Community welcomes Connie Ledoux Book as Elon’s ninth president

Hundreds gathered Thursday morning in the Great Hall to celebrate Connie Ledoux Book’s first day of service as Elon’s president.

On her first day as Elon’s ninth president, Connie Ledoux Book expressed her deep admiration for the generations of leaders before her and committed to working with the entire community to build a bright future for the university in the years to come.

​“I absolutely love this community, I understand the power of it and I’m going to do my very best,” Book told the crowd of Elon students, faculty and staff who gathered Thursday, March 1 in the Global Neighborhood’s Great Hall to mark the next chapter in Elon’s history.

>> See photos from President Book's first day.

Book returns to the university after spending nearly three years as provost of The Citadel, following 16 years of service as a faculty member and senior administrator at Elon.

Titled “Imagining What We Can Do Together,” Thursday’s event invited members of the Elon community to share their hopes for the university’s future. “First days are thrilling, and I am so proud to be with you in articulating these aspirations and dreams for our future,” Book said. “Moments like this provide us an opportunity to see clearly well beyond our horizon and imagine what can be beyond. I know we have everything – absolutely everything – we need to succeed.”

Book reflected on Elon’s proud history, 129 years of care and development by generations of people who believed in providing bright young students with opportunities to shape the future and make a difference in the world. She invited those in attendance to write down their own hopes and dreams for the future on special stationery and describe the ways they think Elon should change and grow. After Book reads the community’s aspirations for Elon’s future, the messages will be preserved in Elon’s archives.

“I ask you today to join me in thinking about the days and weeks and years ahead,” Book said. “What do you want to accomplish in your professional and personal life? What do you want to achieve collectively – in your family, in your community and as part of the Elon community? Who will you become? Together, we can make an impact in ways that no single individual can. Together, we can accomplish what is impossible alone. Together, we have the opportunity to build a university that keeps setting a higher standard. Together, we are well-positioned to be a leading force in a world that cries out for smart, creative and resilient young men and women who design solutions to the challenges facing our communities around the globe.”

Among those who shared their vision for Elon’s future were alumni from around the world who submitted video messages for the occasion: Carson Foushee ’07, a Baptist minister in Japan; Jasmine Whaley ’13, social media manager at the DO School in Germany; and Lauren Salig ’17, who is beginning her Fulbright Teaching Assistantship in Argentina.

“Whenever I think about my time at Elon University, I can’t help but think about the impact study abroad had on my life, both personally and professionally,” Whaley said in her video. “My hope for you is that you continue to strive toward and reach the goal of 100 percent study abroad access for all of our students, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds like myself.”

Book asked those in attendance to think carefully about the Elon that the community will build together, a task she said will be both challenging and exciting. She outlined several of her own priorities for the months ahead, including a continuing focus on student, faculty and staff well-being and mental health, and more resources for financial aid to keep Elon accessible to people from all backgrounds.

“We need to continue to expand our efforts on civic engagement,” Book said. “Our democracy needs our hard work and informed voices on the local, state and national levels. That’s on my mind today. We need to continue to think about the ways Elon can advance and prepare students to succeed in the rapidly evolving global economy. Our students and our university must be nimble, adaptable and resilient as jobs and the workplace undergo fundamental changes. And I’m going to need your help.”

Book was introduced by First-year Class President Cam Waddell ’21 and Vice President Emerita Jo Watts Williams ’55. Waddell said Elon’s student body looks forward to getting to know Book and working alongside her as partners in advancing the university.

“Like many members of the first-year class, I was born in 1999, the year President Book joined the Elon faculty,” Waddell said. “I guess we were destined from the start to be here together on this historic day. Together, we imagine what our community can do in building Elon and in making a positive difference in the world.”

After witnessing 73 years of growth at the university, Williams said she looks toward the next chapter in Elon’s legacy of outstanding leadership with pride and anticipation. “You know how excited I am to welcome Elon’s first female president,” Williams said. “What a special moment in our history. But I am equally thrilled to celebrate a leader who is uniquely qualified to build on the success of her eight predecessors.

“President Book, you are a trailblazer. You will inspire us to think big, and then reach even higher. With 16 years of previous Elon experience, you are one of us. You understand our student-centered values. You know our history. You share our vision for Elon’s future. We are ready to imagine what we can do together, and then to get to work and make it all a wonderful reality.”

At the conclusion of the event, Book joined the Elon community in planting a new sapling – one she said was destined to grow into a mighty oak, much like Elon itself. “It is fitting that we begin this next chapter by planting a tree together, connecting to that grove of oaks that inspired our founders to pursue in 1889, when this was just a grove of oaks, the vision that was articulated by President Long ‘A College for the World.’ When I think about that in 1889, that was a long vision. The white oak we plant today, like each of us in this room, and this university we love, will reach to the sky and grow stronger, even as it is tested by the forces of nature that we are certain lie ahead.”

Book then invited everyone in attendance to join her in proclaiming, “Long Live Elon!”