Friday evening, over 400 Elon University students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors and families gathered in Schar Center to celebrate Elon LEADs, the university’s largest fundraising campaign to date. 

Over the course of seven years, the campaign raised over $260.5 million from 34,000 donors, according to Senior Vice President for University Advancement and External Affairs Jim Piatt. The effects of the campaign are already present on campus, through expanded scholarship programs and new buildings, such as the Schar Center, Innovation Hall and Founders Hall

Piatt said the night was about celebrating donors and the impact they have had on the university community. 

“There are a lot of people standing behind this university,” Piatt said. “You might come into a building like this and think ‘Oh it’s the Schar Center! It’s nice.’ But there’s the Schar family, and this building had 30 other families who supported this. And their names are scattered around, just like there are in the Moseley Center, in Sankey Hall. Those names represent people who want to support the university.”

The night started out with a surprise appearance from Broadway performer and Elon alum Adam Kaplan ’12. Kaplan opened the celebration with an engaging performance of Carole King’s “Beautiful.”

The ceremony continued with speeches from the chairs of the Elon LEADs campaign, student and faculty testimonies, and Elon University President Connie Ledoux Book. 

“I see the donors to this campaign as 34,000 votes of confidence in our shared mission and where we are headed as Elon University,” Book said to the crowd. “You have created a legacy that will impact students for decades to come far beyond our times here.”

The legacy of the Elon LEADs campaign includes expanding the Odyssey Program, which Elon alum and Elon LEADs Campaign Chair Christian Wiggins ’03 told Elon News Network was particularly significant to him. 

“I was a first generation college student, so being here without scholarship just wouldn’t have been a thing.” Wiggins said. “The ability to give back … really made me feel great.” 

Junior and College Fellow Lauren Copenhaver was one of four students to speak about their Elon experience during the ceremony. Copenhaver talked about her research and the ways she has found mentorship and new opportunities through the university. 

Copenhaver told Elon News Network she appreciated the opportunity to meet some of the donors that have helped fund and enhance her Elon journey.

“I wouldn’t be able to be here at Elon without them,” Copenhaver said. “Meeting them and being able to interact with them has been very important for me.”

One of the campaign’s primary goals was to expand different scholarship programs at the university, including the Odyssey Program.

“During this campaign, our community more than doubled the number of scholarships in our Odyssey Program,” Book said. “That number now stands at more than 200.”

Piatt told Elon News Network that he was proud of the community’s impact in growing different scholarship programs.

“We’ve been able to have a record number of scholarships raised to support students to be able to choose to come to Elon and that’s always the most heartwarming thing for me,” Piatt said.

Piatt said the fundraising gets allocated across a wide range of campus initiatives, based on what individual donors want to support. 

“We try to be donor-centric. Donors tend to want to support the things that matter to them most. So some folks support facilities, many folks support scholarships,” Piatt said. “We also raised new endowment funds for Elon experiences, so study abroad, undergraduate research, leadership, service, internships. Some donors really like to support those because they know those are the experiences that matter a lot to students.”

Senior and Business Fellow Julianne Jarek said it was a full circle moment to meet the donors who impacted her Elon experience and the younger fellow students following her path. 

“Elon has given me a lot over the last four years and I’m really appreciative of that,” Jarek said. “I definitely would consider giving back in the future.”

The night ended with a second performance from Kaplan. This time he serenaded the audience with “Go The Distance” from Disney’s “Hercules,” a song about finding a community where you belong.  

Now that the Elon LEADs campaign has closed, Piatt said the office of university advancement and external affairs are gearing up to launch their next fundraising campaign, which he hinted will be announced in the coming months.

“The university has announced a HealthEU initiative and there are going to be some fundraising pieces to that,” Piatt said. “We’re not exactly sure what that’s going to mean yet, but we’ll know about it in a few months.”