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Alumnus commissions portrait of distinguished chemistry professor

Professor Emeritus Paul Cheek faithfully served Elon for more than three decades and his likeness now greets visitors to the Department of Chemistry suite on the third floor of the university’s McMichael Science Center.

From left: Elon President Emeritus J. Earl Danieley '46, Elon President Leo M. Lambert, and Professor Emeritus Paul Cheek

Dozens of Elon University community members on Monday celebrated the legacy of a longtime professor whose portrait today graces the wall outside the entrance to the Department of Chemistry suite in the McMichael Science Center.

Current students, faculty, administrators and alumni gathered Sept. 8 for the formal portrait unveiling for Professor Emeritus Paul Cheek, a member of the Elon faculty from 1950 until his retirement in 1984. Cheek’s third-floor portrait joins an existing portrait of Professor Emeritus Ned Brannock at the entrance to the suite.

“This is a great place to be with great faculty and students,” Cheek said at the afternoon unveiling. “I want you to know that I’m humbled to be associated with this department.”

The Cheek and Brannock portraits are largely the efforts of the same Elon alumnus. Dr. Richard “Dick” Simpson ’57 led a new student chemistry club in the late 1950s and, in an effort to leave a mark on the school, organized the sale of candy bars by club members to pay for the Brannock portrait.

Many years later, when Cheek was featured in a 2013 edition of the Magazine of Elon, Simpson thought it appropriate to honor another important mentor with a commissioned portrait. Simpson on Monday described the unique qualities of Elon professors and the way their interactions with students set the school apart.

Dr. Richard "Dick" Simpson '57 speaks about the legacy of Professor Emeritus Paul Cheek (left) who was hired in 1950 to teach at Elon by President Emeritus J. Earl Danieley (center).

“The relationships between the teachers and their students haven’t changed,” he said. “That’s why Elon is as impressive today as it was 50 years ago. … Each one of them expected me to be an exceptional person.”

Elon University President Leo M. Lambert and President Emeritus J. Earl Danieley also offered remarks. Danieley recounted the decision to hire Cheek over another applicant because of advice that Cheek would be a better fit for Elon in “the long run.” Lambert emphasized that Simpson’s wish to honor his former professor reflects a longstanding ethos that undergirds an Elon education.

“Elon is about the relationships between people,” Lambert said in his praise of Cheek’s impact on students. “It is appropriate that the portraits of Dr. Cheek and Dr. Ned Brannock—the patron saints of chemistry at Elon—will now frame the entrance to the chemistry suite.

“On behalf of the Elon University faculty and staff, I am delighted to accept this portrait in recognition of the many contributions of Dr. Paul Cheek and the generosity of alumni like Dr. Richard Simpson. Elon is a stronger institution because of your contributions.”

Eric Townsend,
9/9/2014 9:50 AM