Elon’s 2020 faculty and staff retirees recognized

Elon University saw 21 faculty and staff members retire this academic year.

Elon University celebrates the contributions of 21 faculty and staff members who are retiring this year after serving the university in a wide variety of ways during their careers.

This summer, the university was fortunate to have five of these new retirees come back to campus to offer brief remarks featuring highlights from their illustrious careers at Elon.

Each retiree was offered an opportunity to share their thoughts about their time at Elon and their plans for retirement, with responses included below.

Larry Basirico, professor of sociology

Basirico retired on May 27, 2020, after joining the faculty at Elon in August 1983. He worked through the ranks of assistant professor of sociology to tenured associate professor to tenured full professor and now faculty emeritus of sociology. Basirico chaired the Department of Sociology for a total of 15 years and served as dean of international programs (now Global Education) for five years.

Basirico says his favorite Elon memory is initiating the university’s study abroad program in Florence, Italy, while he served as dean of International Programs. He also fondly remembers later serving as Elon’s faculty in residence in Florence in fall 2013.

Basirico is currently completing the seventh edition of an Introduction to Sociology textbook for BVT Publishers. He plans to continue to study Italian language, practice guitar, travel, do yard work, spend time with family, continue writing articles for the public, and play golf. He also has not ruled out the possibility of a return to creating stained glass windows, which he did professionally for seven years.

Basirico says he will miss teaching and the collegiality of his department as he concludes his time at Elon.

Lynne Bisko, outreach librarian and associate librarian

Bisko retired from Elon in May 2020 after joining the staff in June 2003. After working for 20 years in software project management, Bisko earned a Master of Library Science and wanted to work in North Carolina to be closer to family. Bisko said Elon was a “perfect fit” because it allowed her to use both her previous work experience and newly minted M.L.S. knowledge.

Bisko began as the non-print librarian, cataloging audiovisual materials for Belk Library’s collection. She also provided instruction and research support to the Art, Art History, Music, and Performing Arts departments as their library liaison. In 2012 Bisko moved into a new position as the outreach librarian, responsible for the design, implementation, marketing and assessment of programs to promote library resources and services. Bisko also managed the library’s social media, coordinated the library’s presence and participation in campus events and led the Personal Librarian Program, which launched in 2011.

On her favorite memory, Bisko says, “I have way too many favorite memories to pick just one, so I will share that what I will miss most is the people I have met through all the experiences I’ve had at Elon, including my library colleagues, students and faculty in my library liaison departments, students in my Elon 101 classes, and the Elon in NYC faculty. I am extremely grateful for all of the opportunities I have had to collaborate with so many fantastic people at Elon.”

Bisko plans to stay in Elon, spend time with family and friends, travel and attend as many cultural and sporting events on campus as possible.

Jim Bissett, professor of history

Bissett retired from Elon in May 2020 after joining the faculty in 1990. Fresh out of graduate school, a full-time teaching position at Elon appealed to Bissett because of the university’s proximity to Asheville, where he and his wife grew up and where they have family.

Bissett served as teaching faculty for his entire 30-year career. During that time, he also served as chair of the Department of History and Geography, chair of Academic Council and president of Elon’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors.

Bissett has many fond memories from his time at Elon but says, “among the most memorable are receiving the Daniels-Danieley Award for Excellence in Teaching and leading the U.S. History Study Tour, a Winter Term travel course for the Teaching Fellows Program, more than 20 times. I was fortunate to work in a very collegial department, and I will miss my departmental friends and colleagues.”

In retirement, Bissett says “I will relish the opportunity to begin reading books that I never seemed to have time to read while I was teaching.”

Jim Donathan, associate director of academic advising and director of academic support

Donathan retired on May 29, 2020, after coming to Elon in the fall of 1994 to specifically work with Lela Faye Rich, former associate dean of academic support, after meeting her at a national conference. After seeing her in several break-out sessions and noticing the questions she asked, Donathan recalled “I said to myself, ‘I want to work with her someday.’ Fortunately, I got that opportunity and have been at Elon ever since.”

In his time at Elon, Donathan served as associate director of academic advising, director of academic support and assistant professor.

Donathan says he will miss working with members of Kappa Alpha Order, the fraternity he joined as an undergraduate and has been associated with ever since. Donathan said he has seen the unsung contributions that fraternity and sorority members routinely make to campus, and wants to see these organizations continue to play a role in campus life.

On his plans for retirement, Donathan says, “I love and miss living in the mountains of North Carolina and have considered moving to Asheville.”

Judy Dulberg, MBA program manager

Dulberg retired from Elon in December 2019 after working for 17 years at the university. The daughter of an elementary school teacher and business manager at Penn State University, Dulberg said working in education always seemed like the natural path for her. She decided to apply to work at Elon after moving to Burlington and seeing an ad for the opening of Elon’s School of Business.

Dulberg was originally hired as a part-time program assistant in the School of Business. Within a year she became a full-time program assistant and later began working strictly with the MBA program – first as program coordinator, then MBA program manager.

Dulberg says what she will miss most are the students. “During my 17 years at Elon, my life has been truly enriched by all the students I’ve gotten to know; I know I’m a better person for it … My home is filled with photos from study abroads I went on with them, as well as other mementos from over the years, and I still stay in touch with quite a few. It was the absolute perfect job for me!”

Dulberg moved to Tucson, Arizona, following retirement. She’s excited to take in the sunshine, dry climate, mountains, wide-open spaces and outdoor lifestyle year-round. She looks forward to recharging with some of her favorite activities, volunteering in her community and exploring her new home state.

Martin Latta, mail clerk

Latta joined the Elon staff on Labor Day in 1999. He retired in May 2020 as a mail clerk at the university.

Latta says he will miss interacting with the Elon community the most.

When asked about his future plans for retirement, Latta simply wrote, “Take it Eassssssy.”



Dale Lunsford, assistant to the dean and associate deans at the Elon University School of Law

Lunsford retired in May 2020 after joining the Elon staff in June 2009 after her supervisor at Jefferson Pilot Financial, where she worked as a marketing director, alerted her to an open position at Elon Law. Lunsford says she immediately knew Elon was a perfect fit. “I was in love with the job, staff and students from day one,” she said.

Lunsford served the School of Law as assistant to the dean from 2009-2015 and assistant to the dean and associate dean from 2015-2020.

Lunsford says her favorite memory was the honor of meeting and helping host former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Sandra Day O’Connor when she returned to the School of Law for a distinguished leadership lecture.

As for her future plans, Lunsford says, “To slow down and relax. To spend more time with family and friends. To cook meals for them again. To enjoy life. To not sweat the small stuff. To read more. To move to Raleigh to be closer to my daughter, son-in-law and two precious grandchildren, Lucy and Ian. To be able to pick them up after school every day and have more weekend sleepovers. To volunteer to hold the babies in the hospital maternity and neonatal units. To enjoy really living again. Retirement is such a blessing.”

Linda Martindale, program assistant, World Languages and Cultures

Martindale retired in May 2020 after first becoming a program assistant at Elon in January 1990. Martindale began her journey as a student at Elon in 1979, when she enrolled as a non-traditional student and worked toward a degree in office administration for eight years.

In her time at Elon, Martindale served as program assistant for a variety of departments. She also served the Academic Council, Provost’s Office and Phi Kappa Phi honor society. She retired as program assistant for World Languages and Cultures.

Martindale says she will miss the students, faculty and community she was part of at Elon. “Elon’s faculty and staff are special,” she said. “In knowing them, your world grows and is enhanced by views and ideas.”

Becky Olive-Taylor, executive director of the Koenigsberger Learning Center, director of academic advising and assistant professor of English

Olive-Taylor retired from Elon in June 2020 after 42 years of distinguished service to the university. Olive-Taylor joined the Elon staff as a part-time instructor in English in the summer of 1978.

In the early 1990s, as director of Elon 101 and assistant director of academic advising, she was instrumental in leading an initiative to move Elon 101 to a curriculum emphasizing advising and academic planning. Olive-Taylor became the associate dean for academic advising, assuming leadership for disabilities resources and peer tutoring. Olive-Taylor has been a tireless champion for Elon students to ensure they receive the support and advising necessary to be successful. In her time as a leader, she greatly enhanced services and staff for disabilities and brought the peer tutoring program to a place that allowed for the recent transition to a CRLA-certified learning assistance program.

Most recently, Olive-Taylor became the founding executive director of the Koenigsberger Learning Center, which incorporates academic advising, disabilities resources and learning assistance while continuing to serve as director of academic advising. Olive-Taylor’s work and advocacy for Elon students was instrumental in securing the gift to establish and endow the Koenigsberger Learning Center. She recently received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award and was inducted into Phi Kappa Phi, both recognitions of her character and deep commitment to Elon’s educational mission.

Olive-Taylor says she will miss her colleagues and Elon students and hopes to reinvent herself in creative ways in her retirement.

Paul Parsons, professor of journalism

Parsons retired from Elon in May 2020 after coming to Elon in 2001 as the founding dean of the School of Communications. He served as dean until 2018, concluding his career as a professor of journalism.

Parsons says he was thrilled to receive the invitation to come to Elon in 2001 because it felt like a perfect fit from the moment he stepped on campus.

On what he’ll remember most about his time at Elon, Parsons said, ”My 19 years at Elon began and ended in national traumas. Just a few weeks after coming to Elon, 9/11 happened, and I saw how faculty and staff supported our students and each other in this time of crisis. Then in my final weeks at Elon, the pandemic required us to suddenly convert to online classes, and again the university rose to the occasion. Between these trauma bookmarks, Elon has been on an astonishing upward trajectory, and the success of our students has been a delight to watch.”

In retirement, Parsons says he would love to travel and looks forward to doing that once again after the pandemic subsides. He also plans to remain active in the national accreditation process in communications.

Jean Schwind, professor of English and chair of the Department of English

Schwind retired from Elon as professor of English and chair of the Department of English in July 2020. Schwind joined the Elon faculty in 1990 and since then had served as an assistant, associate and full professor in the Department of English.

Schwind also served as chair of three standing committees of the faculty, including Academic Council, the UCC and General Studies Council (now the Core Curriculum Committee). She was the principal investigator and director of two NEH grant projects in the 1990s that helped launch the Core capstone seminars. These projects involved more than 50 faculty members and focused on interdisciplinary curriculum development. Schwind was also a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Planning Committee and served as the first vice president once Elon’s chapter was established in 2010.

On what she will miss most about working at Elon, Schwind said, “I’m passionate about reading for the access it gives to the ideas and experiences of others and about writing for the way it enables self-understanding. I will deeply miss sharing these passions with students. When I read great books like Colson Whitehead’s “The Nickel Boys” or Louise Erdrich’s “The Night Watchman,” my first reaction is: ‘I can’t wait to teach this!’”

In retirement, Schwind will continue working on a book about high school in American fiction and film. She is also excited to spend more time with her father and siblings in Minnesota.

Nagatha Tonkins, director of internships and assistant professor of journalism

Tonkins retired in January 2020 after coming to Elon to lead an internship program in the School of Communications in 2008. Tonkins says she was impressed with the staff, faculty and students at Elon and was eager to be a part of the community.

Tonkins, who first served as director of internships and external relations and later became director of internships and alumni relations for the School of Communications, says Elon offered wonderful professional opportunities. “The opportunity to grow, learn and teach at Elon was exhilarating.”

As she retires from Elon, Tonkins says, “I will miss my amazing colleagues, Don Grady’s wit and insight, the Elon family, alumni and students.  I’ll also miss College Coffee, Numen Lumen and the enthusiasm for teaching and learning. It’s been an amazing journey filled with many good memories, but the highlight of my Elon  career will always be those lightbulb moments when students realized that an internship was attainable and the excitement when they actually received an offer.”

Her future plans include traveling and finding “the world’s most beautiful island,” taking Elon courses and using her communications skills to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Debby Wall, director of internships

Wall retired in December 2019 after joining the Elon staff in April 1986. In search of a career change after working many years in the textile industry, Wall responded to an ad in the local newspaper for a secretarial position in Elon’s Career Service office, which is now called the Student Professional Development Center. Wall was later promoted to student employment assistant, and assistant director for employer relations and experiential education, before retiring as director of internships.

Wall says she will miss career advising, reading students’ internship papers and hearing about their work challenges and successes. She says it was a pleasure to be part of a team of colleagues who championed students throughout their college careers and beyond.

“Elon is very dear to me,” Wall said. “I met my future husband on my first day of work, and we got married at Elon. I have made life-long friendships with employees, coworkers and alumni, and I’ve brought all of these relationships with me into retirement.”

In retirement, Wall is spending more time with her husband, family and friends, and reading lots of books.

Nancy Ward, administrator of Colleague for financial aid

Nancy Ward retired from Elon in December 2019 after joining the staff on Oct. 2, 1991. Ward applied at Elon after running a home daycare for the children of school teachers. She began her Elon career in a nine-month position in the Office of Admissions records room and transitioned to a full-time split position between Admissions and Financial Aid before transitioning to a full-time role in Financial Aid.

On some of her favorite Elon memories, Ward said, “Elon is known for its caring community and that is what I value the most. I am thankful for trips to both London and Costa Rica, which were made possible through Elon.”

In retirement, Ward is looking forward to spending more time with family, visiting relatives across the country, working on projects around the house, traveling and having a more flexible schedule.

Janet Warman, professor of English and education

Warman has officially retired from Elon after joining the university as the secondary English teacher licensure coordinator in the Department of English in 1990. Warman came to Elon excited about the opportunity to teach at an institution where faculty worked closely with students, and she says she felt an instant connection with the university.

Since coming to Elon 30 years ago, Warman served in a number of positions including professor of English and education, associate director and director of the Teaching Fellows Program, director of general studies, and associate chair of the Department of English. Warman also received the Daniels-Danieley Award for Excellence in Teaching and served as President of the North Carolina English Teachers’ Association.

Her favorite Elon memories include spending semesters in London and Florence, Italy, with Elon students. She says she will most miss “seeing students transformed by texts and experiences and working with colleagues from across the campus.”

In retirement, Warman plans to write and publish poetry, read piles of books, and travel nationally and internationally.
Also retiring this year are:

Brenda Hudson, human resources benefits specialist

Bobby Slade, floor maintenance technician

James Stovall, manager of building maintenance

Brenda Summers, custodian

Kathryn Whitt, faculty mail clerk

Also retiring is Amanda Johnson, coordinator of the workers’ compensation program.