As Elon University President Connie Book gave opening remarks at the tribute for Elon leaders and donors Jeanne and Jerry Robertson, she and audience members took a moment to bow their heads and remember the late couple.
At that moment, the train roared outside as silence filled the auditorium.
“Our world could use a whole lot more people like Jeanne and Jerry,” Book said. “They were woven into the fabric of Alamance County. They were North Carolina through and through. They adopted Elon University, and they were generous whenever we needed their help, and boy, did they love the students.”
Book called them special people who were the “very definition” of Southern charm, and shared anecdotes of “two partners in life coming together to make a difference in the world.”
The tribute comes just over a year after Jerry and Jeanne died in June and August 2021, respectively. The Robertsons were known for their service to the university and special contributions to Elon Athletics.
In 2003, Jeanne was elected to the Elon University Board of Trustees. She was a nationally-renowned public speaker, humorist and former Miss North Carolina. Jerry was an educator and principal in the Alamance County School System.
Director of Athletics Dave Blank welcomed community members into the auditorium, followed by opening remarks from Book.
Humorist and musician Patrick Henry was the first of six humorists invited to perform at the tribute. He created a web series called “Live from the Back Porch with Jeanne Robertson” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We just had a blast together,” Henry said. “We brought people in from all over the country tonight because we were all influenced by Jeanne and we all loved Jerry.”
Performer Al McCree followed, engaging the crowd with a number of sing-along songs. McCree was Jeanne’s manager for part of her career and helped her put her stories on YouTube, iTunes and Sirius XM radio.
Tara Brown, Debbie Childers, LaDonna Gatlin and Jane Jenkins Herlong also performed at the event.
“You’ve got to learn to laugh through life, and Jeanne taught us all that,” Jenkins Herlong said.
Members of the Elon community and former members of the university’s senior staff, such as President Emeritus Leo Lambert who presented the two with the Elon Medallion, the university’s highest honor, at the Night of the Phoenix in 2017. Lambert said Jeanne was a devoted trustee. He praised Jeanne’s business skills and marketing sense, noting that there was hardly a speech, if at all, where she didn’t mention Elon.
“This is a long overdue celebration of two outstanding people,” Lambert said. “It’s good to be here tonight to think fondly of both of them.”