Members of Israel family honor their parents with a scholarship in Elon’s Odyssey Program

The children of the late Archie ’39 and Adelaide Israel have made a gift to establish a scholarship to assist students with significant financial need. These scholarships are among the top priorities of the upcoming Elon LEADS Campaign, the largest fundraising campaign in university history.

Wherever Archie Israel ’39 and his wife, Adelaide, traveled in life, they made things better. Their influence was especially felt in the classroom and on the athletic field. They also succeeded in business, education, impacting their community and in raising a family.

The couple, who passed away within 10 days of each other in 2004, continue to have a profound impact on Elon through a scholarship they endowed more than three decades ago that is now being elevated by their children to provide even greater financial assistance for high-achieving students who might not otherwise be able to attend Elon.

The couple made a generous gift in 1985 to establish the Archie and Adelaide Israel Scholarship to bring deserving students to Elon. Through the years, the couple and their children, Stephen Israel, Marjorie Israel Chayette and Barbara Israel, made contributions to the fund to enable it to grow. The Israel siblings continued to contribute to the fund.

Recently, the siblings made an additional gift to Elon to elevate the original scholarship to become part of Elon’s Odyssey Scholarship program, which includes some of the university’s largest need-based scholarships. The four-year program is highly selective and its recipients are among Elon’s top-performing students and campus leaders.

University President Connie Ledoux Book thanked the members of the Israel family for enriching the legacy established by their parents.

“The Israel family’s long-standing dedication and support for Elon is a remarkable story that spans decades of service and devotion to our campus and our students,” Book says. “Their decision to elevate the scholarship established by Archie and Adelaide Israel and to create more opportunity in our Odyssey Program speaks volumes about their commitment to education. We thank Steve, Barbara and Marjorie for these generous gifts.”

Members of the Israel family said they were excited to make this gift to honor their parents and to assist students who would be unable to attend Elon without financial assistance.

An undated photo of the Israels.

“Education was something they were very supportive of,” says Barbara Israel, who is a professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education at the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan. “We were fortunate that our parents had the resources to send us to college and cover our educational expenses. I was desirous of going in the direction of the Odyssey Program because the focus of the scholarship is on students who are highly qualified but don’t have the financial resources to attend Elon. It’s also a program that not only provides the opportunity to attend the university but has a focus on how students are supported once they get on campus.”

Steve Israel, vice chairman of Korn Ferry in New York, says that when Rhodes Stadium was opened in 2001, his father and mother returned to Elon often for football games and built a strong relationship with then-president and now president emeritus Leo Lambert and his wife, Laurie Lambert.

“In their later years my father and my mother set up this scholarship.” Steve says.  “After they died, we continued to contribute as we knew it was important to them that we do so”.  Also, we became friendly with Leo who inspired us. The Odyssey Scholarship Program was important to Leo and part of his legacy, and we wanted to be part of that.”

Odyssey Program scholarships are among the top priorities of the upcoming Elon LEADS Campaign, the largest fundraising campaign in the university’s history, which the university will launch on Friday, April 5. The campaign seeks significant new investments to support four key university priorities: scholarships for graduates the world needs, access to engaged learning, support for faculty and staff mentors who matter and Elon’s iconic campus.

Humble Beginnings

Archie and Adelaide Israel were the children of immigrants who forged successful lives in America. Archie was one of six children raised in Waterbury, Connecticut. His father delivered ice for a living. Adelaide’s family settled in Greensboro, where her father, an immigrant from Odessa, Russia, was a tailor.

Archie Israel on the gridiron

Archie, a star in multiple sports at Wilby High School in Connecticut, first attended the University of North Carolina but quickly transferred to Elon, following the coach who originally recruited him, where he played football and basketball. His participation in athletics would shape his life and drive him to succeed in his business.

“My father was a great athlete all around. He played multiple sports. But really football was his first love,” Steve says, adding that his father was guided by inspirational messages from coaches. “You get out of it what you put into it. ‘When the going gets tough the tough get going.’ That was my dad.”

Archie Israel graduated from Elon in 1939 after a stellar football career under two legendary Elon Sports Hall of Fame coaches—D.C. “Peahead” Walker and Horace “Horse” Hendrickson. Archie played center and was team captain. The story is still told at Elon of a newspaper headline following a football game win which stated “Israel leads the Fighting Christians”.

Upon graduation, he married Adelaide Love, who graduated from what is now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a degree in history and a membership to the Phi Beta Kappa honors society.

After graduation, Archie and Adelaide moved for a short time to Portsmouth, Virginia before returning to Greensboro where they would remain. Archie took a position with Talley Laundry Machinery, Co. When the company founder died, Archie became partner and president. He also served as chairman of Unipress Co. in Minneapolis.

Adelaide became a teacher, a homemaker and an intellectual inspiration to her children. Together, Archie and Adelaide had lifelong interests in athletics, education, helping others and their alma maters. In 1980, Archie was inducted into the Elon Sports Hall of Fame.

“My mother was extremely well read. She inspired us to read as children,” Steve says. “Whatever success I have enjoyed is traced to my parents and is attributable to my studies in English literature, not business or science. My mother believed, and so do I, that the humanities are all important.”

“She was really the backbone of our family in terms of providing the kind of support we needed,” Barbara says. “She and our father had a loving, caring relationship we could see and experience. That goes a long way.”

Archie and Adelaide Israel passed away within 10 days of each other in 2004 after more than 60 years of marriage. Archie was 90 and Adelaide 86.

They had three children who earned university degrees and have achieved great success. Marjorie Israel Chayette graduated from Cornell University and for many years has lived in France. Steve and Barbara Israel both graduated from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. There are three grandchildren, Ben and Zachary Israel Chayette and Ilana Israel. Ilana graduated from Elon in 2014, with a major in strategic communications and a minor in sociology, and was a member of the honor society. She played a leadership role in Elon Hillel, and has served on the Young Alumni Council since she graduated.

Lives of achievement

Steve Israel says Elon was a special place to his father and by extension to the entire Israel family.

“We are North Carolinians through and through. Elon was always near and dear to us because of our father’s association with it,” Steve says. “His business success was attributable to his success on the football field. He was a competitive person and he learned valuable lessons on the field. He was successful beyond his dreams.”

“Ilana had heard her grandfather talk about Elon over the years,” Barbara says. “We were thrilled when she decided to attend Elon.”

Barbara says her parents provided several examples of their support for education and recognizing the achievements of those who had limited opportunities.  During the 1950s several African-American students studying at North Carolina A&T State University and Bennett College were employed by and lived with the Israels.

“We grew up in a Jewish household and our parents instilled in us the values of social justice and support for people less privileged than we were,” Barbara says. “When our mother died, a woman who was one of the college students who lived with us when we were children came to her funeral. She and my mother had reconnected later in their lives. The woman had received her degree, became a teacher and a principal. She spoke at the funeral and talked about having the opportunity to get her college degree with my parents’ help – that they provided her the resources to go to college. Having that kind of value placed on education and on the education of others was part of what led my parents to set up the scholarship at Elon.”

The Odyssey Scholarship program at Elon also transforms lives. Students in the Odyssey program are typically among the highest achieving students on campus. Many are the first person from their family to attend a four-year college or university. The program includes a first-year summer orientation, annual retreats, one-on-one academic and career counseling sessions and networking opportunities with current or past members of the Odyssey program. There is a stipend for books and supplies as well as a one-time global studies grant to be used for an approved study abroad or Study USA program.

Barbara says the Odyssey program sets Elon apart from other universities in terms of dedication to building a diverse campus.

“The Odyssey Program and Elon as a whole has made the campus welcoming. Diversity and inclusion to me is a real strength of the university. A lot of institutions haven’t been nearly as successful. I think Elon has made a mark in that direction,” Barbara says. “I know it’s been important to Leo (Lambert). We wanted to honor his contribution to Elon by supporting the scholarship program. I credit his leadership. He contributed so much to make the campus more open and supportive of a diverse student body.”

Barbara says that the Lamberts were incredibly kind and generous to her parents and engaged them whenever they were on campus. “I know the Odyssey Scholarship program is an important interest of Leo’s. We wanted to support his contribution to Elon and continue to support that scholarship program. I credit his leadership. He did a lot to make the campus more open and supportive of a diverse student body.”