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Celebrating Elon’s 2013 retirees

Celebrate the legacy of these faculty and staff as they prepare to leave Elon and begin the next chapter of their lives.


Jimmie Agnew, senior faculty fellow of physics

Jimmie Agnew has taught science for 42 years, more than 28 of those on Elon’s campus. During her time at the university, she served as coordinator of science education, was instrumental in the creation and support of Hillel and led the development of the popular course Science Without Borders.

She really enjoyed the study abroad courses she had the opportunity to lead, notably to London in 2009, for which she created a course called Traveling through Time along the Thames, which is still taught today. 

“It was nice to get to know students outside the classroom in that way,” she says. “Study abroad is an opportunity I’ve really appreciated about Elon.”

Agnew has fond memories of working with former students, several of whom attended her retirement party in early May, as well as colleagues.

“I have some good friends on campus from all different departments, not just confined to McMichael,” she says. “When I have a question, there’s always an expert on campus I can ask.”

After retiring at the end of this semester, Agnew said she plans to devote her time to reading and traveling.

“I know everyone says [that] but I am really going to do it,” she says.  “I have six trips planned in the next twelve months.

Mark Albertson, registrar

Mark Albertson arrived on campus in 1978 as assistant registrar and has had a front-row seat to numerous transitions at the university, including physical renovations and changes in the registration and tuition process.

During his time at Elon, which included an eventual promotion to registrar, Albertson introduced changes to the process of requesting transcripts as well as seniors’ graduation audits.

Despite the advancements he led, Albertson is quick to note none of it would have been possible without his staff, which he calls family.

“I’ve had a philosophy of remembering people as individuals, and I’ve always tried to implement policies as if I were the student at the other end of it,” he says.

Albertson described his retirement in December 2012 as bittersweet. He says he’s never once dreaded coming into work. While leaving behind what he calls the best staff his office has ever seen, he says he’s excited for new leadership and ideas to take shape.

Marilyn Collins, student account specialist

Marilyn Collins arrived at Elon in 1981 as an employee of the cashier’s office, a position she held for her almost 32 years on campus. And while the location and nature of her job didn’t change, she said every day was exciting and different.

“The best part of the job was working with the students and parents and helping them with their questions and their problems,” she says. “In working with parents and students over the course of 32 years, I made lifelong friends and was able to watch students grow from a scared freshman into a mature senior ready to face the world."

Since she retired at the end of the fall semester, Collins has enjoyed reading, working in her yard and tracing her family’s genealogy. She plans to travel in the future and spend more time with her family.

“I’m so thankful for the chance I had to work at Elon for almost 32 years," she says. " I was able to be a part of Elon's growth and it was a wonderful experience for me."


Rich D’Amato

When Rich D’Amato arrived on Elon’s campus 14 years ago to interview for a position, he immediately knew he’d found the right fit.

“It was so striking when I came to visit on my interview,” he says. “There was another place I was looking at and was very excited about. But the realization was after I met Elon and they offered me a position, I said, ‘There’s no need for me to go to the other interview because even if they made me an offer, I’d still go to Elon.’”

D’Amato was hired as the director of Elon’s fledging engineering program. During his tenure, he has seen the program increase in qualified applicants and expand in opportunities for those students.

“They’re all in good shape and to me that’s the stamp of the program,” D’Amato says.  

He has been involved in Elon’s study abroad program. The opportunity to travel through the university is one characteristic that makes Elon a special place. He will remain involved, leading a trip abroad during the upcoming Winter Term, as well as a Semester at Sea the following fall.

As his involvement with the engineering program diminishes, D’Amato hopes the program will remain a vital one at Elon.

“We are an anomaly. We are not supposed to be here on a liberal arts campus,” he says. “This is what makes us different from almost everyone in the country.”


Rosa Degraffenridt, custodian

Rosa Degraffenridt came to Elon in 1999. During her 12 years on campus, she worked in numerous locations on campus, including the Fine Arts building, the library and Maynard House, the residence of President Leo M. Lambert.

Degraffenridt says she has fond memories of the visiting dignitaries. She had the opportunity to meet Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Walter Cronkite. She considers many professors and students close friends and has kept in touch with many.

“Mrs. and Dr. Lambert were very caring. They took care of me and I learned a lot from them,” Degraffenridt says. “When I came, I didn’t have anything, and [Elon] helped me get back on my feet.”


Gerald Dillashaw, professor of education

Gerald Dillashaw arrived at Elon in 1992 as dean of what was then Elon’s Division of Education, a role he maintained for 16 years before re-entering the classroom as a professor of education in 2008.

During his tenure, the university added a special education program, transitioned to a new model in the master’s of education program and successfully completed three accreditation visits.

Dillashaw is proud of the reputation of the university’s School of Education, which has reached new heights in recent years, he says.

“We still consistently get a lot of feedback from school systems about how well prepared Elon students are,” he says. “They know they’re getting a high-quality product, and we get that feedback from our own graduates. They’re constantly telling us how well prepared they feel they are in comparison to other first-year teachers.”

Memories of his students’ success are what he’ll carry with him as he leaves. Dillashaw says he always strove to make decisions based on what would be best for his students and the program.

“It’s always been gratifying to watch these future teachers realizing in the classrooms how successful they can be and how excited they get when they’re talking about their successes with their students,” he says. “Their excitement is what has kept me going. The success of the students will always be my fondest memories.”

Claristine Lockett, custodian

Claristine Lockett came to Elon in 1996, after her cousin told her that Elon is a good place to work. Since then, Lockett has worked in environmental services as a custodian.

The students in Danieley Center and the people in Johnston Hall make up Lockett’s favorite memories. Overall, Lockett will miss the people she works with and for the most.

After retiring on May 31, 2013, Lockett plans to go home and take care of her mother, Susie, and great-grandchildren, Arzaii and A’sir. She also hopes to travel.


Bill Morningstar, director of golf, head men’s golf coach

Bill Morningstar, the director of golf and head men’s golf coach, first came to Elon as a student in 1960 on a basketball scholarship. After graduating in 1964, Morningstar spent nearly a decade away from Elon before returning in 1972 to coach basketball and golf teams and to teach physical education.

Throughout his 41 years, Morningstar has held many positions including assistant and head coaching positions for basketball, golf and cross-country. Additionally, he has been the director of golf and the director of fundraising for the Fighting Christian Club, now known as the Phoenix Club.

After retiring on May 31, 2013, Morningstar will savor his many memories, including winning the national golf championship in 1982. He will miss the people, especially the students, more than anything else.

“It’s just been a great run. I am very grateful to have the opportunity to not only play basketball for Elon but also to do what I love here for 41 years,” he says.

After retiring, Morningstar plans to “take a break,” though he does not know what it will entail.

Carolyn Nelson, director of design, University Communications

After Burlington Industries closed her department, Carolyn Nelson came to Elon in 1987 as the director of design for University Communications. A friend recommended that she look into working at Elon, and as a single mother, she knew that the town would be child-friendly for her growing son.

Nelson’s best memories will always be of the people she worked with both in the first and last years. In the 80s and 90s, Nelson says that there was a stronger sense of community between all levels of employees since the school was smaller. Overall, Nelson will miss the people the most.

Since retiring in January 2013, Nelson, who is an artist, has been spending most of her time in related activities. She also has several travel plans, including to Colorado to visit her son, Brinkley Messick. Nelson also will participate in the Semester at Sea program in the fall.

“After that, who knows where the wind will blow,” she says.

Louise Newton, University Advancement

Louise Newton came to Elon in 1980. Previously employed in Greensboro, Newton sought employment closer to home, so she could be available for her youngest daughter, who struggled in adjusting to kindergarten.

Hired by former Registrar Mark Albertson, Newton initially worked in the registrar’s office attending to North Carolina student grants, certifying all athletes and tracking teacher certifications. In 1982-83, she transferred to the development office as staff support to the PRIDE II campaign, followed by development secretary, secretary to the vide president for advancement and later as the executive assistant to the vice president for institutional advancement.

Newton has many wonderful memories of her time at Elon. Knowing that she made an impact to Elon’s growth into the great institution it is today will always satisfy her. She will miss the people both on and off campus the most.

Since retiring on July 13, 2012, Newton has been slowing down and relaxing in addition to increasing her daily exercise and reading all of her books, which she has collected over the years. 

Robert Pavlik, associate professor of finance

Since learning great things about Elon from a colleague and his wife, brother-in-law, sister-in-law and parents-in-law, Robert Pavlik, an associate professor of finance, came to Elon in the fall of 2002. Pavlik has worked as an associate professor of finance and also the director of the William Garrard Reed Finance Center for a time.

Pavlik’s favorite memories include summer golf outings with faculty members. He will miss many of his colleagues and their interactions.

After the end of the semester, Pavlik will be retiring to Southern California with his wife, Barbara. Most of the couple’s travel will be up and down the west coast and to Texas, with occasional visits to North Carolina.  In California, Pavlik will be spending time with his stepchildren, Cathryn, Kelly and Craig and his step-grandchildren, Isaac, Adeline and Gavin. In Texas, he will visit his children, Jennifer, Ross and Blaire and his granddaughter, Farah.

George A. Taylor, professor of public administration and political science


George Taylor came to Elon in the fall of 1979 after working as a graduate faculty member at City University in New York, Indiana University and University of Kansas. Elon gave him the opportunity to work with undergraduate students in a place closer to the coast.

Originally from Charleston, S.C., Taylor says, “Kansas is a long way from the beach. Elon was a chance to get back.”

While at Elon, Taylor was a professor of public administration and political science and chaired the department of political science for 10 years. When he retired in the summer 2012, Taylor had spent 42 years teaching at the university level.

Taylor’s favorite memories are in the classroom. He taught quantitative research methods, a fitting choice having studied math and physics as an undergraduate, and enjoyed seeing students’ eyes light up when they figured out the complex concepts. Taylor misses interacting with students, but not the grading, he says.

Taylor also fondly remembers watching his daughter, Melissa Price, graduating in 1989. Price is now the vice president of Wells Fargo Securities.

Since retiring, Taylor has been enjoying his time in many ways, including playing golf.

“Every day is Saturday,” he says.

Additionally, Taylor and his, wife, Dr. Becky Olive Taylor, who still works in academic advising, have many travel plans scheduled. They also plan to watch their granddaughter, Taylor Price who is a hunter jumper in Durham, N.C. The couple is going to the beach this summer with their daughter, Elizabeth Broadhead, and her husband, Ben, and twin sons, Caleb and Logan. They also hope to go to Alaska next summer.


Also retiring this year but not featured in this story are James Brown, associate professor of history; Dixie Lee Fox, executive assistant to the provost and vice president for academic affairs; Richard Gang, assistant professor of theatre arts; mail clerk Janet Hardie; and custodian Lillie Mae Slade.

Caitlin O'Donnell '13 and Jennifer Proto '13,
5/14/2013 4:10 PM