Former President Bush speaks at Spring Convocation

Former U.S. President George Bush delivered the keynote address at Elon's Spring Convocation for Honors, April 10. Details and photos...

President Bush discussed the importance of service to others during his 30-minute address. He told students that he learned his earliest values, including the importance of giving something back to the community and lifting the lives of others, from his parents. “Don’t expect the advice-giving to stop after graduation,” Bush told students, “or even after you become president.” Bush said after one of Ronald Reagan’s State of the Union addresses, his mother phoned to chide him for talking during the speech to Tip O’Neill, former house speaker. “I said, ‘Well, he started it,'” drawing a laugh from the audience of 2,700 people.

Bush told students to be bold in their post-graduate aspirations. “I would simply encourage you to try it all. Don’t give up the chance to follow a vision.” Bush praised Elon’s volunteer service programs, saying the ability to reach out and help each other will serve the country well in the future. He also said strengthening families will help solve many societal problems. “If, as president, I’d had the power to do something without Congress, it would have been to strengthen the American family. But that’s where schools like Elon, which strive to develop the entire student, continue to serve such a critical role.”

The convocation was the capstone of the Elon Vision, a 17-point strategic plan launched in 1994 to distinguish Elon as one of the premier undergraduate institutions on the Eastern Seaboard. The Elon Vision raised more than $46.7 million, surpassing its original goal of $40 million. The Elon Vision addressed four main areas: academics, students, faculty and staff, and resources. Premier academic programs have been developed, faculty salaries have been increased and SAT scores of entering freshmen have increased about 100 points to an average of 1,116. A new library and science center were built, and a new on-campus stadium will open in the fall.

Bush received an honorary degree, along with brothers Ernest and Maurice Koury of Burlington, N.C. The Kourys have been business partners in numerous interests, and they own industrial and commercial properties in the area, including several hotels.

Ernest Koury attended Elon before serving in the U.S. Air Force from 1942 to 1944. He founded a hoisery business, today known as Carolina Hosiery Mills, Inc., in the basement of his parents’ home. He served on the Elon College Board of Trustees from 1976 to 1996, when he was elected Trustee Emeritus. He received the Elon Medallion in 1997 in recognition of his loyal service to Elon.

Maurice Koury graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1948. He served the university as a trustee from 1981 to 1989 and was the recipient of its Distinguished Alumni Award in 1994. The natatorium at UNC and the auditorium in the Kenan-Flagler School of Business are named in his honor. Dean Smith, the former men’s basketball coach at North Carolina, presented the honorary degree to Maurice Koury.

Bush’s address highlighted the event, which honors Dean’s List and President’s List students, the Class of 2001 and members of the Elon Society, the premier donor organization at Elon. Before the convocation, Bush took part in a lively, informal question-and-answer session with Elon students, faculty and staff.