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Personality Profiles

By Sarah Beth Costello

The article was featured on the Elon University Faculty and Staff newsletter Website, @Elon: Click here

In 2006, Cummings High School – located a mere six miles from Elon’s campus – was on the verge of closure, as overall student performance and achievements reached record lows. President Leo M. Lambert felt compelled to act, so he called in Deborah Long, at the time chair of Elon’s Department of Education.

“The president asked me if I’d be interested in being the faculty administrative fellow and assistant to the president,” says Long. “He wanted me to do two things: establish a college access program for Alamance County high school students and work with Cummings High School.

“(The possible closure) was probably one of the best things to happen to Cummings, because it forced people to pay attention. The threat served as the catalyst for the Elon Academy.”

Long directs the Academy, a program for area high-school students who have either no family history of college attendance or come from low-income homes. The program is open to all high-school freshmen in Alamance County who meet admissions criteria and demonstrate academic promise.

Finding education

Long was a natural choice to lead the Elon Academy based on her service to Elon and her leadership of the education department. Before coming to Elon in 1996, Long served as an assistant professor at Lyon College in Batesville, Ark. At Elon, she also was an assistant professor until 2002, when she became education department chair.

Education wasn’t always the field of choice for Long; she studied psychology during her undergraduate years at Colby College in Maine. After graduating, she moved to North Carolina, where she worked as a waitress for one year. While working, she heard about Teachers Corp, a program that provided stipends and tuition reimbursement to individuals with undergraduate liberal arts degrees, encouraging them to become teachers in low-income schools. Long chose to join.

“I didn’t sent out to be a teacher, but I fell in love with education and working with students who faced challenges,” she says. “I became passionate about it.”

Long’s teaching career began in Durham, N.C., where she taught at East End Elementary School. She recalls the atmosphere was challenging, but the work was meaningful, and it prepared her for her future work with Elon Academy.

“Sometimes students aren’t doing well (in school) because they haven’t found something to be passionate about and have lost hope,” she says. “We give them hope and something to strive for – something that’s attainable.”

Shaping students’ futures

Elon Academy students must make a three-year commitment to the program, which offers a variety of academic experiences designed to prepare them for college. Each summer, the students live on Elon’s campus for one month, taking core classes,and  preparing for the SAT and ACT tests as well as college and scholarship applications. During the school year, students and parents meet every Saturday to continue various preparation courses, and students are expected to pursue honors and Advanced Placement courses in their studies whenever possible.

The experience is transformative, Long says, as she shares the story of one student who took an MTV 101 course during the summer session and discovered a passion for film and video editing. He started a club at his school and now wants to major in communications in college. This is a student, Long says, who intended to leave high school and work in construction as a career, and his experience in Elon Academy has completely changed his future goals.

Darris Means ’05, assistant director of Elon Academy, says working with Long has been transformative for him, too.

“Her energy, intelligence and commitment drive me to strive harder in my professional life,” he says. “She’s a team player, and she’s all about collaboration. I feel like her belief in collaboration has led to some remarkable things in Alamance County.”

With Elon Academy set to graduate its first class of students this spring, Long says she hopes to expand the goals of the program, perhaps to include younger students from Alamance County and surrounding areas.

“I love it,” she says of Elon Academy. “I’ve always been drawn to working with under-served students and families. When the opportunity came along to lead the Elon Academy, it felt really right.”

By Sarah Beth Costello

This article was featured on the Elon University news Website, E-Net!: Click here

Andi Cochran wanted to spend her final months before college investing in a

Photo courtesy of Elon University Relations

worthwhile project, so when the incoming Elon University freshman used her high school graduation money to buy toys for patients at Duke Children’s Hospital, she knew her actions represented more than a gift – they were a “thank you” to an institution that touched her own life.

“My mom and my grandmother [both battled] cancer and I’ve been blessed with 18 years of health,” says Cochran, a graduate of Croatan High School in Newport, N.C. “I wanted to take what I’d been given and help others.”

Both relatives were treated at Duke Hospital. Though Cochran was only in second grade when doctors diagnosed her mother – also an Elon alum – with breast cancer, to this day she remembers the fear and uncertainty she experienced during a tumultuous time.

“I have a lot of respect for my mom. She’s strong and she’s a fighter,” says Cochran. “[The experience] taught me that when something is given to you in life, you’ve got to take it and do something with it.”

Cochran contacted Duke this spring with an offer to help the hospital. Susan Zeunges, operations coordinator at Duke Children’s Hospital, asked the high school grad to focus on young adults and teenagers because adolescent patients are often overlooked when donors make gifts.

“I think it’s really fantastic,” Zeunges says. “Andi shared with me that she wanted to do something to give back.”

Donations from community members and a contribution from her mother that matched the total amount of graduation money she received allowed Cochran to purchase hundreds of items, including journals, magazines, CDs, Play-Doh, the board games Clue and Sorry, puzzles and Legos.

Cochran planned to deliver the presents in person but was disappointed to discover that Duke Hospital tightened regulations on tours and visits as a precaution against the H1N1 virus, more commonly known as the swine flu. She delivered the toys just days before moving to campus to begin her fall semester studies.

A sacrifice like Cochran’s is huge but is not unheard of, Zeunges says. The hospital has witnessed an increasing interest among young people to take part in service projects and conduct volunteer work at Duke Children’s Hospital.

“I think the North Carolina schools are adding this service project for high school seniors,” says Zeunges. “Over the past six or eight months, I’ve seen an interest in giving and volunteering from high school groups.”

Cochran’s two uncles also attended Elon and, along with her mother, proved to be one of the driving forces behind her decision to apply to the university. She plans to major in business administration.

“Once I came, I fell in love with the atmosphere and the people,” says Cochran, who appreciates the small campus environment as well as the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business.

Growing up in a giving family helped lay the foundation for what Cochran is doing now. Her experience with her mother fostered her compassion and a desire to help others who are suffering.

Says Cochran: “It gives me a good feeling knowing that although these children [at Duke] have had to grow up so fast, it’s really good to know that even a gift I’ve given can make things brighter.”

By Sarah Beth Costello

This article was featured on the Elon University news Website, E-Net!: Click here

The two small holes in her hips and a little pain are the only reminders

Image courtesy of Elon University Relations.

Maura McGrath ’09 has of her recent surgery at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. She says the slight discomfort is a small price to pay for the good she was doing.

After two months of tests and meetings with doctors at the institute, McGrath underwent a two-hour procedure Oct. 1 to extract bone marrow from her hips to help a woman battling aplastic anemia, a rare blood disease.

“It is a little scary to go through a procedure like I did,” she says. “But I thought she could have children, she could be married. Can I really say no because I’m too busy or too scared?”

McGrath donated one liter of bone marrow through the National Marrow Donor Program, an organization that sponsors blood drives to find matches for patients who need transplants. McGrath first heard about the organization five years ago during a blood drive in her hometown of Ipswich, Mass., for a girl with leukemia. McGrath participated and agreed to have her name added to the bone marrow registry. In August, she received a call.

“Initially I was kind of surprised because I had forgotten about it,” she says.

McGrath was told she was a potential match for a woman with aplastic anemia, a condition in which bone marrow does not produce sufficient new blood cells. It can be fatal if left untreated. McGrath agreed to visit Dana-Farber for further testing to determine if she was a perfect match.

“They gave me time to think about it and said they would support me either way,” recalls McGrath. “It was a little nerve-wracking because it was a big deal. But since I’ve known people who battled cancer, I thought anything that could help someone else was worth it.”

Because of privacy laws, McGrath was only told the age and gender of the patient and her condition. McGrath can write a letter to the woman and meet her in the future if the patient agrees. Whether she meets the woman or not, McGrath says it was worth helping someone in need.

“I want to do my part, even though I don’t know this person, because she’s somebody’s family,” she says.

It took about six weeks from the time McGrath learned she was a perfect match to the procedure, in which doctors inserted needles into her hips to extract bone marrow.

“It hurt, but it wasn’t too bad,” McGrath says. “For some people, it’s really painful, but it wasn’t for me.”

McGrath, a communications major, returned to her job as video editor at Mullen Advertising in Boston a few days after the procedure. Her bone marrow will rejuvenate within four to six weeks. For now, she plans to remain on the bone marrow registry and educate others about the importance of bone marrow donations. She plans to encourage schools, businesses and organizations to sponsor blood drives for testing.

“I don’t have the money to donate to causes,” she says. “The only thing I can really do is volunteer and give time instead of money. (Donating marrow) is a huge deal to the recipient and could potentially save her life. Sometimes I don’t know if I’m making a difference, but this is one thing where I know I helped this one person.”


By Sarah Beth Costello

This article was feature on the Elon University Web site: click here

Two years ago, Bryan McFarland ’04 decided the T-shirt industry provided an ideal

Bryan McFarland, founder of Vintage V by David Mac, poses for a photo shoot, donning the "aviator" V-neck tee. Image courtesy of Bryan McFarland.

Bryan McFarland, founder of Vintage V by David Mac, poses for a photo shoot, donning the "aviator" V-neck tee. Image courtesy of Bryan McFarland.

outlet for a young entrepreneur searching for a niche in the fashion industry.

McFarland noticed that while V-neck tees were popular, few retailers carried simply designed, eco-friendly and unique shirts.

“I couldn’t find any graphic V-necks and I started thinking, ‘Why is nobody creating these?’ I did a little research and decided I could jump into this market and create a name. The more niche you can get, the more you can get a unique following,” explains McFarland who established the product line Vintage V by David Mac.

In December 2007, McFarland launched Vintage V by David Mac. The Philadelphia native began marketing his shirts on his Web site and through networking. He relied heavily on Elon alumni, friends and family to help spread the word about his company and to wear the tees in public.

“I have always had a strong entrepreneurial drive since I was a little kid,” McFarland says. “I’ve always wanted to create my own thing and do something on my own.”

McFarland brought in friends Chris Glen ’05 and Jennifer Fulmer Guthrie ’04 to help him with the company, which is based in Glenmore, Pa. They used their Elon degrees to make it successful.

Jennifer Fulmer Guthrie is the designer for Vintage V by David Mac.

Jennifer Fulmer Guthrie is the designer for Vintage V by David Mac. Image courtesy of Bryan McFarland.

“When Bryan came to me he [already] had a designer to design his logo and it wasn’t working out,” says Guthrie, who majored in digital art. “He remembered this was what I did in college. I worked on the logo and the Web site and from there I asked, ‘What can I do to help you out?’”

Glen, who earned a degree in communications, wrote press releases and brainstormed marketing strategies with McFarland. After about eight months, McFarland asked Glen and Guthrie to join the company full time.

As the designer, Guthrie creates the various T-shirt logos, as well as the Web site. Glen works in marketing, contacting boutiques and the media to promote the shirts. McFarland and Glen are in Pennsylvania while Guthrie lives in Nashville, Tenn. McFarland credits the strong bonds among Elon alumni for bringing the trio together.

“The creativity Jennifer brings to the table with her design work is amazing,” McFarland says. “Chris has such off-the-cuff ideas in writing content and reaching out to public relations people. The company wouldn’t be where it is today if I hadn’t brought them on.”

McFarland says his Elon education helped sharpen and enhance the business skills he gained while working for his family’s business during college. As a business major, McFarland participated in the Elon Enterprise Academy (EEA) in the university’s Martha and Spencer Love School of Business. The EEA offers students a hands-on approach to entrepreneurial education.

“EEA took something I was interested in and fine-tuned my skills and knowledge with real-life applications,” McFarland says.

Glen says he uses his communications studies to enhance the public relations work he does for the company.

Chris Glen sports the V-neck: Philadelphia Love. Image courtesy of Bryan McFarland.

Chris Glen sports the V-neck: Philadelphia Love. Image courtesy of Bryan McFarland.

“My classes are coming in very handy now,” says Glen, who also praises the faculty and staff he worked with at Elon. “Professor Tom Nelson, especially. Every once in a while, I send him an e-mail and let him know what’s going. He’s always been helpful.”

Like any fledgling business, Vintage V by David Mac has experienced successes and setbacks. Yet McFarland is undaunted. He views those challenges as learning experiences.

“I think failure leads to success,” he says. “If you sit there and analyze why you failed and take it as a learning experience, the next time you try to succeed, you’ll be more likely to do so. I also have the attitude, why can’t we start the next big clothing line?”

Currently, Vintage V by David Mac shirts are sold in three boutiques: OBVI Boutique in West Chester, Pa., The Runway in Spartanburg, S.C., and Jack and Jill Boutique in Philadelphia.

McFarland and Glen have also marketed to a bigger audience, sending shirts and press releases to celebrities and their agents. McFarland would like to expand the company’s product line to include sweatshirts and jeans. They also want to partner with organic companies and farms, and donate money to school music programs or nonprofit organizations.

“I’d love to have everything we do contribute to some organization,” Guthrie says. “That’s our next step right now. We’re trying to pin down the philanthropies we want to be involved with.”

These days, McFarland, Guthrie and Glen are searching for a manufacturer that can produce the V-necks using all organic materials.

“Our slogan is ‘stay free,’” says McFarland. “So many people get wrapped up in their daily lives, chained to their jobs and they’ve got to have the mentality to get out and smile. It’s that mindset of lets step back and enjoy life.”

Check out the tees at www.vintagevneck.com

By Sarah Beth Costello

This article was featured on the Elon University Web site: click here

For Chris Jones ’80, baseball is more than just a sport.

Chris Jones and his wife. Image courtesy of Chris Jones.

Chris Jones and his wife, Cindy Jones. Image courtesy of Chris Jones.

“Baseball,” says Jones, “is the concept of sacrifice put into action on the field — giving yourself up for the good of the team. Baseball represents what America could be.”

The retired history teacher and diehard New York Yankees fan is on a mission to preserve the historical architecture of the 1923 Yankee Stadium, known as “The House that Ruth Built.” Specifically, Jones is trying to save Gate 2, the only remaining architecture from the original stadium, which was renovated in 1973.

The Yankees opened a new stadium in April, and Jones wants to make sure that historic portions of the original edifice aren’t demolished. Hall of Fame greats such as Babe Ruth, Yogi Berra, Lou Gehrig and Tony Lazzeri hit home runs, stole bases and set records in the original stadium, located in The Bronx.

No decisions have been made concerning the fate of the original stadium. Plans include demolishing the majority of the structure, including Gate 2. Currently, Jones says there are no plans to preserve the gate despite its historical significance.

“This is more than a Yankees issue and it’s more than a baseball issue, it goes a lot deeper than that,” Jones says. “Even though I’m a Yankees fan, I would be just as disappointed if I knew Fenway Park or Wrigley Field would be torn down.”

In March, Jones began talking with other Yankee fans on the Web site baseballfever.com, where members blog and talk about baseball. They were disappointed by the proposal to demolish The House That Ruth Built and decided something needed to be done. They launched the SAVE THE GATE 2 campaign and have been lobbying local and team officials to leave the gate in its original position and have it serve as the entrance to a park.

“(The stadium) was built for Babe Ruth, so why wouldn’t someone want to save a ballpark that represents the greatest ball player that ever lived?” says Jones.

Yankee Stadium has three gates: 2, 4 and 6. Gates 4 and 6 were renovated in 1973. Gate 2 faces the new stadium, which Jones says makes it ideal for saving. The stadium has not only served as the home of the Yankees since 1923, but also has sentimental value for many New Yorkers.

“We’ve had three popes appear there,” Jones says. “We’ve had Billy Graham crusades. We’ve had Joe Louis defeat Max Schmeling during Hitler’s climb to power.”

The stadium also was the site of the 1958 Baltimore Colts sudden death overtime win against the N.Y. Giants, in what would later be called “The greatest game ever played.” Following 9/11, Yankee Stadium served as a gathering place for thousands after the terrorist attacks.

“We’ve got all of these elements woven into this tapestry, which is Yankees Stadium,” Jones says.

An illustration of the proposed park with Gate 2 as the entrance. Image courtesy of Chris Jones.

An illustration of the proposed park with Gate 2 as the entrance. Image courtesy of Chris Jones.

Jones says the SAVE THE GATE 2 campaign “has really caught fire.” Since its launch last spring, the core committee of volunteers has expanded from three to 10 people. Contractors, architects, engineers, artists, retired Yankee players and everyday New Yorkers have offered to help. In addition, stories about the campaign have appeared in newspapers in the New York area as well as USA Today.

“We’ve found out that a lot of other people feel that same way we do,” Jones says.

Jones’ wife, Cindy, and other committee volunteers have made presentations to parks and recreation officials. Cindy also helped her husband plan a rally outside the original stadium. Ultimately, Jones says, the decision rests with parks and recreation officials and the Yankees.

Jones has watched the Yankees play in the new stadium and loves it. He calls the stadium “a 21st  century impression of a 1920s stadium.”

Yet he still misses the original Yankee home, which he first visited as a teenager. Says Jones, “Yankee Stadium is the Roman Coliseum of America.”

For more information on the Gate 2 campaign, go to www.savetheyankeegate2.com.

By Sarah Beth Costello
July 29, 2009

Doctors told her it would be impossible to dance again, but Elon alumna Katherine

Katherine Southard faced countless obstacles, including scoliosis and multiple attempts at the Miss N.C. Crown before finally receivng the Miss N.C. title in June 2009.

Katherine Southard faced countless obstacles, including scoliosis and multiple attempts at the Miss N.C. Crown before finally recieving the Miss N.C. title in June 2009. Image Courtesy of http://www.missnc.org.

Southard (’07) didn’t let that stop her. As the winner of the Miss North Carolina Pageant this year, Southard not only has the opportunity to perfect her dancing skills, but also plans to help others who are facing the same challenges she once did.

Since early childhood, Southard has battled scoliosis, a medical condition that causes curvature of the spine. Instead of a straight back, her spine curved to the side, deforming part of her body and making dance extremely difficult.

Southard was only two years old when her mother enrolled her in dance lessons, but it did not take long for her parents, teachers and fellow classmates to realize she lacked the ability to perform like the others.

“(Dancing) was frustrating because I didn’t look like the other girls,” Southard said. “My back curved and my ribs stuck out. And they all tried to get on me for (dancing) improperly, but I wasn’t. We finally realized I physically couldn’t dance correctly because of my spine.”

Despite the pain and difficulty, Southard continued to dance throughout school and eventually majored in dance at Elon. In 2005, Southard underwent surgery to correct the curve in her spine with potentially devastating results to her dance career.

Persevering Through Difficulty

“I think it’s important not to give up,” Southard said. “It’s hard to realize in the moment, but having gone through this I feel like I’m a much stronger person than I was before.”

Refusing to toss out her ballet shoes, Southard continued to dance after the surgery. Dancing was still painful and more difficult than before, but her passion for the arts proved to be stronger.

“For someone who said I wouldn’t be able to (dance) anymore after surgery, the fact that I overcame it gives more confidence and encourages me to overcome obstacles,” Southard said.

Southard performs during the talent portion of the Miss N.C. Pageant

Southard performs during the talent portion of the Miss N.C. Pageant. Image Courtesy of http://www.missnc.org.

Before her corrective surgery, Southard participated in the 2005 Miss North Carolina pageant.

“When I (competed) in 2005, it was before I ever had the surgery and after that I thought ‘I’m done’ because I have to have this surgery,” Southard said. “And I had it, and really pageants are just a way I can get back into dance and try to be better.”

Southard competed in 2008 as Miss Mount Holly and did better than she had in the 2005 competition. After placing second runner-up, she decided to continue training and preparing for the 2009 pageant as Miss Raleigh. After three years of participation, she was finally crowned Miss North Carolina.

“I think it’s one of those things where you’re in the moment and you don’t even think,” Southard said. “I remember looking at my family. My sister was jumping up and down and my dad had a blank, shocked look on his face.”

Looking Towards the Future

Southard’s responsibilities range from fundraisers and pancake breakfasts to working with the United Service Organization in support of troops and addressing the North Carolina House and Senate on the issues of scoliosis.

“(I’m working on) getting information packets to children so parents can learn how to screen their child for scoliosis themselves,” Southard said. “It’s unbelievable how many people have contacted me. I had 180 friend requests on Facebook, many from girls who didn’t know that (scoliosis) is an issue.”

Southard plans to travel to Las Vegas in January for the Miss America competition. She said she looks forward to the different atmosphere and the possibility of being crowned Miss America despite the handicaps and challenges she has faced.

“You need to embrace adversity instead of running from it,” Southard said. “Embrace the good things or the bad things that come along.”

Burney Jennings is the CEO and president of Biscuitville Inc.

Burney Jennings is the CEO and president of Biscuitville Inc.

Sarah Beth Costello
April 13, 2009

Biscuitville is a beloved and popular restaurant chain in certain parts of North Carolina and Virginia. The Deep South is well known for southern dishes like barbecue, baked beans, hush puppies and coleslaw, but when it comes to good breakfast, not much can compete with Biscuitville, a restaurant that serves fresh breakfast foods every morning until late afternoon.

THE BEGINNING OF A LEGACY

The origins of Biscuitville can be traced back to 1966 when flour broker, Maurice Jennings, opened two bread stores in Burlington, N.C. Due to the high demand for pizzas, Jennings decided to use his ovens to appease local pizza lovers.

“We started out with pizza restaurants, and when we got into the restaurant business it was called ‘Pizza-To-Go,’” said Burney Jennings, son of Maurice and president of Biscuitville Inc.

“About 35 years ago we started selling biscuits in the morning, and over the years it became very popular and we decided to try a biscuit restaurant only,” said Jennings. “Of course we named it Biscuitville and that opened up in Danville, Virginia. As we added restaurants, we didn’t add on the Pizzaville side. To make a long story short, we ended up taking the pizza out of the other restaurants and changing the names from Pizzaville to Biscuitville.”

GETTING INVOLVED IN THE FAMILY BUSINESS

Burney Jennings is continuing the legacy of Biscuitville that began with his father. Jennings is not only the president of the company, but also has a long and important relationship with Elon. He currently serves on the Board of Trustees and graduated from Elon in 1987 with a degree in business finance and a minor in accounting.

Jennings did not originally plan to attend Elon, but after an average semester at UNCW, he decided to return to his hometown and take a year off from school.

“I worked for a year in Burlington. With my family’s history of being involved with Elon – that’s what drew me to that school.” Jennings graduated four years later, but never planned to continue working with Biscuitville after college.

“I worked with the company just to gain experience but never had the intention to come and work with the company,” said Jennings.

After college, however, Jennings helped his father with real estate deals and located sites for other Biscuitville restaurants.

Biscuitville on Huffman Mill Road in Burlington, N.C.

Biscuitville on Huffman Mill Road in Burlington, N.C.

This early work later led to a career with the company. “I really just worked my way up the company doing different jobs. It’s something that evolved over a 15 year period.,” said Jennings.

Jennings never pursued a masters, but continues to involve himself in business education. At least once a year, Jennings travels to seminars and classes. Jennings married a fellow student he met in third grade at Hill Crest Elementary and has four children.

The Jennings family have a long history at Elon. Jennings’ father decided to pursue a college education after leaving the air force, and knew of Elon because he father was on the Board of Trustees. The Elon legacy continued. Maurice is now a Trustee Emeritus and Burney has served on the board since 2000.

“[Jennings] is very passionate about Biscuitville. He is very connected with Biscuitville,” said Kellie Hicks, director of marketing who has been working with Biscuitville for 16 years. “I think that’s one thing that I, and a lot of folks enjoy about family businesses – we see him every day, he’s in meetings with us and we have a direct line to talk to him. He is very engaged with the activities of the organization.”

Hicks began working with the company at age 23 and admires the passion and care exhibited in Jennings’ attitude and leadership. “There are a lot of presidents or CEOs of organizations that you might see once in a while,” said Hicks, “but they’re not as connected – not Burney. He is a man of definite set of values that he adheres to and does not compromise.”

Robin King is the executive assistant to the president and has worked with Jennings for the past five years. “I can’t say enough good about him. We get along fabulously – he’s a lot of fun. It’s fun to come to work,” said King.

There is one piece of advice that has stuck with Jennings for many years and is relevant to him as a business owner and breakfast food provider: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

“It can be business advice, it can be personal advice. But it just makes a lot of sense to make sure you diversify, that you don’t break your business and rely just on one customer. For Biscuitville it means we don’t just rely on one restaurant,” said Jennings.

Burney Jennings Shares Some of the Best Advice He Has Ever Received: