'Unsung Heroes' honored at College Coffee

Elon University’s Black History Month Steering Committee is recognizing physical plant workers, program assistants, and faculty & administrative staff members in a series of College Coffee presentations throughout February.

Physical plant employees – the men and women who work as landscapers, custodians, plumbers, electricians and more at Elon University – were honored Tuesday at College Coffee as part of the “Unsung Heroes” theme of Black History Month campus celebrations.

The Feb. 11, 2014, program in McKinnon Hall featured a welcome from Associate Professor Prudence Layne, coordinator of the university’s African & African-American Studies program, and remarks from Associate Professor Jean Rattigan-Rohr, Elon’s Faculty Administrative Fellow and special assistant to the president.

Workers in attendance each received a certificate honoring them for their contributions to the ongoing success of Elon University. Similar presentations are scheduled for Feb. 18 and Feb. 25 when administrative and program assistants, and faculty and staff, respectively, will also be recognized.

“When people talk about Elon, one of the very first things they talk about is the amazing physical appearance of our institution,” Rohr said. “People speak about Elon with words such as ‘value,’ ‘study abroad’ and ‘experiential learning,’ but they do so with the same sense of pride as they talk about the physical appearance of campus.

“What we do not express nearly often enough is our gratitude and appreciation for these consistently immaculate environs in which we gladly relish. We all know that these lovely surroundings, in which we spend a great deal of our time, do not just happen by magic, osmosis or happenstance. They are made possible as a result of your hard and often grueling work around the clock, even during hours when most of us are at home asleep. … I do not believe people can imagine this campus without the benefits your daily efforts bring to it.”

Elon junior Erin Turner, a strategic communications major from Odenton, Md., served as the student coordinator for Black History Month programming. She said the university’s Black History Month Steering Committee selected the “Unsung Heroes” theme to honor those who make daily contributions to the success of the institution.

“With Black History Month, many people go right to big names like Martin Luther King Jr., but there are many others who serve in the community every day,” Turner said. “We want to pay tribute to them.”

Layne made similar observations about the 2014 theme.

“Throughout the year we have been working to do things to recognize our faculty and staff who don’t always get recognized for the work they do for Elon and for our black community on campus,” she said. “We know of the Kings and Sojourner Truths and the Frederick Douglasses, but thousands of ordinary people need to be credited with doing extraordinary things, and doing things that may not seem like part of a grand narrative.”

In addition to the College Coffee recognition programs, Elon University’s Black History Month events include special “Get on the Black Church Bus” visits to local African-American religious services, art exhibits, film screenings and a dance performance.

More information on Black History Month programming is available at www.elon.edu/blackhistorymonth.