The expected people were in attendance — President Leo Lambert, Director of Athletics Dave Blank, Chair of the Board of Trustees Kerri Anderson '79, several dozen donors, the basketball and 

volleyball teams — but it was former Elon University President J. Earl Danieley who stole the show at the Schar Center groundbreaking ceremony this today at 5:15 p.m. in the Hunt Softball Lot. 

"I know he's had some days where he hasn't been out as much, but Elon athletics owes a lot to Dr. D and the waving of the towel, so [it was] good to see Dr. D out and about," said men's basketball head coach Matt Matheny. 

When Blank approached the podium to recognize donors, he first took a second to go, as he put it, "off script." He jumped off the podium, ran to where Danieley's wheelchair was set up, handed the former president a commemorative Schar Center rally towel and asked him to "do what he does best." Danieley did just that — with a few waves of the rally towel, he brought the entire audience to its feet and the men's basketball team out from their station at the side of the stage.

Lambert also began his remarks by recognizing Danieley as well as former president J. Fred Young. 

"That's 43 years of Elon presidential leadership right there," he said, to applause and cheers.

J. Earl Danieley and his daughter Jane Shutt attended the Oct. 21 groundbreaking ceremony for the Schar Center, set to open in 2018.

Speakers took time for more formal remarks. Lambert listed the many ways Elon hopes to use the convocation center in the future, such as convocations, international speakers, musical performances, athletic teams and "maybe even a presidential debate some day," which drew laughs from the audience. 

"This impressive facility will allow us to more fully embrace Elon's position as a national university," he said. "People from across the country and around the word are going to be drawn to events at the Schar Center and then discover the rest of our amazing campus."

Lambert also spent time thanking the Schar family, who made the largest donation in Elon history: a $12 million donation, split between Schar Hall, the extension of McEwen, and the Schar Center. The president presented the Schar family with a small statue, a replica of the large Phoenix that welcomes visitors to Elon's football and baseball fields.

After the formal remarks by Anderson, Lambert and Blank, the actual groundbreaking ceremony began. Lambert along with others took a ceremonial first shovelful of dirt from the trough placed in the Hunt Softball Lot, then threw it toward a crowd of photographers. Others filed in to get their photos as the Fire Of The Carolinas played and the cheer and dance teams performed.

"To be able to come here after so many months and even years of conversation bout the Schar Center and to enjoy the groundbreaking ceremony, it's like a game," Matheny said. "It's a game-day atmosphere here. The band's playing and the people are cheering. It's just a wonderful day."