UPDATED, 8:46 p.m. Wednesday to include funeral arrangements.
His smile won’t be charming the students of Danieley Center on Move-In Day, his chemistry students on their lunch dates or basketball fans at home games. But while the man behind the rally towel won't be there anymore, the cheer will surely live on.
A legend of Elon University and Alamance County, President Emeritus J. Earl Danieley died Tuesday at 92, succumbing to a number of health issues that hindered him in his final years, years he still spent teaching at the same school from which he graduated.
Beloved and known affectionately as “Dr. Danieley,” he served as president from 1957 to 1973 then as a professor in the chemistry department for many years after, retiring in spring 2016 and leaving behind an unmatched legacy across the Elon community.
Born July 28, 1924, in Alamance County, Danieley attended Elon College from 1941 to 1946. After graduation, Danieley was offered a position at Elon teaching chemistry. He accepted, and never left.
Prior to serving as president of the college, Danieley was the dean for four years, from 1953 to 1956. At age 32, when he was inaugurated, Danieley was the youngest serving college president in the country.
In 2014 at Elon's Spring Convocation, Danieley recalled getting a phone call from George Colclough, a trustee, saying he had been elected president — even though he never applied for the job. At the time, Danieley was finishing up post-doctoral work at Johns Hopkins University.
“I said, ‘George, you’re crazy,’” Danieley said.
When he told his wife, Verona, she famously responded with, “Poor Earl.”
Danieley’s tenure as president saw Elon make tremendous strides in terms of equality, notably with the first African-American students arriving on campus.
In 1963, less than a decade into Danieley's presidency, Glenda Phillips Hightower became the first African-American student to enroll at Elon. Eugene Perry '69 became the first African-American student to earn an Elon degree.
Danieley grew the Elon faculty and raised the academic standards at the college during his time as president. He stepped down in 1973 to devote more time to teaching.
In 1983, he was elected to and served 12 years on the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, and was Elon’s director of planned giving in the development office for five years.
He was named president emeritus in 1992.
His name — and the names of his loved ones — live on at Elon. In October 1999, the Danieley Center was formally dedicated in his honor. Danieley Center currently houses 812 students, mostly sophomores. Nearby Lake Verona is named after his late wife, Verona.
In recent years, Danieley taught “Introduction to Chemistry” and his popular Winter Term class, “Elon: Past, Present and Future.”
As part of Elon’s 125th anniversary in 2014, Danieley headlined Spring Convocation. He spoke with President Leo Lambert for more than an hour, telling his story and the story of the university.
When he wasn’t on the stage, he was on the sidelines cheering on Elon’s sports teams, most famously men’s basketball games. Every home game, at the under-8 media timeout, the student section would strike up a “Dr. Danieley” chant, and Danieley would stand up and wave a rally towel.
Commemorative Dr. Danieley rally towels were given out during the 2013-2014 season.
As president, Danieley hired several coaches who would rank among the most successful in Elon history.
He hired Red Wilson, the winningest football coach in school history, who led Elon to six conference titles and the playoffs three times.
Danieley is also credited with founding the women’s athletic program at Elon. He hired Kay Yow in 1971 to coach both women’s basketball and volleyball, two teams that saw immediate success. Yow went on to national prominence as the women’s basketball coach at North Carolina State University.
He also hired Bill Morningstar as the head golf coach and assistant men’s basketball coach. In the 40 years Morningstar was at the helm, Elon won 16 conference titles and finished in the Top 10 nationally 17 times. His team won the 1982 national title, and Morningstar was named national coach of the year.
Danieley is also credited with starting the Elon College Sports Hall of Fame in 1972. He was inducted in 2008 as an administrator.
Danieley acquired numerous accolades during his teaching career, advancing Elon’s chemistry department and speaking at several national conferences.
In November 1978, Danieley presented his study, “Individualizing and Personalizing Instruction in Introductory College Chemistry,” at the southeastern regional meeting of the American Chemical Society.
Danieley and his wife established the Daniels-Danieley Award for excellence in teaching after he retired from the presidency. It was given in honor of their parents.
In 1980, Danieley was tasked with identifying various chemicals used around campus and figuring out the best way to store than. This was part of his role as Campus Hazardous Waste Control officer, a position created in light of the government’s attempt to make the disposal of chemical waste safe.
In 1981, Danieley was awarded a Burroughs Wellcome Science Faculty Scholarship by the Independent College Fund of North Carolina. He used the scholarship to take a course in liquid chromatography offered by the American Chemical Society at its annual meeting.
The same year, he presented at the International Conference on Chemical Education at the University of Maryland.
In 1994, Danieley was appointed as the assistant to the president of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Danieley met his late wife, Verona, while rescuing her from a mouse in a chemistry classroom during their time at Elon. The couple had three children.
Memorial contributions can be made to the Danieley Scholarship Fund or the Daniels-Danieley Teaching Award at Elon, c/o Office of University Advancement, 2600 Campus Box, Elon, NC 27244.
Danieley's body will lie in state in Numen Lumen Pavilion starting at noon Friday, Dec. 2. His family will hold a visitation and receive condolences there from 5-8 p.m.
On Saturday, Dec. 3, there will be a memorial service at 2 p.m. in Alumni Gym. There are plans being made to stream the service online. Afterward, there will be a special College Coffee reception in Moseley Center.
Correction: George Colclough's name was incorrectly stated as George Copeland. In addition, the way Danieley began teaching and later accepted the presidency were mixed up. He started teaching right after graduation, and was at Johns Hopkins when offered the presidency, not the teaching position. Elon News Network regrets the errors.