George Moorhead was commissioned as a lieutenant in the army in the late 1950s and 60s. When he came back from his military service, he started his own sales company and gave those he employed the opportunity for growth and development for 30 years. He was married to his late wife, Marianne, for almost 60 years and was a giving father to his two children: Jack and Leslie. Moorhead also helps students learn about the human body in extensive detail and prepares them for a variety of careers in the medical field.
Moorhead died June 14, 2022. He has been at Elon for nearly one year and is known to students in the Elon Anatomy Teaching Assistant, TEATAPS, and Human Anatomy Lab Programs as “Bubba.”
For the first time since the human anatomy lab has been honoring human donors, family members of one of the four donors in this semester’s lab came to speak and share information about their loved one’s life. More specifically, Bubba’s daughter and son-in-law — Leslie and Steve Holland, respectively — traveled from Greensboro to take part in the celebration and honor of his contributions to the Elon community.
While both Steve and Leslie had been told about Bubba’s affect on students, faculty and staff ahead of time, they said they did not anticipate just how much love and respect the memorial gave the donors.
“We had some idea of the impact, but hearing the students reciting that and saying how important it was for them and how grateful they were, that meant a lot,” Steve said. “We’re just glad that Bubba can continue to have an impact on people's lives even after he passed.”
Steve and Leslie also said Bubba had served and helped others his entire life, and they take pride in being able to witness him continue to do so in death. Just as they feel he would as well.
“We felt like it was more than fitting for Bubba to continue that legacy of service by being here with you,” Steve said during the memorial. “We appreciate the respect and care you’ve given him, and we hope that his legacy helps you in the future.”
Steve and Leslie took the podium and shared photos and anecdotes of Bubba and his life.
“It hit me when I was looking at the faces of the students,” Steve told Elon News Network. “When I saw those faces, I did get a little choked up because I was thinking about Bubba and how he was such a giving guy. He never wanted anything in return.”
In an evening of firsts, guest speaker and Chaplain Emeritus Richard McBride handed his donor confirmation papers to Director of the Anatomical Gift Program Dianne Person before taking the podium — solidifying both his and his wife’s consent to be human anatomy donors for Elon after death.
“It’s also a spiritual journey. Although it is sad, our bodies are precious. It is a vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care,” McBride said during the event. “Your journey within a person’s body has awakened, I hope, a journey within yourself, so that you are more thoughtful, more introspective, and more deeply in touch with what matters most. I thank you for your journey of discovery and for your respect for these silent teachers.”
McBride closed with a poem written by Hillsborough Mayor Jenn Weaver about her mother. McBride said Weaver is a close friend whom he has known since she was 5 years old.
“It was a very special event, not only because the donor’s family was here, but also because Chaplain McBride handing over the papers for donation to Dianne Person right before getting up to make his speech,” senior anatomy lab foreman Smythe Lefebvre told Elon News Network. “I was utterly speechless. I had no words because this whole event, we talked about how selfless the act of anatomical donation is, but I've never seen it. That was the fruition of the donation. That happened right before all of us, which was so incredibly special.”
McBride spent 25 years at Elon before retiring in 2009. He is currently 82 years old and has four children, 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Lefebvre said while she had spoken to McBride before about him possibly becoming a donor, she did not know he was going to announce it in such a special way.
“To have him get up and speak to us right after doing that, I think brought more emotion to his speech,” Lefebvre said. “It was such an incredible thing to witness, and especially for the students to witness that too, because he's going to be a future donor. … Quite honestly that brought tears to my eyes.”
According to previous Elon News Network coverage, Elon’s Anatomical Gift Program is the first willed body consent program in the state of North Carolina to be unaffiliated with a medical school. This means individuals must choose themselves to give their body to anatomical donation after death.
“We are distinctive in that we uphold a first-person consent criteria for anatomical donation here at Elon,” Person said during the event. “In this way, we can assure our students that their silent teachers are here because they chose to be here.”
Bubba requested to be referred to as Bubba, the name his grandchildren called him, in his Anatomical Gift Program consent forms. He came to Elon in fall 2022 and has been a silent teacher for the entirety of the academic year. Elon refers to its donors as “silent teachers” because of the nature and importance of educational value they provide.
Coordinator of the Undergraduate Human Anatomy Laboratory Matthew Clark first arrived at Elon in 1999 and said he was thrilled with this semester’s commemoration.
“This semester we had one of the best programs we have ever had,” Clark told Elon News Network. “Seeing the family, hearing them talk about their loved one. We just came out of the lab from working with those individuals, and then now have an opportunity to hear the family talk about their life. … I’m speechless because it's just such a powerful message that we send out into the community about why our undergrad anatomy program is so amazing.”
Elon University President Connie Book also attended the undergraduate human donor memorial for the first time.
“It's very impactful to recognize the humanity of that person that lived, that's in the memory of — in this case — his children, and how important that decision he made to donate his body for further discovery and to prepare young people to go into the health profession,” Book said. “I'm just impressed with people's philanthropy, even after they've passed away, are thinking about ‘how can I give back.’ … I really heard the respect of the students in the room for the human donor and the gift of what they have received.”
This is the second memorial that Book has attended in Numen Lumen in just over a week, as Elon University junior Jackson Yelle’s memorial took place in the same space on May 1.
Though under different circumstances, Book said she admires how the Elon community has come together to honor the lives of community members.
“It’s been a tough couple of weeks. … I was really proud of our student body’s support of each other after Jackson's passing, and it says a lot about our community that people pause to recognize and to be there for each other who are in pain. And that’s going to take time,” Book told Elon News Network. “It was helpful for me to hear about Jackson through their eyes.”
Lefebvre said the human donor memorial is an opportunity to cement each donor’s legacy.
“To be able to see TEATAPS get up and speak about how much this program has meant to them, and just for Chaplain McBride to donate his body, I think that showed how special Bubba's legacy is to this university,” Lefebvre said. “I'll remember that for the rest of my career, and it's just so special that the family was able to be here and see what Bubba’s donation meant to all of us.”
The ceremony had a record turnout, with roughly 100 people in attendance, surpassing last semester’s roughly 75. Lefebvre said one explanation for this is the higher number of lab sections offered this semester than in previous ones. There were seven labs this spring, compared to the typical four or five.
Leslie said the turnout and sentiment of attendees made the ceremony that much more special to her and other members of her father’s family.
“We were so resolved in knowing this was exactly where he would want to be,” Leslie said.
Steve also said he was very proud of the legacy that his father-in-law is leaving at Elon, and grateful to be able to share his memory with members of the lab — as well as the surrounding community.
“It exceeded all of my expectations. It was beautiful. Particularly with the chaplain and the way he was excited and he was going to participate in the program, and the poem was just so heartfelt,” Steve said. “Just having everybody here, from the president of the university down to the students, was just a fantastic experience.”
Despite the memorial being a place for members of the anatomy program to come together to show their respect and gratitude, Lefebvre said members of the Elon community can still do the same — though they are not invited to the memorial service in order to respect the privacy of the donors and their loved ones.
“I think a way people outside of the program can pay their respects is just acknowledging ... the sacrifice that was made — not only by the donor, but by their families as well,” Lefebvre said. “The ultimate choice to donate their bodies is so important, so if students outside the lab want to learn how to respect the donors, it's almost learning about why the donors chose to donate their bodies. Because it is such a selfless sacrifice.”