Elon University bestows its highest honor – the Elon Medallion — upon five

Elon President Leo M. Lambert presented the medallion to five retired faculty and staff members for their meritorious service to the university during an event marking the start of a new academic year. The university also recognized four endowed professorships and two longtime professors were named Distinguished University Professors. 

Five retired faculty and staff members were honored Monday for their years of dedicated and distinguished service with the presentation of the Elon Medallion, the Elon University’s highest honor. The medallions were awarded by President Leo M. Lambert at the start of the annual faculty/staff planning week, which marks the beginning of the academic year.

The university community also recognized four professors who have been named to endowed professorships this year, and Lambert announced that two longtime professors — Jeffrey Pugh in the Department of Religious Studies and David Copeland in the School of Communications — have been named as Elon’s fifth and sixth Distinguished University Professors.

Elon Medallions

Receiving Elon Medallions were: Nancy Midgette, professor emerita of history and former associate provost; Elizabeth Rogers, the founding dean of the School of Health Sciences and professor emerita of physical therapy; Chalmers Brumbaugh, professor emeritus of political science; Janice Ratliff, former program assistant in the Office of Student Health and Wellness; and Sandra Fields, former assistant to the president.

Nancy Smith Midgette

For 30 years, Nancy Midgette serves as a foundational figure in Elon’s history by exemplifying the university ideal of transforming the mind, body and spirit, and helping to build the modern Elon.

“Some of my fondest memories are working with you to straighten out the curves, reduce mountains to molehills and, not infrequently, to make something out of nothing,” Midgette told the hundreds of faculty and staff members gathered in Alumni Gym. “I ow a huge debt of gratitude to my students. They were both receptive and challenging, and an educator cannot ask for any more than that.”

Midgette joined the Elon faculty in 1986 as an adjunct professor of history and soon built a reputation as an exemplary scholar and inspirational teacher. In 1998, she received the university’s highest teaching honor — the Daniels-Danieley Award for Excellence in Teaching, which followed the presentation of the Sears Roebuck Foundation Teaching Excellence Campus Leadership Award in 1990.

During her three decades at Elon, she served as chair of the Department of History and associate provost, as well as stepping up to fill a number of key roles during times of university transition including interim director of Career Services and interim dean of Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences. She retired as professor emerita of history.

An early trailblazing voice for experiential learning and civic engagement, Midgette led some of Elon’s earliest study abroad courses and established the university’s Council on Civic Engagement. She served as the first coordinator of Elon’s leadership program and laid the groundwork for the Leadership Studies minor, while also chairing the experiential education committee at Elon.

Midgette is known for the bonds she developed with students through the years, such as in her role as the first faculty director-in-residence for the Historic Neighborhood, a residential campus community whose name she coined. Many have fond memories of her living in Isabella Cannon Pavilion with her cat, Cali, where she helped build a tight-knit residential family and engaging intellectual community through regular events including the weekly “Cookies with Cali” sessions.

With a love of history that extends back to her childhood, Midgette earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology and master’s degree in history from N.C. State University and a doctorate in U.S. history from the University of Georgia. In retirement, Midgette has returned to her longtime family house in the N.C. mountain town of Montreat, where she continues her life of service and her interest in history by volunteering with the National Parks Service.

Elizabeth Rogers

Regarded as a leader, visionary and caring colleague by her peers and the Elon community, Elizabeth Rogers retired in 2016 as the founding dean of the School of Health Sciences and professor emerita of physical therapy. During her two decades at Elon, she left an indelible mark on the university and her profession while playing a leading role in building the health sciences curriculum.

​“In life, there are a few things you hope for, some things you dream about, and some things you think will never occur,” Rogers said before stepping out from behind the podium to show of the Elon Medallion hanging around her neck. “Frankly, I’m not much into ‘bling,’ but I’m going to cherish this ‘bling’ forever.”

Rogers arrived at Elon in 1996 as the founding chair and associate dean of the Department of Physical Therapy and from the start she set her sights on building what has become one of the finest physical therapy education programs. Under her guidance, the program has implemented an innovative modular curriculum and a range of outstanding clinical experiences with an emphasis throughout the program on engaged learning.

She was a champion for the physical therapy program during her career at Elon, with a focus on securing additional funding for faculty scholarship and student aid. Under her leadership, the program transitioned from a master’s degree program to a clinical doctoral program in only three years, with the new Doctor of Physical Therapy program earning accreditation “with special commendation” from the American Physical Therapy Association in 2000.

Seeking to move Elon forward, Rogers advocated for the creation of a School of Health Sciences that included a physician assistant studies program and played an integral role in the design and creation of the Gerald L. Francis Center as the new school’s home. Within the community, Rogers built strong partnerships with Alamance Regional Medical Center that stretch back two decades.

Rogers earned her bachelor’s degree in physical therapy from Loma Linda University, her master’s degree in health education from Boston University and her doctorate in allied health education and administration from the University of Houston. She was honored in 2004 with the N.C. Physical Therapy Association’s Founder’s Day Award in recognition of more than 40 years of leadership and service to the profession, including her pioneering interventional work with AIDS patients in the 1980s and her work as a young woman in Africa serving children and adults with leprosy.

Chalmers Brumbaugh

For three decades, Chalmers Brumbaugh embodied the teacher-scholar-mentor model while serving Elon as professor of political science and inspiring generations of students and alumni to live the university’s values by embracing public service. He retired in 2016 as professor emeritus of political science in recognition of his keen intellect and steadfast service to the university.

Brumbaugh thanked Elon colleagues and leaders for creating an environment that allowed him to pursue his passions for experiential learning and study abroad. “Elon has a welcoming culture, one of the most welcoming cultures for new ideas,” Brumbaugh said. “We have many wonderful programs, and the experiential learning requirement is just one of those.”

Brumbaugh joined the Elon faculty in 1986 as associate professor of political science and built a reputation as an exceptional educator and champion of experiential learning and civic engagement. He made a profound impact on students and their learning by leading programs to The Washington Center focused on politics and the presidency, as well as accompanying students to eight national political conventions. Brumbaugh helped countless students secure internships and employment on Capitol Hill and in other areas of government.

A respected teacher, Brumbaugh taught courses in Latin American politics and American government, and shared his love for global engagement by leading Elon’s Winter Term course in Costa Rica for more than two decades and helping to develop a Latin American Studies minor.

One of Elon’s most beloved advisers, his commitment to student success and his mentoring skills made a significant impact on the quality of students’ academic experience on campus and their transition into the professional world. In recognition of his extraordinary service to students, Brumbaugh was named the first recipient of Elon’s Ward Family Excellence in Mentoring Award, the university’s highest honor for mentoring, and Advisor of the Year in 2011 and 2012 for his work with Elon’s chapter of the N.C. Student Legislature.

Brumbaugh earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in political science from the University of Wisconsin. Away from the university, he served 18 years on the N.C. Internship Council, was an active member of the National Society for Experiential Education and in 2016 was honored with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, one of North Carolina’s most prestigious service awards.

Understanding the importance of maintaining lifelong connections with Elon, Brumbaugh remains a trusted and valued mentor to alumni who continue to seek his advice on everything from career choices to political ambitions. A devoted benefactor, he and his wife, Pam, former director of experiential education at Elon and a nationally recognized leader in the field, made a generous gift to establish the Pam and Chalmers Brumbaugh Endowed Scholarship in 2015, paving the way for students to complete internships in Washington, D.C.

Janice J. Ratliff

Janice Ratliff served Elon with insight, affection and dedication for 35 years. In a variety of roles across her more than three decades with the university, she provided invaluable guidance to students and essential administrative support to faculty and staff colleagues before retiring in 2016.

“Words cannot express how honored, elated and humbled I am to receive the Elon Medallion,” Ratliff said. “I have a wall of awards in my home from Elon, and I call them my flowers. … To my friends and my Elon family — thank you for giving me another flower.”

A native of Elon, Ratliff joined the Elon University community in 1981 as administrative assistant in the Office of Cooperative Education before moving on to work in the Office of the Vice President and Dean of Students, Office of Student Development, Office of Auxiliary Services, and, ultimately, as program assistant in the Office of Student Health and Wellness. Recognized as the heart and soul of the Student Health and Wellness Office, Ratliff could be counted on to care for each student she encountered and played a vital role in helping to ease their minds and those of their families far away from Elon.

With her ever-present smile, Ratliff served as a trusted mentor and role model for African-American students and first-generation students, who flourished under her care. She consistently immersed herself in the life of the university, including dedicated service as an indispensable adviser to Black Cultural Society (now the Black Student Union), the Gospel Choir and Elon’s Finest. She served on the awards committee for the annual Phillips-Perry Black Excellence Awards Celebration, an event she faithfully attended.

In recognition of her unwavering devotion to Elon and its students, including 10 years of service to the Student Government Association, Ratliff was honored in 2010 by the Elon Black Alumni Network for her efforts to ensure the success of African-American students. Elon’s student organizations recognized her many contributions to the university by naming two awards in her honor—The Black Student Union Janice Ratliff Community Service Award and the Student Government Association’s Janice J. Ratliff Award for Organization Volunteer of the Year.

Sandra Ellis Fields

For 18 years, Sandra Fields served Elon as assistant to the president with intelligence, curiosity and an unparalleled commitment to excellence. Her dedication to the university included providing exemplary support to first President Emeritus J. Fred Young and the President Leo M. Lambert as Elon experienced a period of unparalleled growth.

“I am energized and challenged by people who are really good at what they do, and I value the opportunity to have worked with many of you talented people,” Fields told the crowd. “Our mission to educate young people is a noble one, and I have been pleased to do my small part to help Elon be the best it can be.”

Fields joined Elon’s staff in 1994 after teaching French at Grimsley High School in Greensboro and then serving as administrative assistant to the late Elon Trustee Emeritus Dr. G. Melvin Palmer at Peace United Church of Christ.

At Elon, Fields managed the complex day-to-day life of the president, including an ever-changing calendar, travel, correspondence and connections with a broad range of the Elon family including students, parents and community members. As liaison to Elon’s Board of Trustees, Fields established important relationships with dozens of trustees  and ensured the smooth functioning of the university’s governing board.

Her skill as a writer and editor shined through her work in helping to transform text into clear, concise and compelling prose, including her work editing important university documents and publications including “From A Grove of Oaks: The Story of Elon University” by Professor Emeritus and University Historian George Troxler and “The Undergraduate Experience: Focusing Institutions on What Matters Most,” co-authored by Lambert, Peter Felten, who is the executive director of the Center for Engaged Learning, and other higher education leaders.

Fields earned her bachelor’s degree in French from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. In her retirement, continues to share her love for learning and languages by tutoring ESL students in the Greensboro community.

Endowed Professorships

Monday’s event included an opportunity to recognize those Elon faculty members who have been named this year to endowed professorships.

Kathy Matera, professor of chemistry

Kathy Matera, professor of chemistry, has been named the next Japheth R. Rawls Professor for Undergraduate Research in Science.

The honor is a rotating two-year professorship that supports the efforts of faculty engagement with students in the scholarship of scientific discovery. It is funded through a gift from the estate of Dr. Japheth E. Rawls Jr. ’35 and his wife, Virginia Riddick Rawls, and is for a faculty member in biology, chemistry, environmental studies, exercise science or physics.

<p>JANUARY 24, 2017 Sean McMahon. (Photo by Kim Walker)</p>

Sean R. McMahon, assistant professor of entrepreneurship, has been named the Doherty Emerging Professor of Entrepreneurship. He will receive support for research and travel and will serve as a leader of the entrepreneurship education program in the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business. The term of the professorship is three years.

Ed and Joan Doherty are parents of Elon alumna Kerry Doherty Gatlin ‘07. They served on the Elon Parents Council and Ed was elected to the Elon Board of Trustees in 2006. The Dohertys endowed the entrepreneurship professorship and established the Doherty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership in the Love School.

Wonhi Synn, professor of finance and chair of the Department of Finance, has been named the Wesley R. Elingburg Professor of Finance.  He is the second faculty member to hold the professorship, succeeding accounting professor Art Cassill, who retired in May 2016. As the Elingburg Professor, Synn will receive support for research, teaching and mentoring.

Synn joined Elon’s faculty in 1989, when student enrollment at the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business was only about a third of what it is today. He served as chair of the Department of Business Administration in the 1990s, was promoted to professor in 2003, and became the chair of the Department of Finance in 2010, when the department was established.

Chris Leupold, associate professor of psychology and faculty fellow for law and leadership, has been named the Isabella Cannon Leadership Professor at Elon University.

Endowed by the estate of Isabella Cannon ’24, a former mayor of Raleigh, N.C., the professorship supports the teaching of leadership courses, advancing the leadership studies minor, providing professional development and support for faculty who teach leadership courses and working with Elon’s Center for Leadership.

Distinguished University Professors

Jeffrey Pugh, Maude Sharpe Powell Professor of Religious Studies, and David Copeland, A.J. Fletcher Professor and professor of communications, will be honored as Elon’s fifth and sixth Distinguished University Professors. The two will be invested with the professorships during ceremonies later this year.

The Distinguished University Professorship is bestowed upon occasion to senior faculty members, honoring their teaching, scholarship, leadership and service to the Elon University community. The board of trustees created the professorship in 2001 and a faculty committee solicits nominations and recommends recipients of the honor to the president.