Leo Lambert portrait

In my final letter to the Elon donor community as president, it gives me great pleasure to state that the university’s future has never been brighter. During fiscal year 2016-17, you set yet another record for contributions to the university by giving more than $23 million. I am profoundly grateful for the spirit of philanthropy that strengthens our community again and again.

Over the past year, Elon lost two of our leading lights with the passing of President Emeritus J. Earl Danieley ’46 and Edna Truitt Noiles ’44. Both helped shape the modern Elon in numerous ways and both were devoted to the institution for their entire lives as alumni. My own experience in 19 years as Elon’s president has been influenced wonderfully by these two dear friends and benefactors. Dr. Danieley’s untiring devotion and physical presence on campus are sorely missed, but his legacy as an educator will continue to enrich Elon for generations to come. Edna Noiles’s legacy of support for the Elon Academy and the Vera Richardson Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life has now expanded to include an estate gift that is funding six new scholarships through the university’s Odyssey Program. The Odyssey Program provides financial and personal support to exceptional young people of great potential who persevere in their educational pursuits despite significant financial need. Her legacy, too, will change lives in perpetuity.

Thankfully, Elon is blessed each day by thousands of devoted people, who together are changing lives directly and immediately. We are enormously proud of the university’s ability to continue to inspire steady growth in every sector of our donor community—alumni, parents, students, friends, and faculty and staff. While alumni giving rates across the country have fallen sharply over the past decade, Elon’s alumni giving percentage enjoyed its eighth consecutive annual increase to 23 percent. That same spirit was again alive and well on campus—faculty and staff giving reached 76 percent, and 56 percent of the Class of 2017 contributed to the senior class giving campaign. We broke another record in March 2017 with more than $1 million raised on #ElonDay, an annual event that continues to inspire our community to greater heights of generosity.

The university celebrated that generosity in part by hosting the inaugural “Women at Elon: Moving Philanthropy Forward” event in May, which featured keynote speaker Lauren Bush Lauren and the inspirational story of her philanthropic venture, FEED. The event showcased several of Elon’s own stellar women in philanthropy: trustees Kerrii Brown Anderson ’79, Cindy Citrone, and Kebbler McGhee Williams ’98; parent Abby Chung; and students who are already earning recognition for their own good works. The student panel included Edna Noiles’s granddaughter, Josephine Gardner ’17, who has earned university and national awards for her nonprofit work to help low-income women in Ethiopia and African immigrants in Greensboro, North Carolina.

We also celebrated Elon donors who have helped build one of the nation’s finest collegiate campuses, one that supports innovation and personal connections. In fall 2016, we observed the groundbreaking for the Schar Center, named for Elon parents Dwight and Martha Schar, who led the fundraising effort. The building, quickly taking shape as a place to gather our community to listen, learn, debate, and play, will be open in 2018. The dedication of the expanded and renovated School of Communications facilities in spring 2017 highlighted the many Elon families who made leadership gifts to move the school to a new level of excellence. Included were these lead donors: parents Dwight and Martha Schar, Robert and Lauren Steers, David and Lynette Snow, Rob and Cindy Citrone, Brian and Jane Williams, Jim and Toni Turner, and alumni Parker Turner ’06 and Garrett Turner ’08. We also broke ground on Richard W. Sankey Hall, an inspirational and forward-looking expansion of the university’s teaching and learning spaces that, once finished, will resemble Elon’s architecture on the outside but feel like Google on the inside. This building was made possible by a naming gift from Jim and Beth Sankey of Charlotte, North Carolina, parents of two Elon graduates and a current sophomore. Other donors followed with gifts to support this effort, and Sankey Hall will be open in fall 2018. These and other projects still to begin are part of a facilities master plan designed to support the university’s mission by providing a tight-knit, connected campus central to our rich learning environment.

At the conclusion of the fiscal year on May 31, Elon’s endowment had reached $232 million, of which nearly 70 percent is designated for scholarships. We remain firmly focused on growing our endowment for scholarships to continue to shape each incoming first-year class with an engaged and promising community of learners. In particular, we must continue to increase support for our Odyssey Program, our six Fellows programs, and Elon Engagement scholarships, which provide an important measure of difference for students from middle-income families. Our scholarship students and, indeed, all our students, truly reflect Elon’s motto of Numen Lumen: “intellectual light and spiritual light.” 

As alumni, those students will carry that light into the world, to change it and us for the better. With enormous gratitude, I thank you all.

Leo M. Lambert