Salem College recently lost one of its most loyal supporters with the passing of former trustee and benefactor Robert E. Elberson.
Elberson grew up in Winston-Salem and became president of Hanes Hosiery Mills Co. in 1968, just 14 years after joining the company as a management trainee. In 1972 he was named president and chief executive of Hanes Corp., president and chief operating officer of Sara Lee Corp. in 1983, and vice chairman of Sara Lee in 1986. He retired in 1989.
Throughout his life, Elberson maintained a steadfast commitment to Salem. He helped create the Salem Academy and College Board of Visitors in 1987 and served as its first chair, in addition to serving as a member of the Salem Academy and College Board of Trustees for 15 years, retiring in 2001.
Elberson also established the Harriet Branin and Charles Evans Elberson Fund in 1980 in honor of his parents, created the Shirley Danner Shouse C’01 Scholarship in 2001 and established the Robert E. Elberson scholarship for adult female students in 2008.
Most recently, he donated $3 million dollars to the school to help fund student scholarships, including the Robert E. Elberson scholarship, which offers full tuition, room and board and includes a semester of study abroad at Harlaxton College in Gratham, England. The $3 million dollar gift adds to $2 million previously given to the school, totaling $5 million in lifetime giving by Elberson to Salem.
“Mr. Elberson’s generous spirit will continue to enrich Salem students through the amazing scholarship opportunities he has established,” says Dr. Susan Pauly, President of Salem Academy and College. “His legacy is one of generosity and dedication to changing lives through the priceless gift of education.”
In 2002, Elberson received Salem’s Comenius Award—the school’s highest honor and most distinguished award, which is presented to individuals who have demonstrated long-standing service, exceptional professional achievement, leadership in public affairs, outstanding community service or scholarly achievement. And in 2012, Salem honored Elberson again, naming its arts venue The Robert E. Elberson Fine Arts Center.
“Mr. Elberson was a wonderful friend and benefactor to Salem over many years,” says Vicki Sheppard, Vice President for Institutional Advancement. “We will remain deeply grateful for his enduring devotion and the transforming difference he made.”