Elon names three Global Neighborhood residence halls

Three of the five residence halls that make up the Global Neighborhood have been named for retired faculty and staff members who served the university for decades. 

President Connie Ledoux Book with, from right, Nan Perkins, Smith Jackson and Russell Gill. 
Elon University on Monday named three residence halls in the Global Neighborhood for retired faculty and staff members who dedicated decades of service to the university. 

In a ceremony within the Global Neighborhood’s Great Hall, the university community celebrated the contributions of Professor Emeritus of English Russell B. Gill, Assistant to the President G. Smith Jackson, who retired last year as vice president for student life, and Nan Perkins, vice president emerita for institutional advancement. 

President Book explained that the Global Neighborhood was designed to support Elon’s new residential campus initiative with the goal of having “students engaged and immersed in discussion about international happenings around the world.” Located on the shore of Lake Mary Nell, the Global Neighborhood opened in two phases in 2013 and 2014 and features five residence halls and the 50,000-square-foot Global Commons building. 

“This really has become a central place on campus,” Book said. “So how appropriate is it that we name the Global Neighborhood residence halls in honor of three outstanding educators at Elon.” 

Surrounded by friends, family and former colleagues, Gill, Jackson and Perkins talked about the influence that Elon has had on their lives while they served the university is different capacities throughout their careers. Tuesday’s gathering offered the opportunity to reflect on what these leaders have meant to Elon as it has grown and evolved during the past four decades. 

Russell Gill speaks during the naming ceremony. 
Russell Gill joined the university in 1976, and would go on to serve as chair of the department of literature, languages and communications, which was the predecessor to the Department of English. H was chosen to receive the Daniels-Danieley Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1986 and would later be named a Distinguished University Professor.

Gill chaired Elon’s Phi Beta Kappa Steering Committee as the university successfully achieved the right to shelter a Phi Beta Kappa chapter. He would go on to serve as the chapter’s first president after it was formed in 2010. 

For his contributions to Elon, Gill was awarded the Elon Medallion, the university’s highest honor, in 2015. 

On Tuesday, Gill said he was honored to be associated with the Global Neighborhood, particularly given its goal to bring students, faculty and staff together in a residential learning environment. 

“To be closely associated with the global neighborhood is a special honor for me cause I veery much believe that education is a matter of the whole self,” Gill said. “The more a university can unite its living and learning, the better it can fulfill its mission, and that’s what Elon is doing in this neighborhood.”

Smith Jackson speaks during the naming ceremony. 
Smith Jackson joined Elon in 1994 as dean of students. He was promoted to vice president in 1998 and concluded his service as vice president for student life and dean of students in 2017 to become an assistant to the president. During his tenure, he built a student life program that is a national model, fully integrated with the intellectual life of the campus. 

Among the many recognitions Jackson has received are the Residence Life Golden Key Award; the Phillips-Perry Lifetime Service Award from the Center for Race, Ethnicity & Diversity and the Black Student Union; the LGBT Alumni Community Enrichment Award; and the Civic Engagement Professional of the Year Award from North Carolina Campus Compact.

For the past two and a half years, he coordinated the design and launch of the new Master of Arts in Higher Education program housed within Elon’s School of Education, which enrolled its first students this year. 

In his remarks Tuesday, Jackson recounted how his parents instilled in him a love of education and community engagement. He and his wife often walk through campus on Sundays, and marvel at how Elon has changed through the years, Jackson said. 

“On future walks, when we get to that special, beautiful spot (by Lake Mary Nell), I’ll look up and see Jackson Hall,” he said. “That building with my name will remind me of how very fortunate I have been to be part of this magical era of institutional transformation that will only continue well into the future.”

Nan Perkins speaks during the naming ceremony.
Like Gill, Nan Perkins joined Elon in 1976, starting as a part-time English instructor before joining President J. Fred Young’s staff as the director of communications. In 1985 she launched the Office of Publications, the predecessor of today’s Office of University Communications, where she managed internal and external communications as director of publications and public information.

She was responsible for conceptualizing and coordinating Elon’s Centennial celebration in 1989 and the next year became the university’s dean of admissions and financial planning. Under her watch, applications increased 30 percent and the SAT average for incoming students increased more than 100 points, enabling Elon to emerge as a nationally recognized institution. 

She and her late husband, Ed, have been generous supporters of Elon, including endowing the Edward T. and Nan P. Perkins Scholarship. She was awarded the Elon Medallion in 2011 for her outstanding leadership and distinguished service to Elon.

Perkins noted Tuesday that she still works as a consultant, with her clients wanting to know what the secret to Elon’s success through the years has been. Perkins said she points to the dedication of faculty and staff along with the ability to keep students at the center of all the university does. 

“It’s you,” Perkins said. “It’s the combination of what is here – those qualities I just mentioned and the collegiality — that’s makes us able here to work together. It’s such a precious thing. Many people have talent, and many people have dedication, many universities, but they aren’t able to mobilize everybody to work together and to go forward as Elon has done.”