The gathering in the Schar Center provided the opportunity for hundreds of Elon leaders and supporters to learn more about the campaign and its priorities.
More than 75 Elon students joined President Connie Ledoux Book on center stage in Schar Center Friday night, offering tangible evidence of the power of philanthropy as the university celebrated the launch of its Elon LEADS Campaign. The ambitious and historic fundraising campaign seeks to raise at least $250 million, with support for student scholarships as a top priority for the effort.
“I would like you to meet more of our future leaders — students whose lives will be changed forever as a direct result of our commitment to this campaign,” Book said as the students flowed onto the stage. “These are the leaders we are investing in and who will carry their torches, their light into a world that needs illumination. Looking at this group of leaders, our future is bright.”
The celebration capped a day of transition for the campaign, a seven-year effort that comes as Elon is developing a new strategic plan and will run through May 31, 2022. With the Elon LEADS planning and leadership phases now complete, the fundraising campaign has moved into its public phase, with $167 million already generated to support four campaign priorities.
The Elon LEADS Campaign will raise $140 million for student scholarships, $10 million to advance engaged learning on campus, $10 million to support faculty mentors and $90 million to enhance Elon’s iconic learning environment. The campaign launch event brought together 400 university leaders and supporters to highlight these campaign priorities and demonstrate the impact this historic and ambitious campaign will have on Elon’s students, faculty and staff. Read more about the campaign here.
“I love the name of our campaign — Elon LEADS,” Book said. “I love it because it embodies who we are as a learning community. We educate leaders who share their talents and their hearts with the world.”
The program offered a walk through Elon’s history, with an emphasis on when the institution, its students, its faculty and its staff stepped up to lead. Trustees, alumni and faculty highlighted critical points in Elon’s history when leadership propelled the university forward, with the program getting underway with an inspiring performance of the song “Rise Up” by Emily Trainor ’19.
As noted by Jean Rattigan-Rohr, vice president for access and success, Elon demonstrated leadership at its founding as a coeducational institution when such an approach to education was far from the norm. The university overcame a devastating 1923 fire and rebuilt, only to be battered by the Great Depression and to struggle through World War II, according to Don Grady, associate professor of communications and associate dean of the School of Communications. During the second half of the 20th century, leaders such as presidents Earl Danieley and Fred Young strengthened the quality of the education Elon delivered, the caliber of the faculty and the resources of the campus, explained Trustee Kerrii Anderson ’79.
President Leo M. Lambert built upon that momentum and guided Elon to a place of national prominence, Maity Interiano ’07 said. “Elon has always had the right leaders at the right time in its history,” Interiano said.
As Jim Piatt, vice president of university advancement, put it, “Those who came before us chose to build. They chose to rebuild. They chose to pursue excellence. They chose to lead.”
An alumni network that now numbers more than 30,000 is having an impact around the world, explained campaign co-chair Garrett Turner ’08, while parents like Ed Doherty, who chairs the board of trustees, and his wife, Joan, are making investments in the future of the university.
“There are many things we love about Elon,” Ed Doherty, whose daughter graduated in 2007, told the crowd. “At the top of that list are the people and the culture here. The faculty and staff who continually ask, ‘how can we be better? How can we continue to support students and continue being the best?’ One important way is by investing in this university and its incredible students. We all know why this is important — because the world needs more Elon graduates.”
With a central focus on building more support for student scholarships, Elon LEADS is a student-centered campaign, and Friday night, the crowd heard from two Elon seniors who have achieved much during their nearly four years at Elon, thanks to the Odyssey Program that supports high-achieving students who lack financial resources and are often the first in their families to attend college. Kenneth Brown Jr., who served this year as student body president, said the Odyssey Program opened up a wealth of opportunities to him. “I have learned there can be many solutions to a challenge, but in order to effect change, we have to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work,” Brown said. “It’s required of us as leaders, and I am up for the challenge.”
A native of Kosovo, Dora Muratovic immigrated to the U.S. when she was a toddler. Elon was her first choice, and an Odyssey Program scholarship paved the way for her to attend. Now preparing to begin a career at Goldman Sachs following graduation in May, the Odyssey Program scholar and Business Fellow said studying abroad and participating in internships — just a few of the Elon Experiences — have been life-changing. “These opportunities have improved my critical-thinking and analytical skills — skills I know employers are looking for,” Muratovic said. “They’ve also allowed me to build relationships with colleagues from around the world, and to stand out with employers.”
President Emeritus Lambert underscored the need for scholarships as Elon moves forward, as well as the mentoring relationships that support students once they arrive at Elon. “Scholarships are necessary for Elon to realize its full potential for excellence,” Lambert said.
Stefanie Meyers, a 2009 graduate, shared about one special mentoring relationship she developed during her time at Elon — with President Book, when Book was a faculty member in the School of Communications. “Dr. Book’s mentorship continues to influence my life,” Meyers said. “I have sought out similar mentorships throughout my career and I try to provide that same support to others because I know how it important it is and what it meant to me as a student and a professional.”
Chris Martin, a 1978 graduate and a trustee, as well as a parent of a 2013 graduate, said his family has seen value in supporting great facilities around campus, including the Martin Alumni Center and the Inn at Elon, now under construction. They are critical to the learning experience, said Martin, a campaign chair. “We like to say that learning happens everywhere at Elon, and the design of our facilities reflects those values.”
Along with looking back at Elon’s past and learning about what philanthropy has meant to the university and its students in the past, the event was also about looking to the future, as the public phase of the campaign begins in earnest. Trustee Dave Porter, the parent of a 2011 Elon graduate and an Elon senior, is leading the first year of the public phase of the campaign, and said it’s been a privilege to watch the university grow. “I support this place because I believe that education is vital to success,” Porter told the crowd. “We know there is something special about our graduates. They are ready to make an impact on day one.”
Following the presentation, members of the audience visited stations around the floor of Schar Center, learning more about each of the campaign’s four priorities, the needs they address and the impact they will have on students for years to come.
All members of the Elon community are invited to learn more about Elon LEADS, make a gift and follow the campaign’s progress on a newly launched website: www.ElonLEADS.com.