Elon celebrates the impact of historic $260M Elon LEADS campaign

Supporters of the university and contributors to the record-breaking fundraising effort gathered in Schar Center Friday night to celebrate the conclusion of the university’s Elon LEADS campaign.

With the conclusion of the Elon LEADS campaign, Elon University saw a record number of donors come together to contribute a historic $260 million to support the university’s mission. And on Friday night, supporters of the university gathered in Schar Center to look at what has been accomplished already thanks to the Elon LEADS campaign, and to look ahead to how the historic effort will help Elon fulfill its vision for the future.

“I see the record number of donors to this campaign as 34,000 votes of confidence in our shared mission and where we are headed as a university,” President Connie Ledoux Book told the crowd of more than 500 gathered in Schar Center. “Successful campaigns like Elon LEADS propel great institutions forward to embrace new opportunities, to continue to innovate and to make that next major leap in quality and reputation.”

The public phase of Elon LEADS was announced in April 2019, and across the next four years, donors supported an effort that would surpass its initial goal by more than $10 million. The record $260 million supports four main funding priorities: scholarships and student aid, increased access to the Elon experiences engaged learning programs, support for faculty and staff mentors and the continued development of Elon’s iconic learning environment.

Elon LEADS benefited throughout the campaign from strong leadership throughout the effort. The leadership and tireless efforts of campaign chairs were integral to the campaign’s success, and many of those key leaders were on hand Friday night to help celebrate including Elon Board of Trustees Chair Dave Porter P’11 P’19, Trustee Allen Gant, Trustee Ed Doherty and Joan Doherty P’07, Trustee Chris Martin ‘78 P’13, Priscilla Awkard ‘95, Christian Wiggins ‘03 and Jack McMackin ‘08. Maity Interiano ‘07 was a co-chair for the last year of the campaign, but was unable to attend Friday night’s event.

Elon alumni Christian Wiggins, Priscilla Awkard and Jack McMackin on stage during the Elon LEADS celebration.

Awkard, Wiggins and McMackin, who along with Interiano co-chaired the final year of the campaign, shared with the crowd about how their time at Elon changed them and about what motivated them to take an active role in supporting the Elon LEADS effort. “All of us share a deep love for each other and our beloved university,” Awkard told the crowd in Schar Center. “We believe in the good that is happening here, and that just creates an unbreakable bond that we share.”
Senior Vice President for University Advancement and External Affairs Jim Piatt took the stage to detailed how the resources generated by Elon LEADS will impact students, faculty, staff and the campus for years to come. Among those resources are:

  • $155 million to establish 287 new endowed scholarships
  • $11 million and 60 new endowed funds to support study abroad, internships, undergraduate research, service and leadership
  • $8 million to support the work of faculty and staff, including three new endowed professorships
  • $86 million for the campus environment, including eight new facilities completed already

“At their core, university campaigns live at the intersection of history, hope and promise,” Piatt said. “At Elon, that intersection is inspired by leadership. In fact, the name of our campaign was strategically chosen because our university is the embodiment of leadership. It’s simply who we are. We educate leaders who share their talents and hearts with the world.”

Elon students Lauren Copenhaver, Madison George and Britt Mobley on stage during the Elon LEADS celebration

Dave Porter, the parent of two Elon alumni and now the chair of the university’s board of trustees, touted the accomplishments of Elon students, a number of whom he has hired over the years. He introduced three current students — Lauren Copenhaver ‘24, Madison George ‘23 and Britt Mobley ‘24 — and said that when he sees these students, “I see the best of what Elon has to offer — talented, hardworking leaders who will make our society better.”

Copenhaver, George and Mobley described the multitude of ways that their experiences at Elon have impacted their lives, and the life-changing difference that scholarships have made in their ability to achieve their goals. “Elon is more than just the classes you take,” Copenhaver told the crowd. “It’s about the people you meet and the relationships you build, and the impact each one has on your journey. I know I wouldn’t have had the same experience without the supportive relationships I’ve built with my professors and peers if I were somewhere else.”

Mobley recounted receiving a call in spring 2020 from Marcus Elliott with Elon’s Odyssey Program letting him know that he had been awarded the Inman Family Scholarship, and how in that moment, he saw the puzzle pieces start to come together. During his time at Elon, he’s visited 11 countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Southwest Asia through the Semester-at-Sea program, sleeping under the stars in the Sahara Desert and having long talks over tea with people in Jordan and Morocco.

“This experience has changed my life forever,” said Mobley, who was elected student body president in March. “I am more confident, well-rounded and grateful for what I have. And I realized there are a lot of misconceptions about this beautiful world that can cause a lot of harm. Being able to appreciate different cultures and share that with my peers has been extremely powerful.”

Adam Kaplan ’12, sings during the Elon LEADS campaign wrap-up celebration held April 28, 2023, at the Schar Center on the campus of Elon University

Following her graduation later this month, George will be pursuing her doctorate in bioengineering at Stanford University and build upon her work as an engineering major at Elon. A member of Elon’s track and field team, George has done that work side-by-side with a variety of mentors during the past four years, including Associate Professor of Physics Kyle Altmann, who mentored her as she sought to design the first women’s pole vault shoes. That project is now her Honors Program thesis which she is completing with faculty mentors Scott Wolter from the Department of Engineering and Shefali Christopher from the Department of Physical Therapy Education.

“The biggest lesson I have learned is that I am capable of being the writer of my story and of being an agent for change,” George said. “I am supported by a university that is committed to my individual journey and has been since the very beginning.”

Professor Caroline Ketcham and Elon student Katie Lowe on stage at the Elon LEADS campaign.

Mentoring is a hallmark of an Elon education, and students are given the opportunity to build a “constellation of mentors” during their time at the university, whether it be in the classroom, the lab, at on-campus jobs or in service to the community. During her 16 years at Elon, Professor of Exercise Science Caroline Ketcham has mentored close to 100 students in undergraduate research, including Katie Lowe ‘23, who joined her on stage in Schar Center. Often, the mentors benefit from the relationship just as much as the mentees, Ketcham explained.

“The skills, energy and ideas students like Katie bring to those mentoring relationships have expanded my research and pushed me to use new methodologies, making a meaningful impact on student learning in the community at Elon and beyond,” Ketcham said. “Student scholars turned colleagues like Katie are why my research continues to evolve and be recognized and why our students are prepared to make a meaningful impact not only in their careers, but in their communities.”

Friday night was also a night to showcase the talented students who wowed audiences during their times at Elon, with Broadway star and Elon music theatre alumnus Adam Kaplan ‘12 bookending the evening with performances of Beautiful from “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” and of “Go the Distance” from Disney’s “Hercules.”

President Book closed the event by offering her gratitude to the campaign leaders who set an ambitious course for Elon LEADS as well as for the work of previous Elon presidents Fred Young and Leo M. Lambert and their “legacy of excellence” that the university is now building upon. She honored the late Jo Watts Williams ‘55, who served her alma mater for more than 75 years and whose family made the largest single endowment gift in Elon’s history, with the university’s school of education now bearing her name.

“We have arrived at a new era and as we move forward, let us not lose sight of what is most important about our work here — that the heart of this university lies in its people,” Book said. “And every time we invest in a student, we are changing their lives forever and their future communities for the better. Friends, together we are writing a new chapter in our never-ending story and creating a future that I know is full of hope and promise.”