An Elon ‘first’ is remembered this Black History Month
It’s been 42 years since the first African American woman graduated Elon, and today, Gail Fonville lives with her husband in Graham, N.C.
Fonville said she is humbled by the recognition, yet remembers that it wasn’t easy being the first.
“I don’t think about it a lot unless I’m reminded,” Fonville said, “but then I think…and I say to you young people, ‘You really have it made compared to when I was a student.’”
Growing up with her six siblings in Green Level, N.C., Fonville said her parents inspired her to set her mind towards anything and accomplish it. She did just that when she decided to attend Elon.
Fonville was the second in her family to attend college and she said she valued her education as a student.
In 1966, the summer before her first year, Fonville and her roommate contacted each other. It would be Fonville’s first time sharing a room with a white female. While she was excited to attend college, Fonville said her first year didn’t go as she hoped.
“The room that had been selected for me was the ironing room with one window that overlooked the parking lot,” she said. “No bed, so you got to put a cot in there for this young freshman to sleep on.” Fonville reminisced.
Fonville commuted as a freshman after her mother expressed her disappointment.
Fonville said it was easier to gain respect from students who were from the North. As for North Carolinians, Fonville had to work harder to fit in socially.
She persevered through discrimination during the era of Aretha Franklin’s famous song, “Respect,” and Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination – moments in history that Fonville said were important to her.
Fonville has opened doors for African American students today here at Elon University. Elon’s Black Alumni committee has renamed the Distinguished Alumni award in Fonville’s honor. But even with the recognition, Fonville said she doesn’t worry about any special praise within the community.
“I just do what God has given me the ability to do,” she said.Explore posts in the same categories: News comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.