Alumni, parents and friends gathered at The Pavilion at the Angus Barn on Wednesday, Dec. 4, to celebrate the historic Elon LEADS fundraising campaign in their region.
A record number of alumni, parents and friends came together in Raleigh to celebrate the regional launch of Elon LEADS: Our University Campaign at The Pavilion at the Angus Barn. Adorned with holiday decorations, the venue provided a beautiful backdrop for the special evening.
The Angus Barn has deep roots in Elon’s history, as it was founded by the Eure family, including the late Thad Eure. Eure was an Elon trustee and coined the phrase “Long Live Elon!” which now stands as a charge to Elon graduates as they enter the ranks of alumni.
The Evening for Elon brought members of the Elon community together and encouraged attendees to find their role in the life-changing campaign, which calls for supporters to raise $250 million by May 31, 2022.
President Connie Ledoux Book welcomed the Raleigh crowd, sharing that donors have an impact on current and future students as their Elon education prepares them to be graduates the world needs. “We educate leaders who share their talents and their hearts with the world, and we know that leadership, vision, and hard work are critical ingredients in advancing change,” Book said.
Attendees also heard from two students who shared their own stories of how Elon donors have changed their lives, Joe Paturzo ’20 and Jada Graves ’20.
As the recipient of the Georgeo Scholarship in Elon’s Odyssey Program, Paturzo shared his dream of attending college despite the financial challenges his family faced.
“For me, attending a four-year university was more than a financial difficulty,” he said. “It was a huge obstacle, a hurdle that my family and I had no clue how we would get over.”
Paturzo spoke about his gratitude for the donors who have made his Elon education possible. During his time at Elon, Paturzo has explored his heritage in Florence, Italy, and worked with inspiring faculty mentors. He also completed an internship at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where he worked alongside world-renowned doctors and leaders in health care.
Following his graduation next May, Paturzo will rejoin his team at Johns Hopkins to continue their important work.
Jada Graves ’20 plays on the Elon women’s basketball team. During her first two years at Elon, the team won back-to-back CAA Championships and advanced to the NCAA tournament.
Following these successes, Graves suffered an injury that prevented her from stepping foot onto the court during her junior year. Graves overcame adversity and is captain of the team this year.
Graves spoke about an important mentor in her life, Coach Charlotte Smith. “Coach Smith not only coaches me but also mentors me and plays a mother role in my life,” Graves said. “She is genuine and loving. And she has molded me into becoming a leader.”
Graves notes that she is grateful for the scholarships that made her Elon education and experiences possible.
Elon Trustee Kebbler Williams ’98 shared why she chooses to partner with, advocate for and invest in Elon. “I could talk about how a stronger university ultimately makes my degree have more value,” Williams said. “I could talk about the wonderful life-changing experiences at Elon that a poor girl from a single-parent home in rural N.C. didn’t even know existed. I could talk about how my professors challenged me to be better than or bigger than.”
However, while these reasons have impacted Williams, she notes nine primary reasons she supports an Elon education: her three nephews, two nieces, two godsons, one goddaughter and her 15-month-old son. “I recognize that there are those who came before me who paved the way for me, and since there really is no way I can pay them back, I must be the example set for them and pay it forward,” Williams said.
Attendees also heard from Jim Piatt, vice president for university advancement, and enjoyed a moving performance by junior music theatre major Sidney Wilson ’21.
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 last of six special events across the country this fall celebrating the launch of Elon LEADS. Spring Evening for Elon events will be held in Baltimore (March 23) and Tampa (March 31). Additional dates and locations will be announced soon.
To date, donors have contributed $178 million toward the $250 million campaign goal.
Visit the Elon LEADS website to learn more about the campaign and how you can play a role in its success.