Alumni, parents and friends celebrate the launch of the Elon LEADS Campaign in Washington, D.C.

A record crowd gathered at the Newseum on Wednesday, Sept. 18, to kick off Elon’s historic fundraising campaign in their city.

The strength of the Elon network in the nation’s capital was on full display on Wednesday, Sept. 18, as a record crowd of more than 550 alumni, parents and friends filled the Newseum for a special Evening for Elon.

The event served as the launch of the Elon LEADS Campaign in Washington, D.C., with attendees gathering to learn more about how they can impact countless lives by participating in the historic fundraising campaign.

Elon LEADS is a seven-year campaign that has completed its planning and leadership phases and moved into its public phase in spring 2019, with supporters setting their sights on raising $250 million by May 31, 2022. That includes $140 million for student scholarships, $10 million to increase access to engaged learning programs called the Elon Experiences, $10 million to support faculty and staff mentors and $90 million to enhance Elon’s iconic learning environment.

“Now is the time to write the next chapter in our unending story,” President Connie Ledoux Book told the crowd. “I love the name of our campaign, Elon LEADS, because it embodies who we are as a learning community. We educate leaders who share their talents and their hearts with the world, and we know that leadership, vision, and hard work are the critical ingredients in advancing change. Every day we see evidence that the world needs more of what Elon has to offer.”

“Now is the time to write the next chapter in our unending story.”

President Connie Ledoux Book

Book shared that there are thousands of stories about the successes Elon students and alumni are experiencing every day. She noted that Washington, D.C., is an important strategic market for Elon, stating that the city is “among the top three destinations for our students once they graduate. So many of our graduates come here to launch successful careers in the political arena, the nonprofit sector, media and business.”

She also shared with the crowd an update about the university’s most recent rankings from U.S. News & World Report, which included Elon’s debut in the report’s national university category.

“We are so proud that Elon is now ranked among the top 100 universities in the nation,” Book said. “Coming in at #84, Elon is listed in that category with other prestigious institutions like Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, Duke and Johns Hopkins. The ranking I was most proud of was Elon’s #2 ranking for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, with only Princeton University ahead of us.”

The event showcased a few of the many examples of how Elon has been changing lives for 130 years, as well as the talent of Elon music theatre alumnus Tres McMichael ’19, who opened the evening with a moving performance of “Rise Up” by Andra Day.

“Each of us can play a role in the success of Elon LEADS and take pride in knowing we are moving Elon forward together,” James B. Piatt, Jr., vice president for university advancement, told the crowd. “We are so proud that alumni in D.C. are helping to lead the way.”

Piatt noted that more than 30 percent of alumni in D.C. make annual gifts to Elon. Piatt then challenged the alumni community in D.C. to reach 50 percent giving participation during the campaign.

“Imagine the impact you will have on our future by reaching that goal,” he said.

The top priority of Elon LEADS is increasing funding for student scholarships that will broaden access to an Elon education for many outstanding students. Rich Johnson ’87 P’17, co-chair of the Washington, D.C., Regional Campaign Committee, shared how proud he is to be an Elon alumnus and parent.

Johnson and his wife, Laurie, have chosen to support the campaign and change the lives of current and future Elon students by establishing a scholarship and supporting new facilities, including The Inn at Elon and Schar Center, the university’s new convocation center.

A record number of alumni, parents and friends attended the Elon LEADS alumni event at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., Sept. 19, 2019. (photo by Allison Shelley)

The family’s desire to support Elon students was inspired by the experiences and opportunities both Rich and his daughter, Grace Johnson ’17, encountered as Elon students. “Our daughter Grace studied in Hawaii, Ireland and Australia, and it was a life-changing experience for her,” Johnson said. “It makes me proud to know that we share a special bond as Elon graduates.”

The second priority of the campaign is a focus on increasing access to Elon’s nationally recognized engaged learning programs — study abroad, internships, service, leadership and undergraduate research. These programs, called the Elon Experiences, greatly impact Elon students.

Many Elon students participate in multiple Elon Experiences, as was the case with Kelsea Johnson ’17, who also spoke at the event. As a senator and later senior class president in the Student Government Association, Johnson wrote, voted on and implemented legislation and change on Elon’s campus. She said those experiences have helped her in her current role as an account manager at a political consulting firm in Washington.

Johnson also participated in a service trip to Nicaragua and spent a semester studying abroad in Seville, Spain. During her remarks, Johnson discussed her childhood dream of visiting Iowa during the presidential caucuses. When she participated in a Study USA program titled “The Trail Starts Here: The Iowa Caucuses” during her junior year, this dream became a reality.

“This profound experience — literally a dream come true — and my other favorite Elon moments were made possible because of Elon’s dedicated faculty and staff, an institutional commitment to engaged learning, personal curiosity, and last but certainly not least, generous donors,” she said.

The third priority of the campaign is supporting Elon’s mentors who matter. Elon parent and co-chair of the Washington, D.C., Regional Campaign Committee Steve Anderson P’16 spoke about his son Brandon Anderson ‘16 and the faculty mentors that made a difference during his time at Elon.

“Elon had a huge impact on my son’s life,” Anderson stated. “He flourished at Elon and received a terrific education in the Love School of Business with some terrific faculty mentors.”

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The final priority of the campaign is investing in Elon’s iconic learning environment, which is regularly recognized by The Princeton Review and others as one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation.

Prior to the event, campaign donors and volunteers attended a pre-reception with President Book and others. The evening concluded with a Loyal Alumni Celebration honoring current alumni donors and the university’s most active alumni volunteers.

This Evening for Elon was the second of six special events across the country this fall celebrating the launch of Elon LEADS. Upcoming Evening for Elon events will be held in Boston (Oct. 2), Charlotte (Oct. 17), San Francisco (Nov. 12) and Raleigh (Dec. 4).