Hundreds gathered in Alumni Gym on Monday to hear from the President-elect and trustee leaders who elected her to serve as the university’s ninth president.
Elon University’s next president, Connie Ledoux Book, committed on Monday to advancing “this powerful learning community” as she works with the university community to move Elon forward in the decades to come.
Her selection to serve as Elon’s ninth president marks a return to the university for Book and her family. She has spent the past two years as provost of The Citadel, following 16 years of service as a faculty member and senior administrator at Elon.
“Walking across the campus this morning, I had a strong sense of coming home,” Book said to the hundreds of students, faculty, staff and friends gathered midday in Alumni Gym to celebrate her selection as president. “Elon University holds a special place in my heart. It is the place where I learned from my faculty colleagues about creating transformative learning environments, an intellectual community where I was inspired by my students who always asked great questions and strived to make the world better, a tight-knit community where I learned that together we could design and build an inclusive community fueled by the mentoring of 1,500 faculty and staff educators.”
Book said that Elon holds “a truly remarkable place among colleges in the United States,” with an innovative core curriculum and a commitment to student engagement that serves as a model for other institutions around the world.
“This is a university that understands the essential nature of bringing together the critical ingredients of a premier learning environment,” Book said. That includes “the strong relationships students form with their faculty and staff mentors; the priority on learning at a deep level, in classes and experiences led by professors who thrive in a teacher-scholar-mentor model; the commitment to excellence in the arts and sciences, both as a foundation for every student and as outstanding major programs of study that challenge students to be deep thinkers, innovative resilient problem solvers, and moral leaders for the world; and the strength of distinctive professional programs that prepare students for success in our changing and competitive world.
“And in every dimension of the Elon experience you will find a global perspective,” Book said. “Elon students seek to understand their place in our world, the essential lessons they will learn from people who are from many backgrounds and cultures, and their obligation to apply the privilege of higher education to solve complex problems and prosper human dignity around the world.”
Book paid tribute to her colleagues at The Citadel, where she has had the opportunity to deepen her understanding and practice of leadership. She said educators at The Citadel and Elon are committed to developing the leaders America needs to face the challenges of a complex world.
“The people of these two institutions know that only higher education can safeguard and advance our great nation, and nurture our democracy based on what the Elon mission describes as ‘freedom of thought and liberty of conscience,’” Book said. “The work ahead is important for our country and our world.
“I am humbled and excited by the remarkable opportunity to work with each of you and I commit to being a faithful steward of the trust this community is placing in me today.”
In introducing Book, Kerrii Anderson ’79, chair of Elon’s board of trustees and a member of the search committee, offered insight into Book’s professional and academic background.
“She is a person who is eminently qualified, highly experienced and, I am proud to say, will take office as the first female president in Elon’s history,” Anderson said. “We have found the best person to lead the many next chapters in Elon’s history, and we will seamlessly transition with a president-elect who deeply understands our mission to transform mind, body and spirit.”
Book’s selection follows a national search by a 16-member committee chaired by trustee Wes Elingburg P’11 that included trustees, students, alumni, parents, faculty and staff. Elingburg said that Book’s selection as “the most qualified and best-suited leader” came after the committee carefully considering a pool of about 150 top candidates, many from the nation’s most elite universities.
Elingburg noted Book’s ability to listen and to think clearly and lead in challenging situations. He also said Book understands how important it is to have an inclusive academic community, a community that embraces a global perspective while also making a commitment to make a difference in the local communities.
“In each of our interview sessions, Dr. Book stood out above all others,” Elingburg said. “She provided keen insights into Elon’s academic programs and operations, and a strong vision for our university’s future. She combined sophisticated analysis of higher education issues with a deep understanding of Elon’s student-centered culture.”
Book told the crowd in Alumni Gym that Elon has been the backdrop for many important family memories. “Bella attended her first lecture on feminism here when she was 13 and it sparked a fire that would set the course for her own education,” Book said. “And no one in the family will forget the time campus safety called to ask me to please get my seven-year-old son out of the magnolia tree in front of McEwen building. Joe graduated from Elon last year, a music major, and fills our house with original scores – music inspired by his Elon education.”
As she concluded her remarks, Book emphasizing the collaborative nature of Elon as an institution and a community, and saying that it is “an honor and a privilege” to be selected to lead the university as it moves forward.
“The world needs what Elon and Elon graduates have to offer. Together, we will advance Elon’s future,” Book said. “Together, we will continue building the best learning environment in the country. Together we will set the next horizon for Elon’s destiny. Together.”
At the conclusion of Book’s remarks, representatives of students, staff and faculty joined President Lambert in presenting gifts to the president-elect to welcome her back to Elon and wish her well in the work that lies ahead.
From Morgan Bodenarain ‘18, president of the Student Government Association, Book received a coffee mug so she can be ready to fill it at the many College Coffee gatherings to come. “We look forward to seeing you at campus events throughout the year,” Bodenarain said. “There has always been a special bond between students and Elon’s presidents and we are excited to get to know you and build those strong ties in the years to come.”
Bearing a carved wooden acorn, Professor Jeff Pugh rose to offer the gift to Book, saying that it is a symbol of resilience. “On behalf of the faculty and your colleagues here, we present you this as not just something that though small will grow up to be resilient and strong,” said Pugh, Distinguished University Professor and Maude Sharpe Powell Professor of Religious Studies.
Keren Rivas ‘04, director of publications for the university, welcomed Book and her family back to campus while presenting them with apparel emblazoned with the Elon name. “We want to make sure you are ready to cheer on the Phoenix, so I want to present to you, Joe and Bella with some Elon gear, which I know you all will wear with pride,” Rivas said.
Finally, President Lambert rose carrying a wooden box carved by Professor Emeritus of Economics Jim Barber, who crafted the box out of oak in the shape of an acorn. Lambert recounted Elon’s tradition of presenting each first-year student with an acorn and with the words that they have everything within them they need to grow and become strong. “On behalf of all my former colleagues, I want to present it to you with our confidence that you have everything within you to be Elon’s next mighty oak,” Lambert said.
To close the celebration, Book was joined by President Leo M. Lambert and his predecessor, President Emeritus J. Fred Young, with the three posing on stage for a historic photo to capture this important milestone in Elon’s history.