Salem College has received a $3 million gift – one of the largest in the school’s history – from Robert E. Elberson for student scholarships. The $3 million dollar gift adds to $2 million previously given to the school, totaling $5 million in lifetime giving by Elberson to Salem. Elberson grew up in Winston-Salem and served as President and Vice Chairman of the Board of Sara Lee Corporation in Chicago before retiring in 1989.
In honor of this and his previous gifts, Salem College will rename the Salem Fine Arts Center, which serves as a venue for arts performances for the entire Piedmont Triad and beyond, the Robert E. Elberson Fine Arts Center. The dedication for the Elberson Fine Arts Center will be held on Friday, April 20, at 5:30 p.m. in a private ceremony. Elberson lives in Charlotte and will attend the dedication ceremony.
Salem College will use $1 million of the $3 million gift to establish an endowment for the Robert E. Elberson Honors Scholarship, which will be awarded to a qualified student each year to pay for four full years of tuition, including at least one travel abroad opportunity during her four-year tenure. The remaining $2 million will fund need-based scholarships for students who would otherwise be unable to attend Salem College.
“Before the most recent gift, Mr. Elberson already had given $2 million to Salem College and served on our Board of Trustees. Mr. Elberson is a tremendous friend and benefactor to Salem College, and his gifts will help many fortunate young women in perpetuity,” Dr. Susan Pauly, President of Salem Academy and College, said. “Mr. Elberson’s generosity to Salem College is extraordinary by any measure, and we are deeply grateful for his longstanding financial support. We are equally grateful for his gift of time and service.”
“This $3 million gift from Mr. Elberson helps reaffirm the future of Salem College on the eve of our 240th Founder’s Day convocation on April 27,” Dr. Pauly added. “We know that Mr. Elberson has a deep appreciation for the Moravian community and we are incredibly pleased to name the Robert E. Elberson Fine Arts Center, in the heart of Winston-Salem’s historic Moravian community, in honor of him.”
Elberson received Salem’s Comenius Award in 2002. The school’s highest honor and most distinguished award, the Comenius Award is presented to individuals who have demonstrated long-standing service, exceptional professional achievement, leadership in public affairs, outstanding community service or scholarly achievement. Elberson served as a member of the Salem Academy and College Board of Trustees for 15 years, retiring in 2001.
Additionally, he helped create the Salem Academy and College Board of Visitors in 1987 and served as its first chair. Elberson also established the Harriet Branin and Charles Evans Elberson Fund in 1980 in honor of his parents, created the Shirley Danner Shouse (Salem College ’01) Scholarship in 2001 and established the Robert E. Elberson scholarship for adult female students in 2008.
Prior to serving as President and Vice Chairman of the Board of Sara Lee Corporation, Elberson was Executive Vice President and later President and Chief Operating Officer of Consolidated Foods Corp. He also served as a Director at W.W. Grainger, Inc. and Sonoco Products Company.