Estate gift from alumna Edna Truitt Noiles ’44 and Doug Noiles establishes 10 Odyssey Program scholarships to assist Alamance County students

This gift represents a historic investment in Alamance County students with high financial need. These scholarships are among the top priorities of the upcoming Elon LEADS Campaign, the largest fundraising campaign in the university’s history.

The late Elon alumna Edna Truitt Noiles ’44 believed so strongly in giving back to her university that she made many generous gifts, along with her husband Doug, to support top priorities of the university, including funding for endowed scholarships.

Edna Truitt Noiles '44 and Doug Noiles
An estate gift from Edna and Doug Noiles will provide for 10 endowed scholarships in the Odyssey Program, a highly selective program for students with exceptional ability and significant financial need. The program includes some of the university’s largest need-based scholarships.

All 10 scholarships are designated for students from Alamance County who are selected for the Odyssey Program. Four of the scholarships will have a first preference for students who live or have lived in the Morgan Place community in Elon, also known as the Ballpark neighborhood, adjacent to the university’s campus. These students have been historically underrepresented at Elon. The first of these annual scholarships, to be called the “Edna Scholars,” are expected to be awarded beginning in fall 2020.

President Connie Ledoux Book announced the gift at Elon’s Spring Convocation on Thursday, which celebrates academic excellence and the importance of philanthropy at the university. She praised the Noileses for making a historic investment in Alamance County students.

“Our community is indebted to the late Edna Truitt Noiles and her late husband, Doug, for their generous spirits and for recognizing the power of scholarships to change lives,” Book said. “Edna and Doug deeply understood the ability of quality education to lift up communities and individuals. Their legacy will live on in the promise of 10 full scholarships that will provide opportunities for Alamance County students who will enrich our learning community. We can only imagine the impact these students will have on a world in need of courageous leaders.”

The Odyssey Program is part of the university’s Center for Access and Success, which is led by Jean Rattigan-Rohr, who serves as vice president for access and success.

“The Odyssey Program is a stronger initiative because of the generosity of the Noiles family,” Rattigan-Rohr said “These scholarships will plant the seeds for meaningful change in our communities and the world for generations to come. We are truly grateful.”

At Thursday’s Convocation, President Book also announced the establishment of a staff position at Elon dedicated to providing assistance and counseling to first-generation college students at the university. This position, inspired by the Noileses’ philanthropy, will address an important need on Elon’s campus and be housed within the Center for Access and Success.

The Noileses’ gifts are counted as part of The Elon LEADS Campaign, which the university will officially launch on Friday, April 5. The campaign will seek 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 our iconic campus.

A Devoted Elon Family

Edna and Doug Noiles were among Elon’s most devoted and generous benefactors and supported many university priorities. In addition to scholarships, the Noileses made lead gifts to launch several signature university programs, including the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life and the Elon Academy, which is a national model for college access and success programs for high school students in Alamance County.

Edna and Doug were founding donors to the Elon Academy, which encourages promising high school students with high financial need or no family history of college attendance to earn a four-year degree and serve their communities. Believing that quality education was a child’s birthright, the couple provided vital start-up funding and ongoing support for the program, which has touched the lives of more than 200 Alamance County students and their families. In making the gift, Edna Noiles said it gave them “a sense of being part of something larger than ourselves.”

“Doug and I were both gratified to see that our vision can indeed be realized, that when you believe in young people and shed a light on their gifts, they make that light even brighter,” Edna Noiles said.

The Noileses made a $1 million gift in 2003 to endow the Vera Richardson Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life in honor of Edna’s mother. In addition, the couple joined with Edna’s five sisters, also Elon alumnae, to establish the Ashton P. and Vera R. Truitt Scholarship Fund to honor their parents. In recognition of her devotion to the university, Edna Noiles received the Elon Medallion, the university’s highest honor, in 2016.

“I want to thank Elon personally for opening up the world to me,” Noiles said after receiving the medallion. “Thank you, Elon, for being the vehicle through which I can open the world for others.”

Noiles grew up just two miles from Elon’s campus. After receiving her degree in history and English in 1944, she served in the hospital corps of the U.S. Navy’s Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) program. It was through her service to WAVES that she met Doug Noiles, with the pair marrying in 1945. Doug Noiles, who became a pioneer in the development of medical and orthopedic devices, died in 2016.

After earning a master’s degree in counseling, Edna Noiles began a long and successful career as a marriage and family therapist. Pursuing an interest in spiritual matters, she completed a two-year program at the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation in Washington, D.C., and served as a spiritual guide for close to two decades. She described her work as “one Christian helping another Christian find bread for the journey.” Edna passed away in 2017, the same year that her granddaughter, Josephine Gardner, graduated from Elon.

About the Odyssey Program

In addition to annual tuition assistance, each of the scholarships in this program includes a stipend for books and supplies, and a one-time, global study grant to be used for an approved study abroad or Study USA program. Odyssey Program participants are consistently among Elon’s top-performing students.

Throughout the four-year program, students take advantage of intellectually demanding courses while furthering their personal and professional development. They participate in a first-year summer orientation, attend annual retreats and monthly meetings with their peers, are involved in one-on-one academic and career planning meetings, and maintain an academic and leadership portfolio.