(Edited excerpt from: “From a Grove of Oaks,” by the late George Troxler, professor of history and University Historian)

The influenza pandemic of 1918–19, often referred to as the Spanish flu, was the most severe influenza outbreak of the 20th century. The first North Carolina college to open in the fall of 1918, Elon was among the earliest to be struck by the second of three waves of the disease in late September. President Harper reported that the faculty “did not know what it was until we were all sick.” Of an enrollment of less than 400, more than 300 students were treated for the flu. Three students died on campus and one at home. Rows of cots were set up on the Alumni Building gymnasium floor for sick male students.

Worth Bacon, a member of the SATC who escaped the flu, recalled being assigned to hospital duty—two hours on and four off, around the clock. In a 1978 interview, Annie L. Raper Martin ’19, recalled that she was one of only eight women students who did not become sick; they nursed the other women in the college infirmary and in West Dormitory. Those who were most seriously ill were taken to President Harper’s home. Harper concluded that because the pandemic struck Elon early, the school was able to secure medical help.