his graduate degree. Asking
how he could repay his professor for his guidance, Dr. Grimsley replied
unselfishly to “assist other students.” Seymour parlayed his degree
into becoming a head coach for 17 years at Craven Community
“I never forgot that,” Seymour said. “In a world where we’re all
looking for the bottom line, Dr. Grimsley only cared about helping
Always a student advocate, Dr. Grimsley doesn’t preach on the
holier-than-thou pedestal, but more of a ‘let’s discuss the truth’
Standing outside of a coaching theory class, a few years back Tucker
overheard Dr. Grimsley address yet another batch of students. “I can
teach you the way it’s supposed to be, but we’ll close this door and
talk about the way it really is,” Tucker recalled while overhearing the
39-year teaching staple.
“I’ve found that teaching, coaching and parenting are all the same,”
Dr. Grimsley stated. “As long as you’re firm, fair and consistent, most
of the time they’ll live up to your expectations,” said the father of
His expertise in officiating, derived from his doctoral thesis, has led
to a successful career in operating the scoreboard for both football
and men’s basketball games. According to the Dr. Grimsley, he’s missed
two football games and only a handful of basketball games since 1970,
when he assumed the job.
“I’ve always considered myself one of the officials of the game,” Dr.
Grimsley said. “I try to concentrate to get it 100 percent correct. I’m
trying to make the [game officials’] jobs easier.”
Whether it’s scoreboard operating or spending time officiating, Dr.
Grimsley has immersed himself within the community. Former best friend
and colleague George Williams formed a tournament, which he promptly
named the Jimmie H. Grimsley Hot Stove Tournament in 1989 to promote
local baseball. The tournament, held annually continues to draw some of
the region’s best teams.
What satisfies Dr. Grimsley the most is being able to teach
second-generation students. And what continues to impress his
co-workers is that he can remember details from the parent’s lives. Dr.
Grimsley claims that he can remember 75 percent of his student’s names
(even 35 years later), which has made a tight knit spider-web network
throughout eastern N.C.
But now, retirement is at his doorstep. What he calls a bittersweet
experience, in the third year of the Phased Retirement process, Dr.
Grimsley carries the burden of being the last connection between ECU’s
physical education history and its future.
“With each name that has been phased out, the department has seemed to
lose something from the past,” Dr. Overton said, a former Dr. Grimsley
student, who is currently the Assistant Athletics Director for Internal
Affairs. “With him being the link to the past, that final link probably
For a few short days, the limelight is on Dr. Grimsley. With all of the
good deeds and years of service, it’s about time.
Forrest has dealt with local celebrities and media types throughout her
28-year career. And her pleasant demeanor still hasn’t changed. Through
five office moves, nine different bosses and a wave of technology,
Forrest has kept her cheerful ways.
“Pam has been the rock of this department for all these years,” Charles
said about his trusty office assistant. “She’s seen a lot of people
come and go.”
And that’s usually when her job picks up. Whether it’s a coach firing,
a player arrested or some wild scandal, she assists the sports
information directors in keeping diligent files and making copies.
“The one thing that’s so great about Pam is that she never gets
rattled,” Charles said. “Things get hectic around here sometimes and
you have all of these press conferences called with coaches being
released and all of the other normal day-to-day environment within an
But her experience has helped her to keep rolling with the punches. She
learned the lesson early on when her office was relocated from Minges
Coliseum to the actual football press box.
“We didn’t have air conditioning up there,” Forrest reminisced. “That
first summer was tough. It was so cold in the winter that my typewriter
Yes, ancient typewriters. Forrest was responsible all the press
releases while still filtering interview requests. Her immediate help
consisted of two media relations personnel, a temporary and two student
workers. But again, she kept her charm.
“She’s always, sometimes to a fault, courteous and has great patience
with people,” Charles said. “She’s been a terrific employee of this
athletic department for the last 28 years.”
Charged with keeping all of the media relations files in a neat manner
and answering phones, she’s seen a revolving door of bosses. With
differing opinions on how to approach sports information and media
relations, she has survived all nine superiors.
“That’s the great thing about Pam is that you won’t hear her publicly
or outwardly criticize anybody,” Charles said. “When you work in an
office like this…you have all sorts of egos, she’s been really good at
deflecting all of that and just doing her job.”
Even when that means yet another sports information director is hired.
“For someone new, she’s been a wealth of information,” said current
sports information director Tom McClellan. “For me, her knowing the ins
and outs, every crook and crevice of ECU athletics has been invaluable.”
As her X’s on a small calendar located in her corner office continue to
mount, Forrest comes ever closer to her beloved farmland near
Grimesland. But as she leaves, so an aura of thoughtfulness and
happiness is as well.
“Pam Forrest has been a fixture in media relations,” Dr. Overton said.
“She’ll definitely be missed.