Priestley's legacy continues
to influence Elon University


Mary 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.

Priestley and 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.

Mary Ellen 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."

Before coming 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 experiences.

After they were married, the Priestleys traveled the world photographing and writing about social injustices, a cause they would carry on throughout their lives.



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Last Modified:  5/12/03
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