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Isabella Cannon to be honored on Founders Day - March 10

Isabella Cannon ’24, an immigrant from Scotland who would travel the world before her election as the first female mayor of North Carolina's capital city, will be recognized March 10 as part of Elon University’s annual Founders Day celebrations to commemorate the lives of administrators, faculty and trustees who impacted the growth of the institution.

Cannon served as mayor of Raleigh, N.C., from 1977-1979, an accomplishment that garnered international media attention for “the little old lady in tennis shoes.” The Isabella Cannon Centre for International Studies, and the Isabella Cannon Pavilion in the Academic Village, are both named in her honor.

A special College Coffee in the Academic Village is planned for March 10 – 120 years since the North Carolina General Assembly approved the charter for Elon College. And College Chapel on March 12 will include a special program honoring Cannon.

Born May 12, 1904 in Dunfermline, Scotland, Cannon emigrated with her family to the United States at age 12. She graduated from Winecoff High School in Concord, N.C., before graduating second in her class from Elon in 1924 with a bachelor of arts degree (English and science majors).

She married Claude Cannon, Elon's registrar and business manager. His subsequent career in diplomatic service took the couple around the state and the world. They lived in Liberia, West Africa and Iraq before returning to Raleigh, where Claude Cannon died in 1954.

Cannon held jobs in a variety of fields related to education and community service. She was a teacher at Elon College High School and Burlington Business College, served as assistant registrar and manager of the bookstore at Elon College, and was a bookkeeper and payroll manager at WRAL radio station in Raleigh.

She also worked in Washington, D.C., as a supervisor with the French Supply Council and as an interviewer with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. Cannon was active in many community organizations and a member of the Community United Church of Christ in Raleigh.

Cannon's commitment to service earned her recognition and accolades around the state, nation and world. She was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree from Elon in 1978. In 1999, she was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine by Gov. Jim Hunt, one of the state's most prestigious awards, for her dedicated service to North Carolina. She was elected to the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1998.

She was devoted to her alma mater and served Elon in many ways.

In 1999, her $1 million gift endowed the Isabella Cannon Centre for International Studies at Elon, which offers extensive study abroad opportunities for students and recruits international students and visiting scholars to campus. She endowed two scholarships; the Isabella Cannon Room, which serves as the university's art gallery and formal meeting space; and the Isabella Cannon Leadership Fellows program, which identifies and prepares students to share their leadership skills with others. Cannon received Elon's Distinguished Alumni Award in 1983 and was awarded the Elon Medallion by President J. Fred Young in 1991.

Cannon was a frequent visitor to Elon and loved to meet students and talk about their life plans. In 2000, at age 96, she delivered the commencement address at Elon, reflecting on her life's experiences. She urged graduates to think globally and act locally, getting involved in their communities and neighborhoods.

Cannon died on Feb. 13, 2002, at the age of 97.



* 1904 — Born May 12th in Dunfermline, Scotland
* 1916 — Emigrated with family to Kannapolis, NC at the age of 12
* 1920 — Graduated from Winecoff High School in Concord, NC
* 1920 — Entered Elon College as the only foreign student in her class
* 1922 — Married Claude Marcus Cannon ‘21, Elon’s Registrar and Business Manager
* 1922 — Only female student at Elon College to be married while still in school
* 1924 — Graduated as salutatorian from Elon College with a Bachelor of Arts, English and Science majors
* 1924-25 — High school teacher at Elon High School
* 1925-28 — Continued study at Elon College to become the Director of Religious Education
* 1928-30 — Cashier at the Elon Banking and Trust Company in Elon College, NC
* 1932-35 — Assistant Registrar and Manager of the Elon College Book Store
* 1936 — English teacher at the Burlington Business College
* 1936-41 — Worked as a volunteer (both church and civic related) in cities including Elon and Raleigh, NC, and Washington, D.C.
* 1942-43 — Bookkeeper, payroll manager, and manager of broadcast log for billing at WRAL Radio Station in Raleigh, NC
* 1944-45 — Graduate student at American University in Washington, D.C.
* 1944-45 — Supervisor with the Department of Statistics—French Supply Council, Washington, D.C.
* 1945-47 — Worked for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, Washington, D.C.
*1947-54 — Traveled the lived in various parts of the world including West Africa, Iraq, China, and India as a result of C.M. Cannon’s career in diplomatic service
* 1950 — Met Agatha Christie while in Baghdad for an afternoon tea
* 1954 — Husband C.M. Cannon died in Raleigh, NC
* 1955-70 — Worked for the Office of the Director in the library at NC State University as a personnel assistant and also worked in the budget and finance departments
* 1970-77 — Volunteer work in Raleigh, NC: campaign headquarters for Jim Hunt, involvement with neighborhood communities and issues, served as chair of the Wade Citizens Advisory Committee, and much more before deciding to run for City Council
* 1977-79 — At the age of 73, Isabella became the first woman elected as mayor of Raleigh, NC, and the first female mayor of a capital city in the United States
* 1978 — Recieved an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Elon College
* 1981 — Assisted with the establishment of University Park Homeowners Association in Raleigh, NC
* 1983 — Received Elon’s Distinguished Alumni Award
* 1991 — First woman to be awarded the Elon Medallion by President J. Fred Young
* 1991 — Cannon made a gift to Elon College that helped establish the Isabella Cannon Leadership Program. She attended the Convocation ceremony that commemorated the naming of the program in her honor.
* 1998 — Honored on the Wall of Fame at the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, NY.
* 1999 — Gave an endowment gift to Elon College that created the Isabella Cannon Centre for International Studies at Elon
* 2000 — Delivered the commencement address at Elon University on May 20th
* 2001 — Gave an endowment gift that funded the construction of the Isabella Cannon International Studies Pavilion, one of the first buildings in the Elon University’s Academic Village
* 2002 — Isabella Cannon passed away on February 13th

Eric Townsend,
3/10/2009 12:12 PM