Cultivating community, one cup at a time

J. Fred Young may not be a household name among many current students, faculty and staff at Elon, but he should be. During his 25-year tenure as president of Elon College, Young oversaw significant advancements at Elon, among them the Moseley Center, Koury Athletic Center and many of the current academic programs students participate in today. But his greatest legacy might not involve construction or academics; rather, it centers around something tastier: the tradition of College Coffee.

Fonville Fountain on Scott Plaza served as the first home for College Coffee.

Today at Elon, Tuesday mornings on the Academic Village Plaza showcase a potpourri of faces, a microcosm of Elon’s diverse campus community. Students wearing oversized university sweatshirts mingle with suited faculty and staff. Ballroom dancers twirl on one side of the plaza, and on the other, student organizations promote their upcoming events. Some faculty, staff and students rush through the gathering simply to snag some of the pastries offered before running to class. What began as a simple way for members of the Elon community to meet one another has become one of the university’s most cherished traditions.

Humble beginnings

President Emeritus J. Earl Danieley ’46 has been attending College Coffee since its first installment more than 20 years ago, when it was located outside of Alamance Building on Scott Plaza. He says he didn’t know what to expect on that first Tuesday morning gathering, but he found a lot of coffee, some cookies and a curious group of students, as well as an opportunity for students and teachers to meet in a casual setting.

(l-r) Staff members Barry Bradberry, Darris Means and Jeff Stein catch up over coffee in September 2009.

For Danieley, College Coffee quickly became more than just a chance to indulge in complimentary pastries.

“It’s not about the coffee. It’s about the fellowship,” Danieley says, adding that he relishes the chance to interact with other students and faculty throughout the school.

Over the years, College Coffee migrated from Scott Plaza to Young Commons in front of Moseley Center, and in fall 2009, it settled in the new Academic Village Plaza along Haggard Avenue. While the new site is more conducive to handling big crowds than its predecessors, Danieley says the move has more personal benefits; it gives him a shorter walk from his office in McMichael Science Center.

By the numbers

40 gallons of coffee. 40 gallons of hot chocolate. 65 dozen donuts.

Those are the amounts Student Activities Director Janis Baughman orders each week for College Coffee. Senior Food Service Director Laura Thompson works with Baughman in choosing the weekly orders, planning for approximately 640 attendees. The most popular menu item?

“The mini-donuts,” Thompson replies.

Moving all that food and drink across campus is no simple task, either. Though College Coffee officially begins at 9:40 a.m., Aramark employees begin setting up well before 9 a.m. to give early birds a chance to grab a bite or a drink. And though the event runs until 10:20 a.m., late-arrivers find only slim pickings available.

On an average Tuesday, you might find one Elon president mingling with students at College Coffee. Sometimes, as during this particular College Coffee in May 2008, you can find three. Pictured from left, President Emeritus J. Earl Danieley ’46, President Emeritus J. Fred Young and President Leo M. Lambert.

Come for the food, stay for the fun

Each week, College Coffee offers something different to entertain or inform the university community. Last fall, sociology professor Aaron Peeks organized a student/faculty chess tournament. In November, the Phoenix football team joined the community for a pep rally before its first-round playoff game against the Richmond. Faculty, staff and students from Athletics, the Sustainability Office, the Master of Arts in Interactive Media program and the Isabella Cannon Centre for International Studies, among others, sponsored themed College Coffees.

College Coffee offers students, faculty and staff the an opportunity rarely seen on other campuses – the chance to mix and mingle in a relaxed social environment. And how many campuses nationwide can boast to its students, faculty and staff the chance to chat with their president on a one-on-one basis almost every week?

For Danieley, the tradition of College Coffee is an essential part of what makes Elon Elon.

“As we have grown, I am pleased we are still a community,” he says. “It’s one of those things you have to work at.”

Young might never have imagined College Coffee becoming what it is today. But in all its moves and transformations, it has remained among the best examples of Elon’s unique community to date.

View a video of faculty and staff speaking about what College Coffee means to them by clicking the link to the right.

By Robert Wohner ’11