Correction: This article misprinted the first name of Carole Troxler. The mistakes have been corrected. Elon News Network regrets this error.
For 50 years, George Troxler served Elon University as a professor of history, dean of cultural programs, chief grand marshal and the first university historian. Troxler died on Oct. 27 at the age of 77.
“I’m from California. He was from North Carolina. We were very different in our life experiences and where we were professionally. But the moment I came on campus, he embraced me and was my biggest advocate and cheerleader and partner,” said Chrystal Carpenter, coordinator of university archives and special collections.
Troxler was one of the first people Dan Anderson, vice president of university communications, met when he started at Elon 22 years ago. Anderson and Troxler collaborated over the years; Anderson said he had Troxler on “speed dial, so to say” to answer any of his questions.
“For over 50 years, George Troxler was the embodiment of the Elon community spirit,” Anderson said. “He was a great role model for the people of Elon because of his intellectual capacity and his ability to always strive for truth and understanding.”
Troxler was the recipient of the university’s highest honor, the Elon Medallion, for mentoring decades of students and devoting his time and energy to recording the history of the institution.
A service celebrating his life was held at Elon Community Church on Friday, Nov. 1.
In lieu of flowers, the family requested donations be made to Elon Community Church Building Fund or the Troxler-Watterson Scholarship.
In the archives
Carpenter heard of Troxler before she even finished interviewing for her position.
“For George, you couldn’t have history without archives,” Carpenter said. “He would come every day, just walking down to my office for a new project or something that he was working on where he needed archives or materials. That’s how we started our relationship.”
Troxler had already been at Elon for nearly 50 years by the time Carpenter began working at Elon in 2015.
Carpenter and Troxler worked on a number of projects together. Most significantly, the duo brought the Bible of James O’Kelly, founding father of Elon College, back to the school.
“We got the Bible donated to us. George and I, with the donor, we went to these woods in Durham to go find O’Kelly’s grave site,” Carpenter said. “The three of us would go out traipsing through the woods to find these little hidden gems to bring the history to life. We would have adventures, and he was kind of my ‘partner in archives crime.’”
Most recently, the pair worked on the return of the Chandler and Price printing press, a flatbed printing press that was once used at Elon to print internal publications. The printing press is currently displayed in Snow Atrium.
“It was a real passion for him to be able to educate people, especially with artifacts that had such a presence, like the press,” Carpenter said.
In 2014, Troxler published a comprehensive history of Elon University in the book “From a Grove of Oaks, The Story of Elon University.” Anderson said the book stands as a definitive history of Elon, and is available in Belk library.
Troxler researched the history of two of Elon’s most important artifacts, the Elon bells: the bell that once stood in the old administration building, which currently resides in the Alamance building, and the bell from Graham College, Elon’s predecessor, which can be found in the university archives and is rung at the start of every school year.
Partnering with former student Raymond Beck ’75, who served as North Carolina State Capitol historian and site manager, the pair restored both bells. Troxler also helped to restore a chandelier that hung in the Old Main building before the fire burned it down in 1923. It now hangs in the archives room in Belk Library.
“He was at that intersection of the world, of that kind of archival, specific and concrete knowledge,” said Charles Irons, associate professor of history and geography.
Troxler worked with Irons on the Committee on Elon History and Memory, of which Irons is the chair. This initiative was started in 2018 by President Connie Book to explore questions related to historical memory and collective identity at Elon.
Irons said Troxler’s involvement with the committee was indicative of his desire to be as involved in Elon’s operations as possible.
“This is characteristic of his way of being in lots of different environments, to be very gracious and supportive and encouraging,” Irons said. “He was a wonderful resource to me and was a real advocate for making the way we tell our story as inclusive as possible.”
The Troxler duo
George is survived by his two daughters and his wife Carole, retired Elon history professor and published author.
“They both just made a powerhouse team,” Carpenter said. “I was just lucky enough to get to tag along for some of it.”
The couple have a seminar room in Lindner Hall dedicated to them as well as two scholarships established in their name — the Troxler-Waterson Endowed History Scholarship and the Watterson-Troxler Scholarship — both created to assist students studying history.
According to Irons, George and Carole both shared a passion for North Carolina’s history.
“That’s actually something he and Carole both had in common,” Irons said. “It’s not enough to know that there were a lot of loyalists in North Carolina, for example, which everybody knows, but Carole says, ‘I want to know their families and know their names.’”
Embodying the Elon way
Leo Lambert, president emeritus and professor of education, spoke to Troxler’s impact at Elon during the memorial service.
“The Elon University mission statement calls for us to nurture a rich intellectual community, to work for the common good, to live lives of service and to foster a passion for a life of learning,” Lambert said. “George Troxler modeled these ideals every day — with his wonderful family, on campus, in the Elon Community Church and in scouting.”
Troxler left a lasting impact on the Elon community, from writing a comprehensive history of Elon, to bringing speakers such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former U.S. presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush and Queen Noor of Jordan to the university, to mentoring countless students and establishing scholarships to help students pursue history.
“George was a mentor, collaborator and most importantly, a friend,” Carpenter said. “I will miss our conversations, phone calls and adventures. But I am comforted in knowing his legacy and memory will be with us always.”