Inauguration Week showcase spotlights Elon talent

Held Oct. 19 in Whitley Auditorium, “Celebrating Elon’s Past, Present and Future” paired musical performances with a look back at the university’s history.  

<p>Music theatre majors Gianni Palmerini '22, Skyler Reed Sajewski '22, Tres McMichael '19 and Kyra Gerber '19 perform &quot;Something's Coming from &quot;West Side Story.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>
The celebration of President Connie Ledoux Book’s inauguration continued Friday night with a showcase of Elon’s talented students, faculty and staff. “Celebrating Elon’s Past, Present and Future” explored the university’s growth over the years through musical performances, readings and projected archival photos.

Whitley Auditorium, which opened in 1924, served as the perfect setting for an event honoring Elon’s storied history and its modern achievements. Lauren Kearns, professor of dance and chair of the Department of Performing Arts, was the program’s artistic director and J McMerty ’00, director of Elon in Los Angeles and assistant professor of communications, served as producing director and film editor.

Members of Delta Sigma Theta share the sorority's history through stepping.
“We are so proud to have been a small part of President Book’s inauguration week,” Kearns said. “The best part of both of our jobs is seeing the beautiful transformation that our students go through in four years and beyond. To help celebrate this historic event in one of the oldest buildings on campus, with the university’s newest talent, is a reminder of what makes Elon so special.”

Attendees were greeted by the sounds of Ciara Graves ’20, aka DJ Graveheart, before hosts Claire Lord ’19 and Trés McMichael ’19 kicked off the program. The showcase included musical selections across a variety of genres and eras, including a rendition of “Amazing Grace” by Elon Gospel Choir Director Lana Logan, an original song by Lily Hain ’20 and vocal performances by music theatre majors McMichael, Kyra Gerber ’19, Gianni Palmerini ’22 and Skyler Reed Sajewski ’22.

Twisted Measure represented Elon’s a cappella groups, members of Delta Sigma Theta sorority demonstrated a step routine and Brandon Atwell ’19 performed a composition by Jon Metzger, professor of music and chair of the Department of Music.

Vice President Emerita Jo Watts Williams '55 reads about the earliest days of Elon's history.
The program also highlighted some of Elon’s talented alumni, including Lauren Renck ’13, who is taking the stage this fall for her sixth season as a Rockette, and Daniel J. Watts ’04, who has performed in the Broadway casts of “After Midnight,” “Memphis,” “Motown,” “The Little Mermaid,” “In the Heights,” “The Color Purple,” “Ghost” and “Hamilton.”

The event was grounded in the performing arts but included plenty of history lessons throughout – like, for example, that the university’s original name was Bon Air College and was changed to Elon to avoid confusion with the Bon Air railroad stop in Virginia. Readings from “From a Grove of Oaks: The Story of Elon University,” written by Professor Emeritus of History and University Historian George Troxler, chronicled Elon’s founding, its first extracurricular organizations, the fire of 1923 and the transition from college to university.

The selections were narrated by Jo Watts Williams ’55, vice president emerita and professor of education emerita; Jana Lynn Patterson, associate vice president for student life and dean of students; Kim Shively, assistant professor of acting; and Jill Hollis ’13 G’17, assistant director of regional alumni engagement. Each reader also shared heartfelt messages of thanks to President Book – even a special guest representing Elon’s future.

<p>Hosts Claire Lord '19 and Tres McMichael '19 with Isley Barker, &quot;the first admitted student of the Class of 2033.&quot;</p>
“My future is not yet written, but I know that one day I could be president,” said Isley Barker, daughter of Director of Residence Life MarQuita Barker and “the first admitted student of the Class of 2033.”

McMerty said he and Kearns involved five generations of Elon women in the program in recognition of Book’s historic role as the university’s first female president. “We know that the opportunities we benefit from today are on the shoulders of those who came before us, who walked these bricks,” he said. “Tonight, we honor those from the past, celebrate where we are in the present and help dream of what our future holds.”