Leo M. Lambert led Elon’s rise to national prominence from 1999 to 2018, promoting a student-centered culture that values strong relationships between students and their faculty and staff mentors. Focused on developing students as global citizens, ethical leaders and creative problem-solvers, Lambert led two strategic plans, creating a model for the modern liberal arts university.
Led by President Lambert, Elon built a national reputation for academic excellence across the curriculum, and for its innovative programs in study abroad, undergraduate research, leadership, interfaith dialogue, civic engagement and community service, and preparing students for meaningful careers and advanced study.
Under Lambert’s leadership, the university established the Elon University School of Law in downtown Greensboro (2006) and created a new School of Health Sciences (2011). Earlier in his tenure, he supported a major academic reorganization that established the School of Communications, the School of Education and Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences, which joined Elon’s existing Martha and Spencer Love School of Business.
The academic climate of the campus strengthened through special initiatives to shelter a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa and maintain top accreditations for Elon’s professional schools, including AACSB International for the Love School of Business, ACEJMC for the School of Communications, NCATE for the School of Education and ABA for the School of Law.
In 2001 Elon College became Elon University, and Lambert led creation of the NewCentury@Elon strategic plan, advancing Elon’s position as a national model of engaged learning. Upon that plan’s completion, he led creation of the current strategic plan, the Elon Commitment, which will guide the university’s development through 2020. Among the priorities of that plan are initiatives to enhance inclusion, diversity and global engagement; support a world-class faculty and staff; attain the highest standards of academic achievement; expand graduate programs, career services and alumni programs; continue growth of Elon’s athletics programs; and continue development of the campus with special emphasis on transformation of the residential experience and growth of a vibrant Town of Elon.
Lambert also provided leadership for the successful completion of the Ever Elon Campaign in December 2011, which raised $107.3 million and was the largest fundraising campaign in Elon’s history. Total fundraising during President Lambert’s tenure topped $300 million.
With a priority on expanding partnerships with K-12 public education, Lambert was instrumental in the creation of the Elon Academy in 2007, an enrichment program for academically talented high school students in the Alamance-Burlington (N.C.) School System who have financial need or have no family history of college attendance. The program has become a national model of excellence, enrolling nearly all of its graduates in higher education.
Elon’s campus grew tremendously during Lambert’s presidency. New academic facilities constructed or acquired during Lambert’s tenure include Carol Grotnes Belk Library, Lindner Hall and six additional buildings in the Academic Village, Ernest A. Koury Sr. Business Center, Dwight C. Schar Hall and Steers Pavilion for the School of Communications, Arts West, Scott Studios, Gerald L. Francis Center for the School of Health Sciences, H. Michael Weaver Building for the School of Law, and Inman Admissions Welcome Center.
Under Lambert’s leadership, Elon invested heavily in developing its residential campus, building four major neighborhoods, integrating academic and residence life programs and nurturing a flourishing intellectual climate. Among the new residential facilities added to Elon’s campus are the seven-building Oaks Neighborhood, the five-building Colonnades Neighborhood along with Clohan Hall, the 25-townhouse Station at Mill Point, and the 600-bed, six-building Global Neighborhood, including the 30,000-square-foot Global Commons Building and the adjacent Lakeside Dining Hall.
New athletics facilities included Rhodes Stadium, Alumni Field House, Robertson Track and Field Complex, Rudd Field for soccer, Worsley Golf Training Center and Hunt Softball Park.
Under Lambert’s guidance, land was designated for the creation of the Elon University Forest, and the university created an environmental sustainability master plan to reduce energy consumption and set conservation standards for university construction and operations. In addition, the university created the Elon Environmental Center on the Loy Farm property as a hub for engaged learning, where students learn practical skills in sustainable agriculture, design and construction techniques. The Center includes a large solar farm and serves as a place for students to study the environmental, business, social, and political implications of renewable energy at Elon.
Lambert has written extensively about post-secondary education and is co-author of a new book, The Undergraduate Experience: Focusing Institutions on What Matters Most, published by Jossey-Bass. He was also co-editor of a book about university teaching that was published by the Syracuse University Press in 2005. His alma mater, the State University of New York at Geneseo, awarded him an honorary doctorate of humane letters in 2002 in recognition of exceptional achievements in higher education, and the Geneseo Alumni Association awarded him its Excellence in Education Award. In 1998, he was named by Change magazine as one of the nation’s outstanding young leaders in higher education. In 2009, he received the inaugural William M. Burke Presidential Award for Excellence in Experiential Education from the National Society for Experiential Education. In 2010, he received the Periclean Service Award from Project Pericles.
As a prominent figure in North Carolina’s Triad region, Lambert was named one of the “most influential leaders” for six consecutive years by the Triad Business Journal. In 2011 he was named the #1 large workplace leader in a survey by the Greensboro News & Record. He also received the Thomas Z. Osborne Distinguished Citizen Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Greensboro, N.C., Chamber of Commerce, and was named a “Father of the Year” by the American Diabetes Association Greater Greensboro Area Father’s Day Council.
Lambert assumed the title of President Emeritus on March 1, 2018, and is spending a sabbatical year working on a new book project with Elon faculty member Peter Felten. He will teach in the university’s master of higher education program when he returns from sabbatical.