Generous endowment by Elon parents addresses technology for students with disabilities

The Morris-Miller Endowment for Learning will ensure the new Koenigsberger Learning Center has the most up-to-date assistive learning technology into the future.

First impressions mean a lot. For Gail Miller P’19, husband Richard Morris P’19 and son James ‘19 it would shape four years of their lives and lead to a permanent commitment to serving future students at Elon University through a generous endowment for the Koenigsberger Learning Center.

A rendering of the Koenigsberger Learning Center now under construction at Elon
The Morris-Miller Endowment for Learning will generate funds earmarked to obtain or update assistive technology in the new Koenigsberger Learning Center. The gift was a perfect fit for the family.

“More and more students today are being diagnosed with learning disabilities. These are smart kids who can succeed in college. They just need a little support,” said Miller, an independent guidance counselor who helps students with learning disabilities prepare for college. “The KLC provides that support so they can be successful in college and beyond.”

The two-story, 11,000-square-foot Koenigsberger Learning Center is an addition to the Carol Grotnes Belk Library. It is scheduled to open in the fall of 2018 and bring the offices of academic advising and disabilities resources under one roof. The KLC is unique – a one-stop site for students who are seeking a wide variety of academic resources. The assistive technology lab will be a key part of the new facility for students with disabilities, said Susan Wise, director of the Office of Disabilities Resources at Elon.

“Many of our students may have had limited or no exposure to assistive technology tools in their high school. Our goals are for students who may benefit to be exposed to tools they might not know about and might find helpful and for our students to have access to tools in our labs that aren’t in place anywhere else,” Wise said.

The assistive technology lab will be outfitted with a wide variety of tools, including adaptive hardware such as specialized keyboards, mice and LiveScribe pens as well as software designed to address a range of needs. These include magnification software, screen readers and powerful text-to-speech tools, among others. There will also be tools in the lab with the capability to convert inaccessible documents to alternative formats. The Morris-Miller Endowment for Learning will help provide regular updates or additions to such learning enhancements, ensuring that Elon students have access to the latest technologies.

“The technology is changing as it is in every aspect of life today. Our donation will help Elon keep track of those changes and update the technology to be most beneficial to the school and students,” Miller said.

Becky Olive-Taylor, executive director of the Koenigsberger Learning Center and director of Academic Advising said what is best for students drives all program decisions in the KLC. “An assistive technology lab designed for students with disabilities has been on our wish list for a while. We are forever grateful to the Morris-Miller family for their generous gift making the technology lab a reality,” she said.

“We liked the Koenigsberger Learning Center project because my son received such wonderful support from the Office of Disabilities Resources,” Miller said. “The entire staff there does amazing work.”

The Morris-Miller family first visited Elon almost by accident. A friend in college counseling from Singapore visited the family at their home in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Richard Morris is co-founder of Tresata LLC, a predictive analytic software company. Gail and her friend decided to tour campuses around the state. “We looked at Duke, Wake Forest and Chapel Hill. We were driving by Elon so we thought ‘why not take a look around.’ When we stopped at Elon, it reminded us of the Davidson campus near our home. It was small and accessible. The campus was beautiful. It had a real campus feel. We felt comfortable there the moment we arrived,” Miller said.

When it came time for their son James to tour prospective colleges, Elon made the list of places to visit. The family’s strategy was unique but answered the first questions they would have. “My son has a learning disability and we knew that would be a factor in his college experience,” Miller said. “When we arrived we went directly to the Office of Disabilities Resources before taking the official tour to see if the college had the right type of support for him. We were graciously met by the Office of Disabilities Resources at Elon. We had a lovely conversation. They were all so wonderful and welcoming. They answered all of his questions and really made the choice of Elon very easy.”

Today, James is a rising senior majoring in information science. He is interested in possibly pursuing careers in either global information systems or data analysis. This summer he is working as an intern on a project for a Charlotte public health initiative.

“Elon was the perfect college choice for me,” James said. “The campus always felt like a second home. I have made lifelong friends and ultimately, I have received a fantastic education with experiences that will help me to succeed in life beyond college. I owe much of my success to the people in the Disabilities Resources Office. I am grateful for the opportunity to assist other Elon students like me in the future.”