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45 // The Legacies of Elon’s Leaders

Jo Williams GET TO KNOW Jo W illiams

Arrived at Elon in 1969 “For this is your duty, to act well the part that is given to you.” - Greek Philosopher Epictetus “Leadership is getting others to work with you toward a common goal.”


“Leaders must welcome the challenges that come with change. Without change, stagnation often occurs. Leaders cannot be threatened by change but embrace it.”

The Legacies of Elon’s Leaders // 46

During the last 45 years, Elon University has gone through many changes. Jo Williams, Special Assistant to the President, has been one of the constant pillars at Elon for almost half a century. She has served under the last four presidents — Dr. Leon E. Smith, Dr. J. Earl Danieley, Dr. J. Fred Young and Dr. Leo Lambert. Williams and her seven siblings were raised in Anson County and all attended Elon College. They were always taught to appreciate education. “I have been influenced by so many people in my life,” Williams said. “I have had so many great teachers, and my parents always valued education. There were never any questions about me getting an education.” In 1955, she earned a degree in education. During the next 14 years, she taught at public schools in Burlington, Concord and Alamance County. “I have always loved teaching,” Williams said. “I’m a people person. I like people. I like looking at people and their special talents and helping people capitalize on those talents. I enjoy helping people succeed.” Danieley taught Williams chemistry during her freshman year, and in 1969 he invited her back to Elon to teach in the department of education and psychology. In 1977, Williams was named Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Director of the Learning Resource Center. While she was working at Elon, Williams was also continuing her education. She earned a master’s and a doctoral degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. In 1979, Williams became the Vice President of Development

and served the university in that role until she retired from that position in 1995. She was asked to take the job as Special Assistant to the President. “Serving in so many different roles has made my career at the institution always exciting and challenging,” Williams said. Williams has been at Elon for 45 years and has had a unique opportunity to really see the school change. “I just have a passion for Elon,” she said. “I always had a vision for what Elon could become, and now my dreams have become a reality. What an unparalleled joy it has been to be a small part of the progress of the institution and see the changes unfold.” As the school has grown and received recognition, the community feel of Elon has remained, Williams said. “Elon means a lot to me, especially the values of the institution,” she said. “Regardless of the size, we’ve remained close. We have remained a family.” Her passion for Elon was recognized in February 2008 when she received the university’s Frank S. Holt, Jr. Business Leadership Award. She was recognized because of her service to not only Elon, but the surrounding Alamance County. Williams said she is not ready to leave Elon and plans on staying at the school that she has turned into her family. She enjoys meeting with students and wants to help current students do everything they can while at Elon. “Students should take advantage of everything offered here,” she said. “They should embrace not just academics, but also extracurricular activities and programs like study abroad. It’s a special time in anyone’s life.”

Story By Rebecca Smith



Arrived at Elon in 1969 “For this is your duty, to act well the part that is given to you.” - Greek Philosopher Epictetus “Leadership is get...

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