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Jerry Tolley donates Senior Oak clock to Elon archives

Jerry Tolley, who retired Dec. 31 after a 31-year career of service to Elon, donated a special clock to the university archives on his last day on the job.

Jerry Tolley with the Senior Oak clock.

The clock, which was given to Tolley after he coached Elon to its second NAIA national football title in 1981, is made of wood from the Senior Oak, a majestic and legendary tree that stood in the grove in front of West Dormitory.

Tolley kept the clock in his various office locations on campus, including the years when he served in positions in the University Advancement office. He decided the clock belonged in the archives at Belk Library, and made arrangements for the donation with archivist Katie Nash.

Nash says the clock will be hung on a wall in the main archives office.

The Senior Oak had it origins with the clearing of the campus of undergrowth and the thinning of trees by Will Long, son of William S. Long, the first president of Elon College. Young Will identified one peculiar White Oak that grew from the ground in a curve to the height of a man before its trunk straightened out. Will convinced his father that this particular tree should be spared the ax because, as he saw it, it was an “object of beauty.”

Through the years, the Senior Oak served as an identifying landmark on the campus and a favorite place to pose for pictures, or for a couples’ first kiss or even a marriage proposal.

Over the years, many senior classes and students who were seniors had their picture made near the massive trunk of this very special oak tree – thus the name, the Senior Oak.

After being struck by lightning in 1980 and impacted by disease, the historic Senior Oak died and was removed from the Elon campus on August 18, 1981. Several items, including Tolley's clock, were made from the historic tree's wood.

Dan Anderson,
1/2/2010 5:24 PM