Before Elon

The Alamance County area was first inhabited by Siouan-speaking Native American tribes, with the Occaneechi being the most dominant by 1650. European explorers were in the region in the late 1600s and the first land titles were claimed by the English. The state of North Carolina deeded property in this area to surveyor Hugh Mulhollan in 1818. In 1889 several Alamance County mill owners and farmers gave or sold parcels of land for the site of a new educational institution named Elon to take the place of the nearby Graham College.

NOTE: Elon is expanding efforts to explore previously unexamined or forgotten aspects of the institution’s history. A group of faculty, staff and students is working together on this initiative with leadership from the Committee on Elon History and Memory.

A Timeline of Elon History

  • 1889
    The North Carolina Legislature issues a charter for Elon College, a four-year coeducational institution, located at Mill Point and founded by the Christian Church. William S. Long is founder and first president and 76 students are enrolled.
  • 1890
    Main (Administration) Building is completed
  • 1891
    Elon College Monthly, the first student publication, is established; Nathaniel G. Newman, C.C. Peel and Herbert Scholz make up the first graduating class
  • 1892
    M. Irene Johnson is the first female graduate and becomes first female faculty member
  • 1893
    Town of Elon College is incorporated; Glee Club, the first student musical group, is formed
  • 1894
    William W. Staley named 2nd president
  • 1900
    Baseball becomes the first intercollegiate sport, with the first game played against Guilford College
  • 1905
    Emmett L. Moffitt named 3rd president; central heat, electricity, running water and indoor plumbing are installed during his presidency
  • 1906
    West dormitory opens as a women's residence hall; East dormitory is occupied by men
  • 1907
    Electric lights are turned on for the first time on New Year's Day
  • 1911
    William A. Harper named 4th president
  • 1913
    Phi Psi Cli, the yearbook, begins publication
  • 1918
    Senior class shrinks from 46 to 30 as men enlist to fight in WWI; global flu pandemic infects more than 300 students, faculty and staff; Elon is the first school in North Carolina to have an operating wireless radio station
  • 1923
    Fire destroys Main Building, including school records, classrooms, library and chapel; trustees immediately vote to rebuild; Alamance Building opens in Fall 1923
  • 1924
    Whitley Auditorium, Carlton Library and Duke Building open; citizens of Alamance County are active in fundraising for rebuilding efforts following the disastrous 1923 fire
  • 1925
    Mooney (social and religious activities) Building opens
  • 1926
    Elon is accredited and admitted to membership in the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools
  • 1931
    Leon Edgar Smith named 5th president, beginning a 25-year term as the longest-serving president; enrollment declines to 87 students due to the effects of the Great Depression; Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools announces Elon will be dropped from membership
  • 1933
    Dramatic arts students organize Delta Psi Omega with performances held in Whitley Auditorium
  • 1936
    The college faces the risk of financial collapse; President Smith persuades creditors to accept partial payments, convinces faculty to compromise on delinquent salaries and launches a new fund drive
  • 1937
    First issue of the Colonnades, the student literary magazine, is published
  • 1941
    W. Clifton Elder '25 receives first outstanding alumnus award
  • 1942
    "Elon College All or Nothing" campaign reaches goal; West Dormitory Annex destroyed by fire
  • 1943
    672 pilots are trained on campus for WWII duty in the U.S. Army Air Corps - their enrollment provides critical financial stability; Elon transitions from semester system to quarter system
  • 1946
    Returning WWII GIs increase enrollment to nearly 700; Elon earns reaccreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • 1948
    New campus power plant begins operation; Elon transitions from quarter system to semester system
  • 1949
    Fightin' Christians defeat Edenton Marines 80-0 in Elon's first football game played at Burlington Memorial Stadium
  • 1950
    Alumni Memorial Gymnasium opens and is dedicated to alumni who died in WWI and WWII
  • 1955
    Enrollment exceeds 1,000
  • 1956
    Trustee and N.C. Secretary of State Thad Eure drafts new charter, clarifying ownership and relationship with the church
  • 1957
    J. Earl Danieley named 6th president; at age 32, he is one of the nation's youngest college presidents
  • 1961
    Elon's railroad station, once the primary means of transportation for students and faculty, is dismantled
  • 1962
    Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson speaks at Founders Day
  • 1966
    William S. Long student center opens; Hook, Brannock and Barney Halls dedicated, honoring veteran faculty members Alonzo Hook, Ned Brannock and John Barney
  • 1968
    Students, faculty and staff form a human chain to move books from Carlton building to the new Iris Holt McEwen Library; Tau Kappa Epsilon is the first nationally chartered fraternity
  • 1969
    Elon adopts a 4-1-4 academic calendar; first study abroad course held in England; Sigma Sigma Sigma is the first nationally chartered sorority; Eugene E. Perry is the first African-American graduate; Elon awards its 5,000th degree
  • 1970
    Caroline Powell building opens; Jordan Gymnasium and Beck Pool are constructed; faculty approve the first Faculty Bylaws creating the Academic Council
  • 1971
    Basketball begins competition as the first women's varsity sport
  • 1972
    The E-4 Capital Campaign (Elon Expands its Educational Excellence) reaches its $3 million goal
  • 1973
    J. Fred Young named 7th president; enrollment exceeds 2,000
  • 1974
    The Black Cultural Society is established; First edition of the student newspaper, The Pendulum, is published
  • 1975
    Elon purchases 43 acres of property north of campus - the future home of the athletics complex and Rhodes Stadium
  • 1977
    First WSOE radio broadcast
  • 1978
    Pride I Capital Campaign concludes, exceeding $2.5 million goal
  • 1980
    Elon wins first NAIA national football championship
  • 1981
    Historic Senior Oak tree, the traditional place for photographs, first kisses and marriage proposals, dies and is removed; Elon repeats as NAIA national football champs
  • 1982
    Scott Plaza and Fonville Fountain are completed; Chandler, Maynard and Colclough residence halls open (named Story Center in 1984)
  • 1983
    Elon awards its 10,000th degree; Elon purchases Moonelon property on West Haggard Avenue
  • 1984
    Master of Business Administration becomes first master's program; College Coffee tradition begins
  • 1985
    Martha and Spencer Love School of Business is established with the first $1 million gift in Elon history; first semester abroad program is based in London
  • 1986
    Enrollment exceeds 3,000; Master of Education program begins
  • 1987
    Elon University Center for the Arts opens
  • 1988
    Jimmy Powell Tennis Center opens and is recognized as one of the finest collegiate tennis complexes in the nation; Habitat for Humanity chapter is established; Elon receives gift of Maynard House to serve as the home of the president
  • 1989
    Year-long centennial celebration; former President Jimmy Carter speaks on campus; Pride II Campaign concludes, raising $8 million; first six buildings on "East Campus" open (named Danieley Center in 1998); first six Greek Lodge buildings open (named Loy Center in 1997)
  • 1991
    Trustees adopt The Plan for the 1990s strategic plan; Elon athletics moves from NAIA to NCAA Division II
  • 1993
    Center for Service Learning is established (endowed as the John R. Kernodle Jr. Center for Service Learning in 1997); first Student Undergraduate Research Forum (SURF)
  • 1994
    Investing In Excellence Campaign raises $21 million; Stewart Fitness Center opens; Elon Vision strategic plan is launched; new curriculum adopted featuring four-hour classes, a Global Experience course requirement and an experiential learning requirement
  • 1995
    Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher dedicates Moseley Center, Koury Center and the Center for the Arts
  • 1997
    Loy Center is dedicated, providing on-campus facilities for Greek organizations
  • 1998
    Dalton L. McMichael Sr. Science Center opens; Master of Physical Therapy program is established
  • 1999
    Leo M. Lambert named 8th president; transition to NCAA Division I athletics is completed; Danieley Center is dedicated
  • 2000
    Carol Grotnes Belk Library opens; College of Arts and Sciences, Schools of Education and Communications established; NewCentury@Elon strategic plan created; enrollment exceeds 4,000; Young Commons dedicated; the Phoenix is adopted as the new athletics identity; Isabella Cannon '24 delivers commencement address at age 96, appears on national television; Elon awards its 20,000th degree; Queen Noor of Jordan speaks at fall convocation
  • 2001
    Elon Vision campaign concludes, raising $46.7 million; former President George Bush speaks on campus; Elon College becomes Elon University; Town of Elon College becomes Town of Elon; Rhodes Stadium opens
  • 2002
    Isabella Cannon International Studies Pavilion and William R. Kenan Jr. Honors Pavilion open in the Academic Village; primatologist Jane Goodall speaks at Spring Convocation; former prime minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto speaks at Fall Convocation; Belk Track and White Field are completed
  • 2003
    Elon enrolls first class of Doctor of Physical Therapy students; Elon purchases 75 acres of the Elon Homes and Schools for Children campus, including Johnston Hall, Holt Chapel and other buildings; broadcasting legend Walter Cronkite visits campus; Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaks at Spring Convocation; Elon joins the Southern Conference for athletics; a $1 million gift by Edna Truitt Noiles '44 and Douglas Noiles endows the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life
  • 2004
    Martha and Spencer Love School of Business achieves AACSB International accreditation; former presidential adviser David Gergen serves as Elon's first Isabella Cannon Distinguished Visiting Professor of Leadership; Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel speaks at Spring Convocation; Board of Trustees votes to establish Elon University School of Law in Greensboro, N.C.; Ella Darden and Elmon Lee Gray Pavilion opens in Academic Village
  • 2005
    Pioneering astronaut John Glenn dedicates site of new Ernest A. Koury Sr. Business Center; Elon named one of nation's 25 "Hottest Colleges" by Newsweek-Kaplan; Doctor of Physical Therapy program graduates charter class; construction begins on School of Law facility in Greensboro
  • 2006
    Elon University School of Law opens in downtown Greensboro, N.C. with a charter class of 115 students; the school is formally dedicated by former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor; Ernest A. Koury Sr. Business Center opens; former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell delivers Convocation for Honors address; School of Communications achieves ACEJMC accreditation; The Oaks, a student residence complex, opens; Elon named one of nation's top three universities for community service in President Bush's inaugural Higher Education Service Honor Roll; total enrollment exceeds 5,000 for the first time
  • 2007
    William Henry Belk Pavilion and Luvene Holmes and Royall H. Spence Jr. Pavilion open in the Academic Village; The Colonnades Dining Hall and the Colonnades Residence Halls A & B open; The Elon Academy, an outreach program for Alamance County high school students, is launched; the Lumen Prize is established as the university's premier award recognizing student scholarship
  • 2008
    Elon University School of Law receives provisional approval by the American Bar Association; Breanna Detwiler becomes the first Elon student to receive the prestigious Truman Scholarship; former President Bill Clinton speaks on campus on behalf of his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is running for president
  • 2009
    Elon University School of Law graduates its charter class; a master's program in interactive media is launched; Lindner Hall, the home of Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences, opens in the Academic Village; Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation's oldest and most prestigious academic society, votes to establish an Elon University chapter
  • 2010
    Elon trustees approve the establishment of the 56-acre Elon University Forest; Elon trustees approve the addition of a master's program in physician assistant studies; a full renovation of Alumni Gym is completed, including the newly-named Robertson Court; The Elon Commitment strategic plan is launched to promote the vision of "Engaged minds. Inspired leaders. Global citizens."
  • 2011
    Alumni Field House opens at Rhodes Stadium, the new headquarters of Phoenix athletics; Elon trustees approve establishment of a School of Health Sciences; the Colonnades Residential Neighborhood is completed, including three new residence halls along with Elon's first geothermal energy system; five new Greek Life houses open in Loy Center; the Ever Elon fundraising campaign concludes on Dec. 31, raising a record $107.3 million
  • 2012
    The Gerald L. Francis Center opens as the home of Elon's School of Health Sciences; The Station at Mill Point, a townhouse residential neighborhood for juniors and seniors, opens on Williamson Avenue; Elon purchases the 20-acre Snyder Campus of Elon Homes and Schools for Children, expanding the university's South Campus; the undergraduate program of the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business is ranked among the nation's best by Bloomberg Businessweek; the Student Professional Development Center opens in Moseley Center; trustees approve the addition of women's lacrosse as a new NCAA Division I sport
  • 2013
    Elon enrolls the inaugural class of the master's program in physician assistant studies; Hunt Softball Park opens in the North Athletics Complex; Lakeside Dining Hall opens as a major expansion of Moseley Center; the Numen Lumen Pavilion, Elon's multi-faith center, opens as the final building in the Academic Village; Elon opens the Downtown Center for Community Engagement in Burlington, N.C.; the first two residence halls open in the Global Neighborhood; the Martin Alumni Center opens at the corner of Haggard Avenue and N. O'Kelly; Elon begins celebration of its 125th anniversary year
  • 2014
    Opening of the Global Neighborhood, including the Great Hall and five residential buildings; opening of Scott Studios for performing arts; opening of new South Campus facilities for psychology and human service studies; inaugural season of women's lacrosse; opening of fully renovated Jerry and Jeanne Robertson Track and Field Complex; first year of competition in the Colonial Athletic Association; celebration of Elon's 125th anniversary at spring Founders Day; announcement of the largest gift in Elon history - a $12 million commitment by parents Dwight and Martha Schar for new School of Communications facilities
  • 2015
    Opening of Inman Admissions Welcome Center; Physician Assistant Studies charter class graduates; The Phoenix Activities & Recreation Center (PARC) opens in Danieley Neighborhood; Master of Science in Management program launches with inaugural class; completion of solar generating facility on Loy Farm
  • 2016
    Park Place at Elon residential facility opens on West Haggard Avenue; groundbreaking ceremonies celebrate start of construction of Schar Center, a 5,100-seat athletics and event venue
  • 2017
    Opening and dedication of new School of Communications facilities: Dwight C. Schar Hall, including Turner Theatre, Steers Pavilion, Snow Family Grand Atrium, Citrone Plaza, and the renovated Iris Holt McEwen Building and Long Building. Leo M. Lambert announces his plans to conclude his tenure as Elon's eighth president. Elon women's basketball wins the Colonial Athletic Association title and makes the university's first appearance in the NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament.
  • 2018
    Connie Ledoux Book takes office as Elon University's ninth president on March 1. Master of science program in accounting begins in summer 2018. Master of arts in higher education and four-year bachelor of science program in engineering begin in fall 2018. New buildings opening for fall semester include Schar Center, Sankey Hall, Koenigsberger Learning Center, East Neighborhood residential halls and Tennis Pavilion, and expansions of the South Campus Gym and McEwen Dining Hall. Elon completes an exchange agreement with the Alamance-Burlington School System to acquire the Elon Elementary School property on Haggard Avenue and to provide ABSS with a new elementary school on land north of University Drive.
  • 2019
    Elon is reclassified as a Doctoral/Professional by the Carnegie Classifications and debuts as the #84 National University in the annual U.S. News & World Report college rankings. Elon is also ranked #2 for excellence in undergraduate teaching, #1 for study abroad and #11 for innovation. The $250 million Elon LEADS comprehensive fundraising campaign kicks off at a campus celebration and at regional launch events across the country. The LaRose Student Commons opens in the historic neighborhood and the new Elon Elementary School, built by the university, opens north of University Drive, with the previous school site on Haggard Avenue deeded to the university by the Alamance-Burlington School System. The Elon Commitment strategic plan is completed.
  • 2020
    The Inn at Elon, an on-campus hotel, opens to the public. Elon launches Boldly Elon: Our Strategic Plan for 2030. A global pandemic forces the university to move to online learning for the second half of Spring Semester and the university responds with a plan, developed by a campus task force and implemented by the "Ready & Resilient" Committee, to successfully open for an on-campus, in-person Fall Semester. The new Division of Inclusive Excellence is established to provide vision, leadership and coordination for diversity, equity and inclusion programs.
  • 2021
    Construction begins on the Innovation Quad - two new buildings that will provide facilities for engineering and the sciences. New academic programs in nursing launch in Fall Semester. The Board of Trustees names the school of education for Vice President Emerita Dr. Jo Watts Williams '55 in recognition of a $10 million gift from her family. Medallion Plaza is named in honor of the efforts of students, faculty and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. U.S. News & World Report names Elon the #1 university in the nation for undergraduate teaching.
  • 2022
    Founders Hall and Innovation Hall open, the first two buildings in the new Innovation Quad for engineering and the sciences.