|Volume XXVIII Issue 9||October 31, 2002|
Definition of dedication: Tolley serves Elon
Kate Houston - Reporter
Jerry Tolley slipped on a yellow cap, complimenting his nice slacks, shirt and tie, and stepped out into the rainy day. Head down, bustling to lunch, avoiding raindrops by watching his feet move over the brick walkway, Tolley is not just another faculty member.
With everything from football championships, to being a mayor emeritus, to dozens of awards, Tolley has been a contributing part of Elon since 1967 when he was hired as an assistant football coach.
By 1977, Tolley was named head football coach.
"Red Wilson was the previous coach," Tolley said, "and when he went Duke, he left a pretty good program behind."
Although modest, Tolley cannot deny his influence on the team. Elon is one of the few private schools in the nation to win two consecutive national championships.
But after winning two and being in the playoffs five times, Tolley wanted to get out while he was at the top of his game.
"I wanted to get out by 40," he said. "And I did."
In 1986, Tolley took a job as the associate vice president of training, community, and public affairs at the Laboratory Corporation of America, better known as LabCorp.
While away from Elon, Tolley stayed connected by serving on the Elon Board of Visitors, which "helps connect different communities to Elon. Everyone serves as personal ambassadors."
But he couldnít stay away for long. He retired from LabCorp in 1999, but because of his connections to the football team, he was offered a position in which he would raise money for the thenĖ future football stadium, which he accepted because he likes Elon.
As the major gifts officer, Tolley called alumni and asked for large amounts of money starting at lump sums of $10,000 in an effort to collect the $14 million needed to build the stadium.
"Some said yes, some said no," he said. "But you canít raise $14 million one dollar at a time."
In all, $45 million was raised and was divided between other things such as the library and endowment.
"It was flat out easy," Tolley said. "A lot of people gave a lot of money."
Now the director of Annual Giving, Tolley does the same general job of raising money for the school, which now goes into an unrestricted fund that is "used for whatever."
Scholarships, faculty and staff, academics and facilities are common recipients of the money he raises.
But Tolley can be inspired to keep asking for contributions by looking at the stadium he had a large hand in making possible.
"It turned out just beautifully," he said. "Itís not one of the biggest, but surely one of the most beautiful."
Not to be removed from the football field, Tolley keeps in the game today by writing and editing books of football drills. His first has already been published. It has sold more than 16,000 copies, which is significant considering there are only 13,000 high school football programs in the country.
"I sold that book off my dining room table," he said. "But now itís sold in 35 countries and is printed in Japanese, which I think is really something."
His second book, "101 Winning Football Drills from Legends of the Game," is a compilation of drills from coaches around the country.
It is in the editing process and is due out as early as November. He is already thinking of making another drill book with more religious undertones, as he is thinking of incorporating inspirational quotes from each coach with their drills.
Looking back over his career in which he served on the Board of Alderman for 14 years and as the mayor of the town of Elon College for eight years, Tolley is in touch with the history of the school. He wrote his dissertation on the athletic history of Elon.
"I think our greatest visionary was President W.A. Harper," he said. In 1923, Elonís main building burned down, and legend has it that Harper called all the students together and asked whether he thought the college should face the railroad, the main way of transportation, or the road, now Haggard Avenue, where the future of cars would be the main transportation.
The consensus was that the school should face both ways, and thus Alamance was built to face both sides, and buildings built to give the college two faces.
"He has the great capacity to see into the future," Tolley said of Harper. "He realized there was a great future in the school and he built several buildings in the place of one, all bigger and more beautiful than the original."
Tolley credits much of Elonís success today to the partial history Elon keeps in itself.
"Many of the professors that were here in 1967 are still here," he said. "They formed the backbone of the strong tradition we have today and the new faculty continues that tradition."
Elonís future, Tolley believes, lies in the possible future Phi Beta Kappa accreditation, an academic fraternity recognized in colleges and universities across the country.
"I think it might be one of Elonís next great steps," he said. "It would be a statement of our academic vigor."
Although he sees into Elonís future, Tolleyís own future is not so clear.
"I donít know how long Iíll be around," he said. "I mean, Iíve already retired once. But I donít consider this work. Itís a great job."
Enjoying his work, Tolley recognizes significant changes in the basis of the school since the beginning of his career here in 1967.
"Back then, there were only 1,300 students," he said. "And teaching and coaching, I got to know almost all of them. It was very intimate. Now I might know 30."
But whether it is the student body or the select few he knows today, Tolley knows one thing heíll keep with him after he leaves, whenever that may be.
"Iíll always remember the students here for being bright," he said, "and really loving this place."
So as Tolley bustles to lunch on a rainy day in that yellow cap, he may not be waving to as many students as he once did, but heís an unmistakable part of Elon, as are the bricks under his feet.
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