The long view

Steven Armendariz ’17 tutoring a fellow student in a classroom.

Steven Armendariz ’17, an Isabella Cannon Leadership Fellow, Odyssey Scholar and Elon Commitment Scholarship recipient, will spend a year in Spain teaching English with the support of a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship.

I am entering a stage of my life when my perspective on time has shifted. Laurie and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary this past June. I vividly recall hosting her parents’ 40th anniversary party at our home in upstate New York in the early 1990s and thinking then, “Wow, 40 years seems like ages!” Fast-forward 25 years. My grandson Caleb has finished kindergarten and I already wonder what life will be like for him as a college student in 2029 and quietly caution myself, “That day will be here in the blink of an eye!”

One of the greatest perils of our present age is short-term thinking. Successful businesses don’t proclaim, “Let’s put off making these changes for our company’s long-term viability because the short-term ramifications will be painful or require fundamental change.” And at every level of government today, and practiced by both major political parties, polarization and hyper-partisanship have fueled short-term thinking that focuses on winning elections, even if the consequences of short-sighted policies will be disastrous down the road.

The reputations of great institutions of higher learning are not created overnight. Elon University’s strategic climb to academic distinctiveness and excellence has required decades of focused commitment. Today, Elon appears on many lists of selective institutions with high graduation rates. In truth, we are the new kids on the block among such institutions. Our founding in 1889 was 50 years or more behind many of our peers, providing them with a good head start in establishing their academic programs and traditions. Our fellow Colonial Athletic Association member, The College of William & Mary, established the first Phi Beta Kappa Society chapter in 1776; Elon’s chapter, Eta of North Carolina, was established in 2010. That more than 60 percent of our alumni are under the age of 40 is another indicator of Elon’s youthfulness.

We are now in the early stages of meeting the next great long-term challenge for Elon: building our endowment for the primary purpose of increasing student financial aid. For almost every family, one of the big conversations around the dinner table is how to pay for college. Many of us are passionate about the idea that quality higher education should not be accessible only to those with great means.

We pride ourselves at Elon on our ability to spot great potential in deserving young people. With the support from major endowed scholarships, we’ve been able to attract students such as Bridgette Agbozo ’19, who studied at the University of Bristol this summer with an award from the U.S.-U.K. Fulbright Commission. Steven Armendariz ’17 will teach in Spain this coming academic year with the support of a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship. Daniel Sheehan ’15 received the Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs given to aspiring changemakers. Jazmine Langley ’19 and Yousaf Khan ’20 are both Gates Millennium Scholars. And Nosipho Shangase ’17, who came to Elon from the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, is now enrolled in graduate study in epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. These students’ presence on our campus has enriched us all.

Because of leadership and generosity from benefactors like Leon ’25 and Lorraine Watson, who endowed the Watson Scholars program, and Furman ’56 and Susan Moseley, who endowed both the Georgeo Scholarship and the Susan Scholars program, many others were inspired to change young lives for the better. Today, Elon has 134 major endowed scholarships to attract great talent, all supported through Elon’s Center for Access and Success. Just within the past year, several trustee families, including Bill and Pat Inman P’00, Ed and Joan Doherty P’07, Kerrii ’79 and Doug Anderson, and Cindy and Rob Citrone P’17, along with the estate of Edna ’44 and Doug Noiles, have generously provided for more. And young alums like Cam Tims ’00 have already made provisions in their estate plans to do even more.

This extraordinarily important next chapter in Elon’s history will succeed because we are committed to it for the long-term and because we believe we can create a better world through the immense power of higher education. Elon’s last comprehensive campaign, Ever Elon, completed in 2011, was the first campaign in Elon’s history devoted principally to endowment building; our current campaign, Elon Leads, is the second. We have two generations of hard work ahead of us, but perseverance is in our institutional DNA. The results of our labors will give us joy and inspiration, and in the end, we will have taken a great step toward sustaining the institution we so deeply love.

Leo M. Lambert

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