Generous gift from Steven and Pat House establishes new award to honor student mentoring

The gift from Elon Executive Vice President Steven House and his wife, Patricia House, will support excellence in undergraduate mentoring, a hallmark of an Elon education. The couple’s gift is counted as part of the Elon LEADS Campaign.

Elon Executive Vice President Steven House and his wife, Patricia House, have been dedicated donors to the university.

Elon Executive Vice President Steven House and his wife, Patricia House, have made a generous gift to endow an award that will celebrate excellence in student mentoring — one of the markers of quality that has fueled Elon’s reputation as the national leader in engaged, experiential learning.

The couple’s estate gift will create an endowment that in the future will fund the Steven and Patricia House Excellence in Mentoring Award. The couple plan to make annual gifts to fund the award immediately, allowing it to be presented at the Faculty and Staff Awards luncheon on Wednesday, May 13. The award will be presented along with the Daniels-Danieley Award for Excellence in Teaching, Distinguished Scholar Award and Periclean Award for Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility.

The House Excellence in Mentoring Award will be presented to a faculty or staff member who embodies a sustained commitment to outstanding student mentoring. The award replaces the previous Ward Family Excellence in Mentoring Award.

The idea for a mentoring award originated with Steven House in 2007. The decision by Steven and Pat House to provide a generous endowment to fund the award ensures it will continue in perpetuity.

President Connie Ledoux Book praised Steven and Pat for their steadfast dedication to Elon and for being champions of student mentoring.

“The Elon community is grateful to Steven and Pat House for their generous commitment to excellence in mentoring, which is vital to our work with students,” Book said. “The House Award will further strengthen the relationship-rich education that our faculty and staff provide each day.”

Celebrating life-changing mentoring

The Houses said they are honored to continue the tradition of celebrating high-impact mentoring at Elon by establishing a permanent funding source for the award.

“I’m a passionate believer in the idea that at Elon we have 1,500 faculty and staff who serve as mentors, advisors and guides to our students,” Steven House said. “Pat and I believe that the true disruptive innovation in higher education is a commitment to relationships in which each student has a faculty or staff member who demonstrates how much they care about the student, encourages the student and gets the student excited about learning, and that’s what Elon does so well.”

Pat House worked in higher education administration for 25 years, including serving as director of donor relations at Elon from 2001 to 2005. Currently she serves as executive vice president of client and consultant development at Graham-Pelton Consulting.

“During my career in higher education, I was always rejuvenated by the tremendous potential that every student possessed for going out in the world and making it a better place,” Pat said. “I also witnessed how the staff that students encountered, including those in financial aid, career services, campus ministry, athletics and so many others, often offered guidance and support that was as impactful as that provided in a classroom. To have the opportunity to help shape a student’s potential is an honor and tremendously fulfilling.”

Steven House recalled how fortunate he’s been to have mentors in his life who have guided his professional path. One of those mentors was the late Gordon Van Harn, a longtime professor of biology at Calvin University, where House earned his undergraduate degree. House had planned to pursue medical school and become a doctor. Then he took a course with Van Harn, and his plans changed.

“I wanted to be just like him, get my Ph.D. in cardiovascular physiology and go back to a school like Calvin and teach,” House recalls. “Van Harn was a teacher and later became a dean and provost, and that’s exactly what I did in my career.”

House found that same commitment to teaching and mentoring at Elon, where he had a powerful mentor in Gerry Francis, professor emeritus of mathematics and provost emeritus who retired in 2015 after 41 years of service to Elon.

Committed Elon champions

“Elon’s reputation for engaged learning drew Pat and me here, and we have been loyal advocates ever since,” Steven House said. “We love the mission statement, the people here and the teacher-scholar-mentor model that we embrace at Elon. We really are changing higher education for the better. It feels gratifying.”

“This gift is a testimony to the roles mentors have played in our lives,” Pat House said. “We truly believe our life decisions and journeys have been influenced by the examples and support of others.”

She added that her career in education and consulting has affirmed her belief in Elon.

“I knew Elon was something special as a former employee here, but seeing Elon in the light of other institutions I work with now has only strengthened this belief,” she said. “And how rewarding it is for me to see graduates invite Steven to their medical school commencements or contact me as successful professionals seeking guidance in their journeys and watch them reach heights they may never have imagined possible. It is our privilege to share our resources to help ensure that Elon’s transformative influence continues for generations to come.”

Steven House has been one of the chief architects of Elon’s development as a national institution. He joined the university in 2001 as founding dean of Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences, providing leadership for 17 academic departments and 19 academic programs, and overseeing significant increases in the faculty ranks, as well as the student body.

House, who also serves as professor of biology, helped develop the Elon College Fellows Program, collaborated with the Division of Student Life to expand Elon’s living-learning communities, and led a team that brought a Phi Beta Kappa chapter to Elon in 2010. He was promoted to provost and vice president for academic affairs in 2009 and oversaw growth across Elon’s campus, including creation of the School of Health Sciences and the M.S. in Physician Assistant Studies program. He was promoted to provost and executive vice president in 2015 and named executive vice president in September 2019.

In addition to funding the mentoring award, the Houses’ gift will support student scholarships, the Elon School of Law Annual Fund and Phoenix Club. The couple are among Elon’s most loyal donors, making gifts to support these priorities along with the House-Schaeffer Faculty Summer Fellowship Fund and the Elon Academy college access and success program for Alamance County high school students.

The Steven and Patricia House Excellence in Mentoring Award

Recipients of the House Mentoring Award will receive a $3,500 cash prize plus a $3,500 award to support their work mentoring students. Recipients must be full-time employees with a minimum of five years of service to the university. The award will be presented annually to a faculty or staff member who:

  • Serves as a mentor, advisor or role model for undergraduate students
  • Demonstrates a sustained commitment to the intellectual and holistic development of students
  • Facilitates invaluable learning experiences outside a classroom setting
  • Provides information and opportunities that help students achieve their academic or career goals
  • Monitors student progress toward achieving their academic and professional goals and provides constructive feedback
  • Encourages students to pursue meaningful academic internships, fellowships and post-graduate opportunities
  • Advises student programs, projects, and clubs or organizations

About the Elon LEADS Campaign

The gift from Steven and Pat House supports the $250 million Elon LEADS Campaign. Increasing resources for faculty and staff mentors who matter is one of the campaign’s top funding priorities. The other priorities include scholarships for graduates the world needs, increasing access to engaged learning opportunities such as study abroad, internships or research, and support for Elon’s iconic campus.

To date, donors have contributed $182 million toward the goal. Every gift to the university—including annual, endowment, capital, estate and other planned gifts—for any designation counts as a gift to the campaign, which will support students and strengthen Elon for generations to come. To learn more about how you can make an impact, visit