Elon University mourns passing of Edna Truitt Noiles ’44 GP ’17
Her support created the Vera Richardson Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life and helped launch the Elon Academy.
Edna Truitt Noiles ’44 GP ’17, a proud and distinguished alumna and long-time benefactor of Elon University, passed away Feb. 9 at her home in New Canaan, Connecticut, surrounded by her children. She was 93. A campus celebration of her life is being planned for this spring in the Numen Lumen Pavilion of Elon's Academic Village.
Noiles played a key role in Elon’s growth during the past several decades, with her philanthropic efforts leading to the creation of the Vera Richardson Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life and the launch of the Elon Academy. In honor of her consistent support of Elon throughout her life, she was presented with the Elon Medallion, the university’s highest honor, in a ceremony at her home last summer.
“Edna Truitt Noiles was one of the most extraordinary human beings I have ever known,” said Elon President Leo M. Lambert. “She was a deeply spiritual person who exuded kindness and empathy and was a champion of children born to few advantages. She was one of the most impactful alumnae of all time, endowing the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life with her late husband Doug. Edna and Doug have also been the most generous supporters of the Elon Academy, which has transformed the lives of hundreds of young people and their families. I am certain heaven has gained another saint.”
Noiles grew up just two miles from Elon's campus, and after receiving her degree in history and English from Elon in 1944, she served in the hospital corps of the U.S. Navy's Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) program. It was through her service to WAVES that she met her husband, Doug, with the pair marrying in 1945. Doug Noiles, who became a pioneer in the development of medical and orthopedic devices, passed away in 2016.
After earning a master's degree in counseling, Noiles began a long and successful career as a marriage and family therapist. Pursuing an interest in spiritual matters, she completed a two-year program at the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation in Washington, D.C. and for nearly two decades, she served as a spiritual guide. She described her work as "one Christian helping another Christian find bread for the journey."
With a commitment to interfaith dialogue and understanding, Edna and Doug Noiles endowed the Vera Richardson Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life in 2003 in honor of her mother. The couple was inspired to make the $1 million gift, which funded five new programs and seven internships, after reading an article in the Magazine of Elon that described a renewed interest in religious and spiritual activities among Elon students. Additionally, Noiles joined her five sisters, who were also Elon alumnae, to create the Ashton P. and Vera R. Truitt Scholarship fund in honor their parents.
The presentation of the Elon Medallion to Noiles last year coincided with the 10 anniversary of the Elon Academy, the initiative made possible with the help of a founding donation from Edna and Doug Noiles. The academy is a comprehensive program to encourage promising high school students with high financial need or no family history of attending college to earn a four-year degree and serve their communities. The Elon Academy has become a national model for college access and success programs that has so far created opportunities for nearly 250 scholars.
When the start-up gift was announced, Noiles said that she and her husband believed that “a good education is a child’s birthright,” and that responding to the need to educate children through the Elon Academy “gives us a sense of being part of something larger than ourselves.”
“Doug and I were both gratified to see that our vision can indeed be realized, that when you believe in young people and shed a light on their gifts, they make that light even brighter,” Noiles said during a video celebrating The Elon Academy’s 10th anniversary last year.
Noiles is survived by her sons Daniel (m. Sheila) Noiles and Jonathan Noiles, daughters Alison Noiles and Esther Noiles as well as 11 grandchildren and one great grandchild, and three of her five sisters, Betty Lawrie, Helen Hicklin and Louise Goodall.
The family will hold a private memorial. Memorial gifts may be made to the Vera Richardson Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life and Elon University, Campus box 2600, Elon, N.C. 27244.