Hightower, Glenda Phillips


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Hightower, Glenda Phillips
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Glenda Phillips Hightower enrolled as the first Black full-time student at Elon College in the fall of 1963
Glenda Phillips Hightower grew up in Burlington, NC, the oldest of nine children. She was valedictorian of her class of 56 students at the all-black Jordan Sellars High School. President James Early Danieley approved Hightower’s acceptance to Elon without seeking input from the Elon Board of Trustees about admitting Black students, stating in 2013, “she had every qualification”. Hightower chose Elon based upon proximity and finances, as well as health concerns from an earlier bout with hepatitis. She enrolled as a pre-med major and received a full scholarship but was not offered the opportunity to live in campus residence halls. Living at home, she took the bus from downtown Burlington to travel the nearly five miles to campus. Aside from joining the marching band, Hightower acknowledged feeling cut off from classmates and professors and felt unwelcome in various campus facilities during her nearly three semesters at Elon. She was the first and only black student on campus until 1965. There were no formal support systems in place for her as a Black student. Unfortunately, she did not complete her education at Elon. In the fall of her sophomore year, she fell ill with hepatitis. She also got married and moved to Washington, D.C. with her new husband. Education remained a priority, so she continued taking college courses and eventually earned a nursing and general science degree from the University of Iowa in 1974. In 2019 Elon awarded her an honorary doctorate of humane letters during the annual Spring Convocation ceremony.
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