After a nearly eight-month long search process, Elon University has named a new president.
On Oct. 8, the Board of Trustees elected Connie Ledoux Book as Elon’s ninth president. Book served as provost of The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina. Her start date is March 1, 2018.
Book will be the university's first female president. According to the American Council on Education, just 30 percent of university presidents in the United States are female.
Book’s transition comes after Leo Lambert told the Board of Trustees in February he would be stepping down as President. Lambert will now take a yearlong sabbatical before returning as president emeritus. He’ll also be a professor and help support the advancement and alumni engagement offices.
Book was unanimously recommended by the presidential search committee to the Board of Trustees.
"For me, what stood out me were her accomplishments, her authenticity and her integrity, which for me was a nonnegotiable," said Kerri Anderson, chair of the Board of Trustees. "We needed to hire someone whose values aligned with Elon's. To me, she fit the mold."
Prior to serving as provost and dean at The Citadel — a role she has occupied for the past two years — Book was a member of Elon's faculty for 16 years.
She began her career at Elon as a communications faculty member in 1999. In 2004, she was promoted to associate professor and department chair. She was again promoted in 2006 to associate dean.
Book became associate provost for academic affairs in 2010. She managed a broad range of academic programs and led the creation of the Student Professional Development Center and the residential campus plan.
She also served as presidential faculty fellow for strategic planning, assisting with the development of the Elon Commitment Strategic Plan.
Book will soon lead a university that is rapidly expanding. Elon’s 10-year strategic plan boasts a 90 percent completion rate, according to its website. And the university is set to publicly launch its Elon Leads fundraising program in 2018.
I don't think there is anyone happier than I am because I think it is a splendid choice," Lambert said. I think she is going to be enormously successful."
Lambert, who succeeded President Fred Young in 1999, bolstered Elon from a small college to a nationally recognized university. Since his arrival, Elon established its School of Law and School of Health Sciences, and restructured Elon’s academics to create the School of Communications, the School of Education and Elon College and the College of Arts and Sciences.
More than 100 buildings, including the Station at Mill Point, the Global Neighborhood, Colonnades Neighborhood, the Koury Business Center, the Academic Village and Belk Library, Inman Admissions Building and Schar Hall, have been erected or acquired under Lambert’s watch. He also strengthened Elon’ study abroad, helped with the creation of Elon’s Phi Beta Kappa chapter while also maintaining national accreditations for Elon’s professional schools.
Athletically, Elon moved to Division I as a member of the Big South Conference in 1999. One year later, Elon changed its mascot from the Fightin’ Christians to the Phoenix in 2000. In 2014, Elon moved to the Colonial Athletic Association. The men’s soccer team, baseball team and women’s soccer team have played in 11 NCAA tournaments while Lambert was president.
But Elon is also experiencing problems with contrasting ideologies. In 2014, results from the Presidential Task Force on Black Student, Faculty and Staff experiences said 78.7 percent of black students polled said they feel unsafe. Yet 41 percent of non-Black students polled said they feel Elon is a positive, accepting community.
A report on social climate last year said 23 percent of the 900 student respondents believe the campus is unwelcoming toward them. Incidents last spring when a fraternity president called a black student a racial slur, and a white student standing on a historically black fraternity plot starkly highlighted tensions within the student body. The Equality for Opportunity Project also said Elon is one of the least economically diverse universities in the nation. The average household income is just more than $200,000.
In a video statement, Book said she is excited to take on the challenges that Elon presents.
"We live in a time of great need full of intelligent, passionate people," Book said. "We’re ready to lead the charge and help solve humanity's problems.
"This is our challenge, Elon. This is our time. The world needs what we have to offer."