Faye Conally knows the ins and out of almost every Elon University building like the back of her hand. After following the footsteps of her brother President Emeritus J. Earl Danieley, Conally graduated Elon in 1961 with a degree in secretarial science.
“Options for young ladies in those days were so limited that you could be a secretary, a nurse or taking care of children," she said. "I wasn’t ready to settle down, so I took to secretarial science.”
The day after she received her certificate, she was hired full-time as a secretary in the registrar’s office. Conally worked there until 1967 when she and her husband moved to High Point, North Carolina.
But Conally could never fully escape Elon, still attending the Elon basketball games against High Point and watching her brother from the other side of the court. She knew she would return.
“My brother was a freshman when I was born, so I had Elon in my blood for years,” Conally said. “They told me when I was little, I used to cheer 'E-L-O-N.'”
The couple came back in December 1976, and Conally returned full-time to Elon, this time working as a secretary at the treasurer’s office, the business office, accounting office and personnel office.
During this time she became close with many Elon employees.
“Back then we had approximately 300 employees — faculty, staff, physical plant — there was 300,” Conally said. “We all knew each other by name. It was a good experience. I enjoyed it very much."
With a staff that small, they could celebrate birthdays together with cake in a single office, and their holiday faculty/staff lunch-ins were held in McEwen Dining Hall.
During one of the lunch-ins, Conally was encouraged to sit on Danieley’s lap for a photo when he was dressed like Santa Claus. She still has the picture.
Though sometimes she stayed across the hall from Danieley, he treated her equally and just as another employee. She often didn’t see him unless they passed each other in the hallway.
“I worked at the office across the hall, but he treated me no differently than anyone else,” Conally said. “I was just one of the secretaries.”
She watched her brother lead the school, sometimes needing to be strict but still beloved by returning alumni and students in years to come.
“He enforced rules,” Conally said. “He was good. But he has very high values and moved in and sought to it, even if he had to send a student home for a whole year, and some of them would come back.”
Conally left again in 1996, which she originally thought was her last.
“Shortly after I left, I got a call, ‘Could you fill in for someone?’ And I said, ‘Well, I hadn’t thought about this, I guess I could,’” Conally said. “So I filled in.”
For the next 10 years, Conally bounced around as a temporary part-time employee, filling in as a secretary to various offices, including admissions, advising, health services and the president’s office.
In January 2006, Conally switched again to a part-time position working Elon’s switchboard in the afternoon while pervious full-time switchboard operator Dottie Bar would work mornings.
Working at the Technology Service Desk, she would be the contact to transfer employees into communications with other offices on campus. Often she would be the first contact that people calling in made with university, so she needed to make a good impression.
Calls ranged from driving directions to general questions about the university. But some calls were more quirky than others.
“There’s lots of interesting, fun, weird calls from time to time,” Conally said. “I should have made notes — unbelievable the kinds of questions we’ve received on switchboard. Every day was different. You never knew what people were going to be asking.”
Michelle Woods, manager of the Technology Service Desk, said it was a pleasure working with Conally and that she set high standards for future switchboard operators to come by encouraging everyone to be polite, professional, use proper grammar and provide excellent assistance.
Her co-workers also loved her homemade brownies.
"There were many times that Faye would go above and beyond to assist a faculty or staff member, student, parent or an outside community member," Woods said. "Faye is very polite, friendly and she always takes the time to ask you how you are doing."
Conally retired from Elon for good in January 2016, but employees at the Technology Service Desk had her promise to visit every couple of weeks. She still stops by to check on the plants.
She also stays connected with the school by attending sporting events, especially the basketball games.
“It’s a wonderful school,” Conally said. “I’m so proud of it. Those of us who attended college are really proud it’s a university. I never dreamed it would grow like this.”