Alumni Gym was filled with love as friends, family, students and staff all gathered to celebrate the life of Elon University President Emeritus J. Earl Danieley at his memorial service Dec. 3. The screens throughout the gym displayed iconic images of Danieley and his big smile, warming the hearts of the guests trickling in.
Danieley was a graduate, teacher, dean and president at Elon, but many at the service remembered him most as a dear friend.
“Two words I believe were the essence of him were ‘integrity’ and ‘love,’” said President Leo Lambert in his opening address. “To put it simply, Earl Danieley made the Elon today possible.”
Lambert’s sentiments were echoed by other members of the community including faculty, alumni and current students.
“His love for Elon was legendary, and his bond with students unprecedented,” said Powell Professor of Philosophy Emeritus John G. Sullivan. “I shall count [him] always as my friend.”
Joe Magyar ’05 came back to his alma mater for the service and recalled how Danieley was always there for his students.
“He was the face of Elon,” Magyar said.
Many student athletes attended the memorial in honor of Danieley, some in uniform. In his time as Elon president, Danieley oversaw many expansions in the athletic department, especially for the women’s sports teams.
“He was always a huge supporter of women’s sports,” said junior softball player Hannah Olson. “He brought us in as a family and made us feel like we were truly a part of Elon.”
Danieley was also known for his appearances and towel-waving at basketball games. He even had a special seat, which was draped in both a towel and roses at the memorial.
“The thing I remember most is always chanting the ‘Dr. Danieley’ chant for him to stand up, and every time, everyone lights up,” said senior Jeanine Grabowski. “And when we got the Dr. Danieley towels and we got to do it with him, that was very special.”
The memorial service highlighted just how legendary Danieley was for Elon and the people whose hearts he touched. The task now is keeping his memory alive at the school he loved so passionately.
In honoring Danieley, flowers have been left at his parking spot outside of the McMichael Science center and the hashtag #DanieleyLegacy has spread on social media. Adam Constantine ’10, social media manager of Elon, has been vocal of his admiration of Danieley. He said it was extremely hard to separate his personal feelings from doing his job.
“I don’t say this for pity, I say this because I was forced to focus on high priority crisis communications during a time of personal loss,” Constantine wrote on Facebook. “I had to learn quickly, how to separate my emotions from my job and put out the best possible information. I think, knowing the educator Dr. Danieley was his entire life, he would appreciate the lesson I learned from this.It was a great honor speaking at his memorial on Saturday. I’m thankful for the legacy he left with so many others.”
A special College Coffee was held in the Moseley center after the memorial service to foster conversations about Danieley and the Elon he helped create. Community members talked about how to keep Danieley’s legacy going.
“Appreciating the school, from where it started and to now,” said senior Jocelyn Smith. “I think that people need to learn more — that was something he was really trying to do — share the story of Elon.”