President emeritus honored by generous endowed gifts into a scholarship program started during his tenure in office.
The President’s Advisory Council in conjunction with Elon parents who wish to remain anonymous have established two Odyssey scholarships in honor of Elon University President Emeritus Leo M. Lambert. The group announced this generous gift during a luncheon presentation on Nov. 9.
Abbey Roberts Chung P’12, a member of the President’s Advisory Council, said the organization could think of no better way to honor Lambert’s 19 years of service to Elon and its students than by endowing Odyssey scholarships. The President’s Advisory Council is an informal group of corporate and business leaders who are associated with the university as alumni, parents or friends of Elon. Its members advise the president twice a year about ways to address pressing campus issues.
“The President’s Advisory Council along with this Elon family know how important students and scholarships are to both you and Laurie. You have given them your complete and undivided attention 24/7 and for that we are grateful,” Chung said. “Two deserving individuals who have demonstrated not only the intellectual and social skills required by the Odyssey Program but also and importantly the qualities of integrity, inclusion and leadership that defined your tenure at Elon will receive the Leo M. Lambert Odyssey Scholarship.”
Lambert, who stepped down as university president on Feb. 28, 2018, and immediately became president emeritus, said he was both surprised and gratified that the President’s Advisory Council made this decision. “I was deeply, deeply touched and honored. I couldn’t think of a nicer and more profound way for the President’s Advisory Council to say thank you to me than in making this extraordinary gift,” Lambert said. “It is a generous and smart group of people.”
University President Connie Ledoux Book said the Odyssey Program, created during Lambert’s years as president, has emerged as one of Elon’s most successful campus initiatives and is an enduring tribute to his time as president. “There can be no more appropriate acknowledgment of the contributions of president emeritus Leo Lambert than the creation of an endowed Odyssey Program scholarship in his name. It was his mission as president of Elon to make studies at the university more accessible to a wide range of dedicated and high-achieving students who might not otherwise have the ability financially to attend Elon. I thank the members of the President’s Advisory Council for creating the Leo M. Lambert Odyssey Scholarship. I look forward to seeing many years of Lambert Odyssey Scholars on campus.”
The Odyssey Program, operated through the university’s Center for Access and Success, is a highly selective, merit-based scholarship for students with great promise who are civically engaged and demonstrate significant financial need. Often these students are the first in their families to attend college.
“There are few things that are more important to me than the Odyssey Program and Elon Academy because both of those programs give the opportunity for higher education to really smart young people that might not otherwise have access to it,” Lambert said. “Odyssey is a huge point of pride for me. We just started our cohort of Odysseys on campus not much more than a decade ago. We didn’t even have one of those scholarships then and now we have 180. A third of our endowment is committed to the Odyssey Program. It’s a big institutional bet and in my mind a correct one.”
Lambert noted that many of Elon’s talented students and campus leaders arrive on campus via the Odyssey Program. “I think that (Center for Access and Success director) Jean Rattigan-Rohr and the faculty that select the Odyssey Program scholars are making smart considered bets on extraordinary men and women who give so much back to campus in terms of intellectual leadership and commitment to making the university a better place while they’re here. It’s a program that has a dramatic impact.”
Lambert, who is on sabbatical while writing a book but plans to return to campus as a teacher in the Master of Higher Education program, said he created the President’s Advisory Council seven or eight years ago as an informal sounding board. “I like to say it deals with live problems on the president’s desk. I would turn to them and say, ‘I’m thinking about these issues right now and they might range from how to build a first-class career services program at Elon to thinking about student health and wellness to the next facilities master plan for the university.’”
Gaining different perspectives from a variety of leaders outside of higher education is important, Lambert said. “You get to see the world through a slightly different lens than we do. It was an enormously productive, fun and insightful group.”
Chung said PAC members also gain a great deal from the experience. “I know I speak for all PAC members by saying that whether we were discussing the strategic plan or ways to address and build student resilience, I was always impressed with the way (Lambert) purposely gathered insights from a diverse field, listened to multiple points of view, addressed issues head-on and made tough decisions ethically and transparently in the best interest of students of today and tomorrow.”