Marvin Baugh loves East Carolina.
From the moment he stepped onto campus in 1953, he knew that it was the school for him. As it happens, though, East Carolina is not where Baugh began his college education.
One of nine children that grew up in Warrenton, NC, Baugh was recruited to play baseball at Louisburg College from John Graham High School in 1951. Since Louisburg is a two-year college, Baugh knew he would have to transfer his junior year and thought he would attend Wake Forest. But a pretty young lady, and his immediate affection for East Carolina after his first visit, convinced him otherwise. It was a decision that would set the course of his life.
“East Carolina is hallowed ground,” remarked Baugh. “My time there was a terrific and memorable experience.”
Many from Baugh’s generation would say the same—their lives having been significantly impacted by their East Carolina experience. “When I first got there, I lived off campus in a garage apartment with three other students because there were no rooms available in the dormitories. It was very crowded, so after a few weeks I went to Dean Prewitt and asked if there was any possibility that I might be able to get a room on campus. He pulled out a list and ran his finger down it and found that there was one student that had not shown up. The dean asked me if I would like to live in Ragsdale Hall. I said ‘yes’ and he asked me when I could move. I said, ‘how about today?’ I lived with Ken Royal ’57 for the next two years.”
The campus soda shop was a popular hang out for many students during the 1950s. Baugh and Charlie Harrell ’55 were lucky enough to be the only two men who worked there, which turned out to be advantageous. Baugh was a bit of a bookworm and sort of shy in college, so working at the soda shop helped him come out of his shell. He met many of the 2,800 students attending East Carolina while working at the soda shop, and it also provided the experience that would change his life—meeting his wife Mary Jo Outland ’55.
“I was in awe the night I met Mary Jo. This young lady walked in and she just blew me away. I thought, ‘that’s the girl I have got to meet.’ I was able to talk with her briefly. She was fairly shy and when she left I asked a friend that worked at the soda shop with me if she knew the girl walking out the door. She looked at the door and said, ‘oh, sure, I know her, that’s Mary Jo. She lives right down the hall from me. Would you like me to get a date with her for you?’ It was unbelievable! I said, ‘oh, you can’t do that.’ And she replied, ‘well, let me try.’ Sure enough, a few days later she told me that I had a date with Mary Jo on Sunday night at 7:00 p.m. in the parlor of Jarvis Hall.”
And wouldn’t you know, Mary Jo stood him up! But it wasn’t intentionally. “I was at Jarvis at seven o’clock for the date of my life and she wasn’t there,” said Baugh. “She had gone home for the weekend and it turned out that her ride was late in returning to campus. So I called her later that night and she allowed me to come over and talk with her in the parlor. That’s how we first got to know each other.”
Mary Jo was dating a sailor when she met Baugh, but was so smitten with him that she quickly broke up with the sailor and she and Baugh began going steady. Once they were an item, they both stayed on campus over weekends in order to go on dates. They attended movies, went to football games, enjoyed the many school dances, and dressed up to go to campus concerts. The two became inseparable and shared many experiences together.
“One of our most vivid memories of our time on campus is Homecoming weekend in 1954. That’s when Hurricane Hazel struck. The hurricane blew through about midday on Friday and I’ll never forget watching the wind uproot maple trees in front of Flanagan. The storm was gone by about 6:00 p.m. and Mary Jo and I drove around Greenville to survey the damage. Despite everything, the Homecoming activities still happened on time that weekend,” said Baugh.
East Carolina is where their relationship blossomed. The coupled was engaged in 1955 and married in 1957. By this time, the two were well on their way to making careers for themselves, Mary Jo as a teacher and Marvin working in accounting. “I love accounting, but one thing I learned about myself while at East Carolina is that I am not a “green shade” accountant. I like being around people too much,” remarked Baugh.
After graduation, Baugh worked in New Bern, NC as a field auditor for the N.C. Department of Revenue, then worked at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, NC as a supervisory accountant. In 1960 he took a position at Burlington Industries in Greensboro, NC as an internal auditor. “When I started at Burlington, the company had just hit $1 billion in sales. It was one of the top 100 Fortune 500 companies in the country,” said Baugh. He would stay in the textiles industry until he retired in 1997, but changed jobs a few times over the 37-year period. He was controller for Schottland Mills in Rocky Mount, NC, manager of internal auditing and division controller for Texfi Industries in Greensboro, and then got back on with Burlington Industries in their real estate department where he would stay for 25 years.
“When I went back to Burlington Industries there were 87,000 employees at 165 textile mills,” remembered Baugh. “Eventually the company consolidated to less than 65 plants and I directed the sale of more than 100 plants in my last 20 years there, generating more than $350 million in cash for the company. In 1987 we were threatened by a hostile takeover from a company in Canada, but were able to avoid it by having employees of Burlington buy the majority of the company’s stock. That move gave many of us a really nice profit-sharing retirement plan.”
During his working years, Baugh also found time to serve his country. In 1950, while still in high school, Baugh had signed up with the North Carolina National Guard. In 1956 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant and was a field artillery officer for the Greenville, New Bern, and High Point areas. In 1971 he was promoted to major in the U.S. Army Reserves and in 1984 retired as a lieutenant colonel from the Army Corps of Engineers. He also taught accounting and business math at Guilford Tech from 1973-1983. The Baughs also added to their family with their children David and Leslie Anne.
It’s no wonder that Baugh was disconnected from East Carolina during most of his working years, except for an occasional away football game. In 2005 he and Mary Jo came back to campus to celebrate their 50th class reunion and Baugh wished he had not let so many years pass before coming back. “We had a wonderful time at that reunion. It was such a tremendous reconnect with East Carolina for both Mary Jo and me. We realized what we had been missing all those years,” said Baugh.
Since their 50th reunion, both Marvin and Mary Jo have remained involved with East Carolina and the Alumni Association. They attend a number of events each year and provide financial support to many University endowments and scholarships, including a newly established Alumni Association scholarship that will be named in honor of Mary Jo. “Every year at alumni events we meet new people or reconnect with old friends. We wouldn’t trade our experiences with East Carolina for anything in the world.”