By Hannah Benson
Elon University President Leo Lambert told his board of trustees at a meeting on Feb. 10 that he will be stepping down as president sometime in the next year. His plan is to stay in office until Elon’s ninth president is hired, then take a sabbatical year dedicated to writing, then continue service to Elon as president emeritus and professor. In that position, he will work primarily to support the university’s advancement office and alumni engagement efforts.
Lambert has been the president of the university for 18 years, since January 1999. He said since the university is starting the new “Elon Leads” fundraising campaign, which will launch publicly in 2018, the timing of the search for replacement is perfect.
“In recruiting a new president at this time,” he said, “we can ensure continuity of leadership for these key initiatives, as well as anticipate the creation and implementation of the university’s next strategic plan. This will allow Elon to continue to make progress on many fronts. I expect 2017 will be an exciting time at Elon. We have important goals to pursue and much to accomplish in the months ahead.”
Tommy Hamzik, student director for Elon News Network, who has worked personally with Lambert in the past said, “I’ve had the privilege of knowing President Lambert on a personal level for a little more than a year now and it’s been really special getting to know him, considering how influential he’s been in Elon’s history and how the Elon we know today as students wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for President Lambert.”
Associate Dean Grady of the Communications school said, “Leo has been really successful in elevating the institution to a high level of national prominence and I think we can continue to build on that tradition that he’s helped to establish here—we can continue to provide great opportunities for students and also to support faculty in their work in their teaching and also in their research.”
During Lambert’s presidency, applications for undergraduate admission have doubled, enrollment has grown from 4,000 to more than 6,700, and full-time faculty numbers have increased from under 200 to 425. During this period of growth, student academic credentials increased, average class sizes dropped and the student-faculty ratio decreased from 16-to-1 to 12-to-1. In addition, nationally accredited schools of communications, education, health sciences and law have been established and Elon gained a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, achieving the highest standards of quality in the arts and sciences.
Local business owner Phil Smith of the Oak House said, concerning the news of Lambert’s stepping down, “I certainly wish him the best; he’s made a tremendous positive impact on the university and he’ll be missed in that role and will be appreciated in his new role.”
“I would hope that whoever replaces Dr. Lambert would share his enthusiasm for building a vibrant downtown Elon,” Smith adds.
Elon sophomore Lindsay Case provides a student perspective, remarking that the news was, “definitely shocking—you kind of picture your four years at Elon with Leo Lambert as the face of it. It was not what i was expecting to wake up to on a Monday.”
“He did great service for the school and the things he did are incredible,” says Case. “I’m thankful that I got to have two years with him.”