Reflections on 10 years
University presidencies are often chronicled by the opening of new buildings, new programs and accolades that come to an institution. And while signifi cant, these accomplishments often do not capture many important aspects of an institution’s progress. Elon’s success is due in large measure because so many talented people share in its leadership.
Presidential transitions sometimes can be perilous for universities. One of the most important — but perhaps unsung — successes of the past decade was the smooth transition in the Elon presidency following the long and successful tenures of Fred Young and Earl Danieley. I am in both Earl’s and Fred’s debt for their unrelenting support of the university and its continued development, and of me personally.
For much of this decade, I have had the privilege of working with the best executive leadership team in the country that Fred assembled — Gerry Francis, Nan Perkins, Alan White, Gerald Whittington, Smith Jackson, Susan Klopman, Dan Anderson, Sara Peterson — and each has made profound contributions to our progress as a university. New faces have joined the group — Steven House, Dave Blank, Jim Piatt, Lisa Keegan — and have brought new energy and fresh insights. And, of course, the staff of the president’s office — Jo Williams, Sandra Fields, Carolyn Ent and Robin Plummer, and formerly Helen Ellington — prove the point that it “takes a village to raise a president.”
The board of trustees, and particularly those individuals who have chaired the board during my time at Elon — Bob LaRose, Gail Drew, Zac Walker, Jim Powell, Noel Allen and Allen Gant — have made astoundingly important leadership contributions. Being a trustee at Elon is a labor of love, and the board’s steadfast commitment to excellence has been a constant source of inspiration and learning for me.
Another thrill I have experienced over the past 10 years has been the tremendous expansion of the faculty and staff, now numbering more than 1,100. These are the people who work closest with the students and who create one of the most special environments in the nation for learning. Their creativity, passion, commitment to excellence in teaching and scholarship, and genuine concern for students and their learning have led Elon to the forefront of the most innovative institutions in the nation in undergraduate education. They are my respected and valued colleagues and have taught me a great deal about Elon’s enduring values.
I have also been profoundly touched by the actions of Elon’s many generous supporters — too numerous to mention by name — whose acts of philanthropy shape the campus each day. I think of their leadership and generosity each time I enter a building or a room bearing their names, or meet a student holding a scholarship that provides an opportunity for a life-changing education. I know most of these supporters personally, many have become dear friends, and I have been awed by their unselfish commitment to our values as a community.
In reflecting on the past 10 years at Elon, I have two overwhelming impressions. The first is about the incredible speed of life. Laurie and I arrived at Elon with Callie in eighth grade and Mollie in fifth; our older daughter is now married and in her third year of medical school and the younger is about to begin her last year of college. There is nothing like watching your children blossom into adults to remind you that time passes quickly.
Personal loss has also punctuated our happy time at Elon. Both Laurie and I have lost our fathers while here, my sister Louise passed away following her heroic battle with epilepsy and cancer, and my mother is now on the difficult journey of Alzheimer’s disease after a lifetime of taking care of others. All these life changes — seeing a daughter married, saying goodbye to a parent — have only reminded us how unbelievably lucky we are to have wonderful, loving, supportive families to share in celebrating the joys and mourning the losses that every family faces. We have been doubly blessed to feel the love and support from the Elon family at every step.
My second impression is that the opportunity to serve Elon over the past 10 years has been the privilege of a lifetime for Laurie and me. Next to our family, the work that we do at Elon has been the most special and rarest of privileges — one that we truly cherish. We look forward to the chapters ahead.