Ellen Priestley, a former longtime faculty member who started Elon's
communications program, the student newspaper and the study abroad
program, died Feb. 4 at the age of 85.
her husband, British-born Gerard Priestley, taught at Elon from
1968 to 1980. Lovers of art, music and literature, the couple owned
an art gallery near campus and later donated pieces of their private
collection to Elon.
Priestley is remembered as the driving force behind Elon's communications
program, which has grown substantially and is now the School of
Communications. She also had a passion for international travel
and started the study abroad program, now recognized as one of the
most extensive in the nation.
A former journalist,
Priestley launched the student newspaper, The Pendulum, and together
with her husband endowed the Priestley Scholarship to assist female
journalism majors. The School of Communications also gives out an
annual Priestley Award to its best journalism student. Gerard Priestley
died in 1995.
"She was both
a graceful and a forceful person," says Russ Gill, professor of
English. "She had high ideals, knew what higher education was supposed
to be like and was always spurring Elon to do more. She had a cosmopolitan
influence at a time that Elon really needed it."
to Elon, Priestley worked as a newspaper reporter and editor as
well as a freelance writer for radio, films, magazines and corporate
publications. She also spent three years in the Pacific with the
American Red Cross during World War II and kept a journal of her
were married, the Priestleys traveled the world photographing and
writing about social injustices, a cause they would carry on throughout