Estate gift endows 12 Business Fellows scholarships

The late Beth Powell, an entrepreneur and world traveler, has created a legacy that will help women studying business at the university. Her estate gift to the Elon LEADS Campaign creates 12 Business Fellows scholarships and a Global Studies Scholarship.

The late Beth Powell of Burlington, North Carolina, was a world traveler, an entrepreneur, community leader and a champion for women in business. Now proceeds from her estate gift to Elon University will leave a legacy that touches upon all those lifelong interests through the Dr. Beth Powell Business Fellows Scholarship and the Dr. Beth Powell Global Studies Scholarship.

In providing for Elon through her estate, Powell, who died in 2017, leaves behind a legacy of endowed scholarships that will support Elon students in perpetuity.

“Estate commitments like Beth’s are a meaningful way for a donor to make a lasting impact on the life of the university,” said Jim Piatt, vice president for university advancement. “The opportunities created from Beth’s generosity will change the lives of the recipients of these scholarships. Because they are endowed, they will impact every generation of Elon student to come. Elon is honored to be the steward of this legacy.”

The gift will ultimately provide for 12 Dr. Beth Powell Business Fellows Scholarships. The first six recipients were awarded for new students this fall, and more scholarships will be awarded next year. The Dr. Beth Powell Global Studies Scholarship will be awarded for the first time in the coming year.

Beth Powell founded Omni Resources, an international map supplier in 1982. She served on Elon’s Martha and Spencer Love School of Business Advisory Board from 1987 to 2010 and was the chair from 1990 to 2003. She visited 65 countries in her lifetime for business and pleasure. Many of her business ventures took her to places like Syria, Algeria, Morocco and Cuba, said Russell Guy, her former husband and business partner.

Guy said the Business Fellows program represents two of Powell’s largest interests: international business and world travel. The Powell Business Fellows Scholarship is a merit-based scholarship that combines academic rigor with real-world experience in global environments. As part of their experience, Fellows study abroad in their sophomore and junior years, sometimes combined with internships or other networking opportunities. The first preference for those receiving the Dr. Beth Powell Business Fellows Scholarship are women who want to major in business.

“She thought women in business are underrepresented, underappreciated and underfunded,” Guy said. “Travel was a big part of her admiration for Elon. She thought highly of the study abroad programs. She thought Elon’s program was much better than programs at other universities.”

Endowed scholarships are a top priority of the Elon LEADS campaign. Gifts from donors who place Elon in their wills count toward the campaign’s $250 million goal.

The Business Fellows Program: A Hallmark of Excellence

Tina Das, the Lincoln Financial Professor and professor of economics at Elon, is director of the Business Fellows program, which attracts high-achieving students looking for the kind of engagement and academic challenges that a cohort-based curriculum presents. Competition to be selected for the program is keen. Das said around 470 potential students apply annually. That list is trimmed to 190 who are then invited to take part in Fellows Weekend, where interviews and special engagement sessions are conducted. Approximately 30 are chosen to be part of an incoming Business Fellows class.

“It’s a four-year developmental program. We choose the best of the best from high school. They follow a structured path so they emerge as leaders when they finish the program,” Das said. “The program creates leadership opportunities for them, it allows them to grow as they go through the different cohort classes. They learn together as they progress into more rigorous classes. At the same time, they study abroad together. They have the opportunity to network with professionals in New York and other locations. It leads to internship opportunities and greater job placement.”

Das said study abroad and cohesiveness within the cohort are important factors in attracting students to Business Fellows. Students within the cohort take classes together through their junior year and usually study together. They study abroad as a group during Winter Term their sophomore year and for a full semester their junior year. It’s a dynamic atmosphere that fosters teamwork but also sparks competition and achievement.

“I think the togetherness of the students in the cohort and the fact of being in the cohort separates them from the crowd is what attracts them. They students are very, very close,” Das said.

Kai Bilotta ‘24, of Albuquerque, New Mexico is among the first six Dr. Beth Powell Business Fellows Scholars. Being awarded the scholarship was the deciding factor in Bilotta’s decision to enroll at Elon.

“The amount of depth and professional development which is added to the already outstanding Elon curriculum by the Business Fellows program was important to my decision, and the scholarship which accompanies the program allowed me to choose to attend Elon without any concern about potentially needing to take out loans to finish my education,” Bilotta said.

A Passionate World Traveler

Guy said the Business Fellows concept appealed to Powell’s interests in business, academics, community engagement, adventure and travel. Powell grew up in Burlington, North Carolina and graduated from Walter Williams High School. She earned a degree in biology at Wellesley College in Massachusetts and a doctorate in paleontology at Oxford University in England. She worked as an assistant curator at the National History Museum in Basel, Switzerland and taught geology at Rutgers University in New Jersey before returning to Burlington to start Omni Resources.

Along with her service on the Love School of Business Advisory Board, Powell was on the boards of the Duke Lemur Center, the Greensboro Science Center and the North Carolina World Trade Association. A member of the Rotary Club of Alamance, she was instrumental in organizing Rotary dental and medical mission trips to the Dominican Republic. She was also a co-founder of the Burlington-Alamance Sister Cities chapter of Sister Cities International.

Her previous philanthropic support for Elon includes gifts to support Elon’s Greatest Needs, including scholarships, the Love School of Business, the Ernest A. Koury Sr. Business Center and the Frank S. Holt Professorship in the Love School.

“Beth loved traveling. She loved interacting with people in their own culture and trying to communicate in their language,” Guy said. “She believed people needed to travel more, to experience the world and meet people one on one. She thought that travel made a person look beyond the stereotype.”

The gift continues a long history of the Powell family’s engagement and generous philanthropy at Elon. Beth Powell’s late father, Thomas Powell Jr., graduated from Elon in 1919 and served as a biology professor. He founded Carolina Biological Supply Co.

About the Elon LEADS Campaign

With a $250 million goal, Elon LEADS is the largest fundraising campaign in the university’s history and will support four main funding priorities: scholarships for graduates the world needs, increase access to engaged learning opportunities such as study abroad, research and service learning, support for faculty and staff mentors who matter and Elon’s iconic campus. To date, donors have contributed $196 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