Family has a deep-rooted connection with Elon
Mary Lou Chandler Boal ’63 can trace her family ties to Elon back to the institution's founding.
It’s not every day you can get three generations of Elon students together with the presidents who served during their respective college careers.
But that’s exactly the feat Mary Lou Chandler Boal ’63, daughter Beverly Boal McLean ’84 and granddaughter Taylor McLean ’14 were able to accomplish when they attended a special Founders Day dinner on March 11. As part of the event, presidents J. Earl Danieley ’46, J. Fred Young and Leo M. Lambert shared insights into the history of the institution.
“I was very impressed,” says Mary Lou, whose family ties to Elon go back to its founding and has continued for six generations. “It was nice to hear the three presidents speak.”
After the event, the three managed to snap a photo with the presidents, creating a new memory of the place that has been a constant throughout their lives. In the early 1890s, Mary Lou’s great grandfather, George S. Watson, a member of the college’s provisional board, mortgaged his farm to guarantee a loan used by then-President William S. Long to continue construction of the college; he later created an endowment. Mary Lou’s aunt, Frances Chandler Wilkins ’34, was a longtime trustee, and her father, George Ruffin Chandler ’34, also started an endowment at the school.
“I grew up knowing and loving Elon,” she says, adding there was no question about her college choice.
But in the early 1960s, there were not many career choices for women, Mary Lou says: She could get a degree in education and become a teacher or study home economics and become a homemaker. She wasn’t interested in either and decided to leave school early and work as a flight attendant. It’s a career that later led her to open a travel agency in her native Kentucky, a business she owns to this day.
Still, Mary Lou’s love for Elon never waned and when the time came for her daughter to go to college, she chose Elon as well. Beverly graduated with a mathematics degree but instead of going into the field, she followed her mother’s footsteps. She works as social media director for a travel agency in Virginia.
Not surprisingly there was only one college Beverly’s daughter, Taylor, was interested in when her time came. “My family wasn’t like, ‘You have to go to Elon,’” says Taylor, who used to wear her grandmother’s Elon sweaters in middle school. “I just expected to go there.”
After watching the school and academic offerings grow for the past 50 years, Mary Lou marvels at the opportunities available for students today, especially through study abroad programs. “This is what’s exciting to me,” she says.
Her daughter agrees. “We are so pleased with Elon’s interest in the study abroad experience,” Beverly says, adding that visiting other countries and being exposed to different cultures has been an important part of their lives.
For Taylor, who is studying religious studies and plans to go into the ministry, being able to experience Elon through the eyes of her mother and grandmother, and listening to the presidents who led the institution before her time, was inspiring.
“I never thought too much about being a sixth generation [legacy] student,” she says. “But after listening to Dr. Danieley and Dr. Young … and seeing that history through each generation in my family, I have a deeper sense of pride. My wish is to continue being a part of Elon to make sure my child goes here.”
That brings a smile to her grandmother’s face. “That’s the reason why I wanted her to attend the dinner,” says Mary Lou, who plans to continue supporting the school through a planned gift. “Having seven generations of a family attend Elon is a way to support the school. There is a lot of tradition here.”