For President Connie Ledoux Book, playing table tennis at Moseley Center is a chance to share the game she loves while building relationships with members of the Elon community.
On a typical university campus, you might be surprised to walk into the student center to find the university president pounding a table tennis ball back and forth across the table with students.
But not at Elon, particularly if you know how passionate President Connie Ledoux Book is about the game. That’s what had her sporting an Elon Landscaping hoodie and taking on all challengers at a Moseley Center table on Friday afternoon.
“I don’t like to lose,” Book told first-year student Zack Mudd as the two traded forehands and backhands on the first floor of Moseley.
“It’s so cool that President Book can play ping pong with the students, and she’s actually really good at it,” Mudd said after a back-and-forth match with the president.
Mudd was one of several students to try his hand in a game of table tennis against Book that day. It was a chance for Elon’s top Phoenix to spend an hour in Moseley, getting to know Elon’s students while sharing a game she’s always loved.
“We had table tennis when I was growing up,” Book said. “We kept a table in our garage. There were five girls and four boys in our family, and the boys played table tennis, and I played with them.”
That tradition continued with her son, Joe. The two played table tennis together every night on a table that sat in the hallway of their home when it was too cold to play outside. Book says the games even continued whenever Joe came home from college. That time with her son helped her realize there was more to the game than backspin and smashes.
“I noticed with Joe, I would say ‘how was your day?’ And, he would usually have a one-word answer, but when we were playing table tennis, he would actually talk,” she said.
Those conversations are what led Book to try something new in her role as president of Elon. Once a month, Book is on the bottom floor of Moseley Center in search of students ready to play table tennis. Of course, there’s plenty of talk of scores and techniques around the table, but also discussions about what’s happening in each student’s life.
“I’m trying to keep in mind the college experience from their vantage point,” Book said. “You can get wrapped up in so many things, but at the end of the day, it’s all about that one student, the classes they’re taking or their major, what their dreams are, what they’re thinking about. It’s a way to have a conversation.”
Book’s list of opponents on a recent Friday included Adam Behrman, president of the newly formed Table Tennis Club, of which Book is an advisor. Behrman says he started the club a semester ago and is excited to see the game catching on at Elon, but he’s especially happy to see Book using it to connect with students.
“You don’t see this everywhere, and this kind of student engagement is really fantastic,” Behrman said. “The president of a university hears so many voices and opinions, so it’s a really good opportunity for every student to get involved. I think it’s fantastic.”
Before her hour of table tennis, Book hosted a two-mile Phoenix Walk with students, offering another opportunity to connect with the university’s president. The walk was a continuation of Book’s weekly Phoenix Walk, which she hosts Tuesdays at 7 a.m.
Whether it means taking a walk around campus or taking on table tennis challengers, Book says these moments with students are just as important as any of her other duties.
“It helps me hear, in their own words, the Elon Experience,” she said. “And that helps me carry that around in all the work I’m doing.”
President Book will once again welcome the Elon community to Moseley Center for table tennis on Dec. 6.