Two retired faculty members and a retired staff member were honored for their years of service and contributions to the university and its people on Monday with the presentation of the Elon Medallion, the university’s highest honor. The medallions were awarded by President Connie Ledoux Book at the start of the annual faculty/staff planning week that marks the beginning of the academic year.
The university also recognized two members of the faculty who were selected for named professorships.
Receiving Elon Medallions were: Jane Deaton, retired university comptroller; Paul Parsons, professor emeritus of journalism and founding dean of the School of Communications; and Jeffrey Pugh, professor emeritus of religious studies and Distinguished University Professor.
Jane Deaton shared her dedication, integrity and enduring commitment to the highest ethical standards with the Elon community during her nearly 20 years of distinguished service as comptroller. She led the university’s accounting office to new levels of excellence and professionalism during a period of historic growth. With her retirement from Elon in August 2021 as special assistant to the vice president for finance and administration, she left a rich legacy of excellence, goodwill, and generosity of spirit.
A certified public accountant, Deaton came to Elon in 2001 with more than two decades of experience in private industry and expertly led all accounting functions of the university. That included accounts payable, payroll, external and internal audits, institutional budget management, and annual financial statements. With an unrivaled work ethic and quiet grace, she worked meticulously behind the scenes to keep the accounting office running smoothly and ensure the integrity of the university’s financial operations, which have grown more complex with Elon’s significant growth and rise as a national university.
Deaton credited her colleagues with providing the support she and the university needed to be successful. “I can honestly say in my almost 20 years I was never bored,” Deaton told the faculty and staff gathered in Schar Center Monday for Opening Day ceremonies. “I was blessed with a team that possessed the pride and determination it took to tackle any task that was put before us. I believe this award belongs to them as well.”
Deaton endeared herself to colleagues with her sound judgment, attention to detail and deep knowledge of accounting principles. A key contributor to the annual budget process, Deaton created the financial model for the university’s revenue and year-end balance projections, enabling Elon to plan effectively to meet institutional priorities and keep the university moving forward. Her work played an essential role in Elon’s longstanding history of producing high-quality audits, including those examining the university’s overall financial statements, retirement plan contributions, state and federal financial aid funds, and athletics revenues and expenses.
Deaton took pride in knowing that Elon’s reputation for financial soundness played an integral role in successful reaccreditation reviews, as well as the university’s ability to secure life-changing philanthropic gifts from donors and financing to continue developing Elon’s iconic campus. Consistently leading with kindness and collaboration, she served as a resilient and steadying force for her team during challenging times, including her efforts to ensure the university’s payroll and other vital accounting functions continued uninterrupted during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A lifelong learner, Deaton worked diligently throughout her career to remain current in her field, learning new accounting standards and mastering changing regulatory requirements to enhance her work, while also establishing strong internal controls as a critical aspect of risk management.
Her family includes her husband, Barry; her daughter Jennifer Smith, son-in-law Sam Smith and grandchildren Amy and Austin; daughter Melissa Deaton Troutman ’13 G’15, son-in-law Lucas Troutman ’14 and grandson Hudson; and daughter Allison Deaton.
During his 32 years at Elon, Professor of Religious Studies and Distinguished University Professor Jeffrey Pugh helped fuel Elon’s national rise while inspiring members of our community to be their best selves. A gifted teacher and mentor, respected scholar, beloved colleague, and champion for justice, Pugh joined Elon’s Department of Religion in 1986 and quickly earned a reputation as an outstanding teacher. He transformed students’ lives by challenging them to examine their assumptions about themselves and the world around them and to create a more just society.
Recognizing early in his career Elon’s potential for national leadership, Pugh lent his wisdom and guidance to key initiatives that propelled the institution forward, including advocating for enhanced faculty salaries and providing the time and resources scholarly research requires. A valued and trusted colleague, Pugh also served as one of the founding faculty members of Elon’s Service Learning Community and helped to develop and pilot the first Global Studies course that today is an integral part of Elon’s Core Curriculum.
Pugh said after being presented with the medallion in Schar Center that he had arrived at Elon thinking he would only be there for a few years, but was inspired by those around him working to make Elon better and remained at the university for the rest of his academic career.
“This community took me in, they overlooked my flaws and they supported me during some very difficult days. … I came to love this community and I wanted to contribute something, anything, to help my colleagues,” Pugh said after being presented with the medallion. “Elon’s future, even with all of the tensions you presently negotiate, will be up to this community. Live into your greatest hopes and not your greatest fears, because I think that’s what we did, and that’s why we are where we are today.”
Believing the study of religion is central to a liberal arts education, Pugh collaborated with colleagues to grow and evolve their department from one centered primarily on Christian studies to the current, more inclusive Department of Religious Studies that focuses on the role of religion in diverse societies. Praised for his ability to think critically about the needs of the university and consider all sides of an issue, Pugh served with distinction on nearly every major university committee, including Academic Council, Promotion and Tenure, and the planning committees for the NewCentury@Elon and Elon Commitment strategic plans along with Elon’s multifaith initiative.
Embodying Elon’s teacher-scholar-mentor model, Pugh is an internationally respected religious studies scholar whose seven books range in topics from theologians Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer to religion and science, and include his first novel, titled “Cages: A Tale of Insurrection,” based on the radical 16th century Anabaptist rebellion in Münster, Germany. In recognition of an extraordinary career, Pugh was named the Maude Sharpe Powell Professor, and received the university’s Daniels-Danieley Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2000 and Distinguished Scholar Award in 2010 before being named Distinguished University Professor in 2017 and retiring the following year as Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies.
Highly respected for living his values, Pugh has served as a guiding light for the Elon community by reminding its members to guard against bigotry and extremism and embrace the idea that “the suffering of one of us is the suffering of all of us. ” With the world looking on and setting aside concerns for his own safety, Pugh demonstrated his commitment to justice in 2017 by locking arms with fellow clergy members and marching in peace at the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Committed to preparing graduates the world needs, Pugh has been a loyal donor to his department and endowed the Thomas O. and Frances L. Pugh Department of Religious Studies Award in honor of his parents to support seniors pursuing graduate studies in religion or divinity school degrees. His family includes his wife, Jan Rivero and daughters Miriam and Joy and their families.
Paul Parsons led Elon University’s School of Communications as founding dean for 17 years, propelling the school to national recognition before returning to the classroom to teach and retiring in 2020 as dean emeritus and one of the most respected leaders nationally in mass communications education. A professor of journalism, he served the university with vision, dedication to excellence and a collaborative spirit.
After arriving at Elon in 2001, Parsons worked alongside faculty and staff to transform the department of journalism and communications into a premier School of Communications with programs in journalism, strategic communications, cinema and television arts, communication design, media analytics, sport management, and interactive media. Famously unflappable, Parsons endeared himself to students and colleagues with his innovative spirit, openness to new ideas, collegiality, and relentless focus on what was best for the school and student learning.
Parsons told the faculty and staff gathered in Schar Center Monday that he quickly sensed that Elon was the right place for him when he arrived on campus as a candidate for the dean’s position. “I loved working at a university with visionary leaders, a collaborative dean team, and staff and students and faculty all dedicated to student success,” Parsons said.
His persistence and thoughtful approach to his work were essential to leading initiatives that fueled the growth and national reach of the school, beginning with securing accreditation from the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications and overseeing three successful reaccreditation reviews. His dedication to the highest standards of quality in student learning assessment made him an invaluable member of numerous accreditation teams across the country and why Elon is recognized as a national model for accredited communications schools.
Consistently looking to the future and dedicated to helping to prepare graduates to thrive in a rapidly evolving communications field, Parsons led the development of new academic majors as well as the nation’s first undergraduate communications program in media analytics and the Master of Arts in Interactive Media program. Under his leadership, the school added invaluable engaged learning opportunities, including the Imagining the Internet Center, Elon in Los Angeles program, the nation’s only undergraduate research journal in communications, and award-winning student media organizations. A journalist at heart, Paul’s abiding belief in a strong student news operation inspired the launch of Elon News Network, which consolidated student news media organizations into a robust hub that reflected the modern world of communications Elon graduates would enter.
Parsons was named the 2011 national Administrator of the Year by the Scripps Howard Foundation and in 2010 accepted the Equity and Diversity Award from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, recognizing the school’s efforts to advance diversity and inclusion in its faculty, staff, and programs. As part of the Elon LEADS Campaign, Paul oversaw the historic expansion of the School of Communications that more than doubled the school’s footprint in 2017.
In recognition of his remarkable service to Elon, the Board of Trustees in 2018 named the student media newsroom in McEwen in his honor, while faculty, staff, and alumni joined members of the school’s advisory board to establish the Founding Dean Scholarship, a fund Paul and his wife, Mary Helen, permanently endowed three years later with a generous gift.
His family includes his wife, Mary Helen, and children John David and Catherine, who are proud graduates of Elon’s Class of 2006 and 2009, respectively.
Monday’s event included an opportunity to recognize Elon faculty members who have been honored this year to named professorships.
Assistant Professor of Chemistry Anthony Rizzuto has been named the A.J. Hook Emerging Professor in Science and Mathematics. The professorship, which has a three-year term, is awarded to a member of the faculty who has ongoing, active scholarship, has a history of mentoring undergraduate research and has demonstrated the ability to impact students, their department and the university.
Associate Professor of Finance Adam Aiken has been named the Wesley R. Elingburg Professor in Business. As the Elingburg Professor, Aiken will receive support for research, teaching and mentoring.