The Elon LEADS Campaign made stops in five cities this fall, bringing together alumni, parents and friends across the nation to hear about the profound impact donors to the campaign have made on Elon students and the future of the university.
Elon LEADS is the most ambitious fundraising campaign in Elon University’s history and supports four main priorities — scholarships to support graduates the world needs, increased access to engaged learning opportunities such as study abroad, research and internships, support for faculty and staff mentors who matter, and development of Elon’s iconic campus.
This fall, Elon LEADS events were held in Atlanta, New York, Boston, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. and saw over 1,200 attendees in total, renewing ties with Elon constituents across the nation and bringing a piece of Elon to them.
“This campaign has taught us that we can never let our attention wander from the
importance of scholarships and financial aid for students,” President Connie Ledoux Book said.
The fall 2022 Elon LEADS Campaign events kicked off with the first event in Atlanta, Georgia on Sept. 7 at the historic Fox Theatre. Elon LEADS co-chair Christian Wiggins ’03 gave the opening remarks, starting off with encouragement to his fellow alumni to make a difference and step up by joining other donors in giving to the campaign. The importance of scholarships and student aid was a common theme throughout the night.
Cedric Pulliam ’12 also took the stage, detailing how scholarships and fellowships led to real-world experience for him, in the form of internships that shaped the course of his career and life.
“The Periclean Scholars program debuted me into the global public health space that I currently work in,” said Pulliam, who has worked in public health for over a decade. His career comprises many leadership roles, including stints at the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services as the senior advisor for the chief medical officer for the Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy and at the CDC in Atlanta as a senior public health advisor in the Division of HIV Prevention. Pulliam shared how he is an example of how gifts from donors assist students and make an impact, because it was his scholarships that allowed him to gain the practical experience he needed for his future.
President Book followed and continued to hone in on the impact of supporting students by urging attendees in their philanthropy. “Make Elon and Elon LEADS one of your priorities. After all, we are funding dreams in this campaign,” Book said.
New York City
The next event followed just on the heels of Atlanta, on Sept. 15 at The Glasshouse in New York City. Ava Rosen ’23 spoke about student impact, and how important funding is for students in need. She discussed how the Inman Family Scholarship in the Odyssey Program and the Business Fellows scholarship gave her the opportunity to pursue her dreams and avoid significant debt following the emotional and financial hardships that her family saw after losing her father to cancer when she was only 13. The funding she received made college affordable for her and made her dreams attainable.
The highlight of the event was a special tribute to Ed and Joan Doherty P’07, who have been inspirational agents of change in their service to Elon. One of their visions was to create a vibrant alumni network in the New York area, which they have helped accomplish by sponsoring yearly Evenings for Elon gatherings at iconic venues across the city for more than a decade. The Dohertys were also instrumental to the Elon LEADS Campaign, serving as chairs of the Campaign Planning Committee from 2014-2016. In recognition of their generous support of Elon, President Book presented Ed and Joan Doherty with the Elon Medallion, the university’s highest honor recognizing exemplary service to the institution.
Closing out the night was a performance of the song “I’ll Be There” by Sidney Wilson ’21, who currently stars in the hit Broadway musical “The Lion King.” President Book emphasized that alumni like Wilson help make Elon one of the top 10 music theatre programs in the nation.
The next fall event was held in Boston on Oct. 12 at Fairmont Copley Plaza. Campaign co-chair Priscilla Awkard ’95 opened the night with a focus on Elon’s recent national rankings and recognition.
“Elon’s rise to the national stage is one of the most remarkable stories in higher education, and the generosity of our community has played a pivotal role in that continued rise,” Awkard said.
President Book also focused on these rankings, and said, “As we saw reinforced last month by the latest U.S. News rankings, Elon’s standing as a top-100 national university means that we increasingly compete in an admissions market with schools with much larger endowment resources. Together, by keeping our focus on student support, we can ensure that Elon has the resources it needs to recruit the finest community of students year in and year out.”
Another major focus of the night was internships and real-world experience students receive through the generous funding of donors. President Book explained that close to 90% of Elon students participate in an internship while in school and that around half of those lead to employment in prominent companies, including many in Boston such as Baystate Financial, Bank of America and more.
Speakers throughout the night focused on the importance of this practical experience. President Book noted that nearly half of internships are unpaid, which is a major barrier for students with limited funds. She then encouraged attendees that this was why funding was so important in providing those opportunities for students, one of the major goals of the campaign.
The next stop of the campaign was Los Angeles, with an event on Nov. 1 at the Carondelet House. The night opened with remarks from campaign co-chair Maity Interiano ’07. Interiano grew up in Honduras and knew from a young age that she wanted to be an influential journalist. Now a Network News Anchor for Univision, she credits Elon for giving her the opportunities that she needed to succeed in this field.
She explained that she remains committed to helping support the university and students, especially Hispanic, Latinx and international students like herself. Interiano also established the Maity Interiano Annual Scholarship as a part of the Elon LEADS Campaign. She announced that Jose Alex Reyes ’25 is the first recipient of the scholarship. Reyes is the son of immigrants with hopes of becoming a creative director, and it is Interiano’s hope that this scholarship will assist him in making his dreams a reality.
“I was like Jose Alex Reyes at the time, and the most important thing is I know he is taking full advantage of his Elon experience and will achieve everything he sets out to do and more. And that is why tonight, I want to invite you to join the Elon LEADS Campaign too. Think about the legacy you want to leave and remember how there were people, experiences and opportunities that made a difference in your time at Elon,” Interiano said.
The focus of the night remained on student impact, furthering dreams and making a way for the future of Elon. President Book followed with a focus again on internships and how they lead to career opportunities. With Los Angeles being a major draw for employment in the entertainment industry, she explained that almost half of internships for students at Elon lead to employment at companies in Los Angeles.
The last event was held at The Willard InterContinental in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 15. Jim Piatt, vice president for University Advancement, took to the stage to explain just how transformative this campaign has been and will continue to be for Elon.
Piatt focused on the four key priorities of the campaign — increasing support for students through scholarships, increasing access to engaged learning programs, investing in faculty and staff “Mentors Who Matter,” and adding to the campus footprint through innovative facilities.
He noted that more than 270 new endowed scholarships have been created in the campaign, bringing historic growth to the university’s endowment; more than 50 new endowed funds have been established to broaden access to the Elon Experiences programs, including global study and internships; and that donors have invested nearly $8 million in faculty and staff mentors.
Piatt also shared the profound impact of Elon LEADS on Elon’s iconic learning environment, including eight new facilities strategically added to the campus footprint. One of those facilities is The Inn at Elon, where all revenue beyond operating costs goes to fund scholarships. “Elon has awarded more than $1.3 million in need-based scholarships thanks to income from The Inn,” Piatt said.
Next to the stage was Ike Credle ’83. As an Elon alum and a veteran that has served for 20 years in the U.S. Army, Credle said, “One of my purposes in life is to be a bridge builder. The idea is to build a bridge so that those coming behind you may avoid some of the pitfalls you may have encountered.” Credle explained the challenge loans had on him following graduation and how he wanted to make an impact on students. He honored his mother by making an estate gift that will endow the Rebecca A. Credle Scholarship. It is gifts such as this one that opens doors for our future leaders.
President Book followed, noting the university’s endowment has grown to nearly $300 million, with 70% of that going to student scholarships, Elon’s top-100 national ranking in U.S. News & World Report, over 34,000 donors giving to the campaign and the announcement that collective contributions total more than $257 million surpassing the $250 million goal for the campaign.
President Book ended the final event by noting there is more to accomplish in the campaign. “Let’s keep this amazing momentum of the Elon LEADS Campaign going as we move toward its Dec. 31 close, and let’s also look beyond, in partnership and with confidence!”
As the final days of the campaign approach, all donors can find their place in this historic fundraising effort by making a gift at www.elon.edu/makeagift. Every gift, no matter the size, will make an impact for the future of Elon and the university’s students. The final tally for the Elon LEADS Campaign will be announced in January.
The Elon community is invited to celebrate the impact of this historic campaign at an event on Apr. 28, 2023, at the Schar Center, where alumni, parents, students, faculty/staff and friends will gather once more to show thanks for the generosity of donors who continue to support Elon’s mission and growth.