Powell BuildingOffice of the President


As Elon matures, alumni must claim greater leadership, ownership and responsibility

One of the pillars of the Elon Commitment strategic plan is to identify and support the next generation of alumni leadership. This goal has far-reaching consequences for Elon’s future.

Unlike many institutions with more than a century of history, Elon has been more dependent than most on the involvement of parents and truly committed friends to advance the institution. With 55 percent of our alumni in their 20s and 30s, parents and grandparents have stepped up to help fuel Elon’s rise in a big way. The current chair and vice-chair of the board of trustees, Mark T. Mahaffey and Wes Elingburg, are outstanding Elon parent leaders. Many major construction projects such as Rhodes Stadium, McMichael Science Center and Lindner Hall have been possible in large measure because of the generosity of parents and grandparents. For their faithful and visionary support, we are truly grateful. 

One of the most important challenges of this decade is to inspire even more alumni to take leadership responsibility for their alma mater. Excellent universities require alumni who are involved, committed, passionate and generous for a lifetime. Elon is fortunate to have many. But we need many more.

Perhaps the biggest step Elon has taken to prepare the next generation of alumni leadership is the formation of the Young Alumni Council, graduates of the past 10 years who are passionately invested in helping to create Elon’s future.

At an alumni event in Philadelphia this past summer, I remarked that only 16 of Elon alumni make annual gifts to the university. There was an audible gasp from the audience, I believe because that percentage doesn’t begin to reflect the true devotion of Elon alumni to the university. So why is that rate so low? And what can we do about it?

  • First, the university and alumni need to do a better job getting out the message that it is not the size of the gift that matters, especially for young alumni, but rather it’s annual participation that counts. Really. Plus, lots of smaller gifts add up to make a huge difference. Young alums can look forward to the challenge by trustee Kerrii Anderson ’79 again this March, during which she will match gifts 5-to-1.
  • We are providing more options to allow alumni to designate their gifts to programs that meant the most to them during their time at Elon. For example, alumni can now designate gifts to scholarships, the academic programs or schools they benefited from, or to traditional options, such as the Phoenix Club and the Elon Fund.
  • Understanding the dramatic changes in the way we communicate, we are expanding social media communications, reaching out to alumni through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more.

The single best message I have ever heard delivered about the importance of giving back to Elon was delivered at the senior class meeting held in Rhodes Stadium this fall by Mark Jetton ’06 L’09. With a combination of law school smarts and ease on the field derived from his experience as an Elon football captain, Mark outlined clearly, unapologetically and passionately to seniors why alumni should give back. 

Give because it is your duty. 
Give because we are all part of a team. 
Give because your Elon degree is like a stock certificate; as the university gets better, your degree becomes more valuable. 
But most important of all, give because there is no better feeling than knowing you helped someone else.

We are better than 16 percent. Will you help make a difference for an Elon student today?

Leo M. Lambert