Danieley celebrates 50-year presidential anniversary

On July 1, President Emeritus J. Earl Danieley celebrated his 50 year anniversary of being named Elon College president. From his time as an Elon student, through his tenure as president and into his continuing involvement as a faculty member, Danieley has remained a central figure of the Elon community. Details…

After graduating from Elon in 1946, Danieley joined the faculty as a chemistry professor. He became dean of the college in 1953, remaining in that position until he took a leave of absence to conduct chemistry research at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md.
While spending long hours in the chemistry lab, there was little to distract him from his research – that is, until he received an unexpected phone call.   

“In those days when the board of trustees was going to select a new president, they didn’t consult a committee or anything,” says Danieley. “They actually voted to name me president and I didn’t know they were going to do it. When I got a call and they said, ‘We’ve elected you as the next president,’ I said, ‘You’re crazy!’”

After some deliberation and thoughtful reflection, Danieley decided to take the plunge and accept the new position. At the age of 32 he was said to be the youngest president of a four-year college at the time.

He began his first day as the president of Elon College on July 1, 1957, with a morning prayer meeting in Whitley auditorium. Trustees, family, friends and community members gathered for the event. Following the service, the president and secretary of the board of trustees escorted Danieley to his new office in Alamance building.

“Now, the truth is, I didn’t know how to be president. There had been no training and in those days nobody went to school to learn how to be a college president,” says Danieley. “You just simply took the job and did the best you could.”

Despite initial reservations, Danieley’s background as a student, faculty member and administrator gave him many of the tools he needed to transition easily into the new position. During the 16 years he served as president, he dedicated himself to improving academic standards, Elon facilities and faculty credentials, helping to shape Elon into the institution it is today. 

Fifty years after being named president, Danieley says he has been pleased to see the changes that Elon has gone through over the years. Though the names and faces of those surrounding him have changed, he says the spirit of Elon remains untarnished.
“It seems unreal when you say fifty years,” he says. “When you say it, that sounds like a long time, and yet I wake up in the morning eager to get to work.”

Danieley is currently serving as a chemistry professor at Elon, and doesn’t show signs of stopping anytime soon.

“I had a really great career – an interesting career, a satisfying career,” he says.  “And now to be able to continue to work with students and to witness all of the remarkable things that Elon’s doing … what a satisfaction. What a joy.”

– By Olivia Hubert-Allen

Special note: Members of E² , Elon’s online social network, can send Dr. Danieley anniversary greetings on his profile bulletin board. Log in to the E² site and access his profile at this link: