The naming effort began more than a year ago and was approved by the Board of Trustees in April. Ratliff, a native of Elon, served the university for more than three decades as a dedicated staff member and consistent mentor to students.
Elon University has renamed the Center for Leadership building for Janice Ratliff, a staff member and recipient of the Elon Medallion who served the university for 35 years.
The effort to rename the building for Ratliff began more than a year ago, and the Elon Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve the renaming in April. The announcement was to accompany a formal dedication of the building this summer. However, the dedication has been postponed until Spring 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A native of Elon, Ratliff joined the university in 1981 as administrative assistant in the Office of Cooperative Education. During her career at Elon, Ratliff worked in the Office of the Vice President and Dean of Students, the Office of Student Development, the Office of Auxiliary Services and finally, the Office of Student Health and Wellness. She retired from Elon in 2016.
The first Black Elon staff member to have a campus building named after her, Ratliff was a mentor to generations of Black students, scores of whom remain connected with her as alumni. This announcement comes during a time when the university is taking action to make Elon a place where Black students, staff and faculty not only matter but are valued, feel safe and are successful, with Ratliff’s years of dedicated work toward that end serving as a model.
“Janice Ratliff exemplifies service to the community and the deep impact that Elon staff members can have on the lives of our students,” said President Connie Ledoux Book. “For more than three decades, Janice provided exemplary leadership in her support of Elon students while breaking new ground for others who followed her.”
Ratliff played a vital role in the development and mentoring of students and as one of the first Black staff members to serve in the various roles she had on campus, she was a transformative presence for the university’s Black community. She was immersed in the life of the university, serving as adviser to the Black Cultural Society, which is now the Black Student Union, the Gospel Choir and Elon’s Finest. She served on the awards committee and faithfully attended the annual Phillips-Perry Black Excellence Awards Celebration.
“When Dr. Book called me to tell me about this honor, I was just speechless,” Ratliff said. “The magnitude of this honor is unbelievable, to say the least. I feel honored, humbled, appreciative and excited, all at the same time.”
Ratliff has been repeatedly recognized for her dedication to the university and for the impact she has had across the decades on the lives of countless students and colleagues. In 1999, she was awarded the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award and in 2006 was recognized as the Professional Hourly Staff Member of the Year. In 2010, she was honored by the Elon Black Alumni Network for her efforts to ensure the success of Black students. Elon’s student organizations recognized her many contributions to the university by naming two awards in her honor – the Black Student Union Janice Ratliff Community Service Award and the Student Government Association Janice J. Ratliff Award for Organization Volunteer of the Year.
For her service to Elon, she received the Elon Medallion in 2017, the university’s highest honor.
Aliana Harrison ‘08, president of the Elon Black Alumni Network, said that Ratliff “made Elon home” for so many Black students. There are many who when talking about their time at Elon quickly turn to the warm, welcoming care they received from Ratliff, whether it was through conversations in her office, her support for student groups or a meal in her home.
“To have a building on campus named for her is one way Elon can take a step to honoring the legacy of Janice Ratliff and so many others who went above and beyond during their tenure at Elon to support students, particularly Black students who didn’t initially have a supportive network here,” Harrison said. “Janice built that network for us and taught us the importance of embracing and supporting one another.”
Ratliff said when she started working at Elon, she was one of only a few Black staff members. “Back then, Black students didn’t have anywhere to be, anywhere to gather, and they would come up to our office,” Ratliff said. “I wanted to make sure they had a place to share about the experiences they were having or not having. The students needed us — they just needed a safe place to talk to someone they trusted, and that just evolved through the years.”
One of those students she met and influenced early in her career was Darryl Smith ’86, who went on to a successful 30-year career with UPS, retiring as a top sales executive. “When I first came to campus, she just adopted me like I was one of hers,” Smith said. “She was so supportive, and she wanted to make sure we had an opportunity, and that we could take advantage of that opportunity. Who I am today is because of people like her — people who put in the time for me, and who made sure I could be successful. She taught me to pay it forward, and that it’s better to give than to receive.”
Smith has been recognized multiple times by Elon, including receiving the Distinguished Service to Elon Award in 2015. “When I’ve come back to Elon to receive awards, she’d be right there sitting in the front row,” he said. She did her job all day, every day, all day long when it came to students, and when it came to me.”
Ratliff still receives Christmas cards, pictures and messages from alumni across the decades who she mentored and bonded with while they were students at Elon.
The Janice Ratliff Building is located adjacent to the Global Neighborhood and Loy Center, north of the Moseley Center. The facility opened in 2001 as the R.N. Ellington Center for Health and Wellness. With the Ellington Center’s relocation in 2013 to South Campus, the building became home to the Dean of Students Office and the Center for Leadership, which recently relocated to Moseley Center. The Office of Residence Life has moved to the Janice Ratliff Building, which also houses the Office of Student Care and Outreach and the Office of Student Conduct.