Elon University celebrated its 125th birthday with a special College Coffee to honor Earl Danieley, Fred Young and current university president Leo Lambert.
Hundreds of students, faculty and alumni gathered on Phi Beta Kappa Commons to hear student body president Welsford Bishopric speak and share in Elon’s birthday cake.
“This Founders’ Day is extra special because of the 125th birthday and the beautiful turnout,” said Dianne Ford, a science librarian at Elon. “It’s nice to bring everyone out to celebrate together.”
In his short speech, Bishopric recapped Elon’s history and honored the leaders who sought to make Elon a nationally-competitive liberal arts university.
Danieley became president at 32 years old in 1957. He expanded the library and created the academic advising system, career services, the chaplain’s office and many other features of today’s campus.
In 1963, Young took over for Danieley, who remained at the university as a chemistry professor. Young pioneered the engaged learning program, including study abroad, internships and undergraduate research. Young’s main area of empasis was the improvement of the overall quality of Elon’s academic programs.
Lambert became president in 1999 and implemented two separate strategic plans for the university. These plans aimed to increase the academic reputation and transition Elon from a college to a university.
“He has facilitated our transformation into a national model for residential liberal arts colleges,” Bishopric said.
Lambert has added over 100 buildings to Elon’s campus and created the Elon University School of Law and the School of Health Sciences.
“Elon has grown four-fold in enrollment, and much more than that in terms of academic rigor, experiential value, and significance,” said Bishopric. “It is largely due to the leadership of these three presidents that Elon has and will continue to define the education of each of its students.”
To conclude College Coffee, the three presidents planted two oak trees dedicated to Lambert and Young in the Academic Pavilion. A magnolia tree dedicated to Danieley was planted in spring 2012.
An ice storm brought down a large oak and damaged several other trees in the pavilion last Friday.
“We couldn’t have picked a better time to plant an oak tree here,” Bishopric said.
Founders’ day is a time to celebrate Elon University through phoenix pride, donations, and memories. Alumni gathered at the commons to reminisce about their time at Elon.
Carrie Ryan, an Elon alumna who works in Elon’s Center for Leadership, said she is happy with how Elon has expanded, and she looks forward to the seeing the university implement its slow-growth model in the coming years.
“It’s the history of where we’ve come and where we’re going,” said Ryan.
The majority of attendees were students who stopped by between classes to witness the historic celebration. Sophomore Allison Forhan said she was excited to see so many students at College Coffee.
“This is a lot of students that came out to college coffee. I come every week and I don’t think I’ve ever seen it this packed,” said Forhan. “A lot of people came out to support Elon and wish the university a happy birthday.”
Danieley said founders’ day is a celebration he holds near to his heart. He hopes students will walk away from the day’s festivities with a new appreciation for how far the university has come in the past 50 years.
“I have a thesis that I tell everybody that there’s no more remarkable story in the history of American higher education than the story of Elon University’s growth and development,” said Danieley. “Although there are 4,000 colleges and universities in this country, nobody has a greater story than we have. I’ve been here 72 years watching it grow and develop and I’m so proud.”