Meeting the right people at the right time can lead to success
By Kelly Derickson, Editor of The Scroll
The September 1947 issue of The Scroll gave a fond farewell to a chapter consultant [leadership consultant] for the Fraternity, upon his transitioning to a career of advertising:
“As Lovell lays aside his Phi Delta Theta traveling kit, it may be said without fear of contradiction, that never in the Fraternity’s history has a young roving ambassador so endeared himself to the undergraduate brothers as has Brother Elliott. In twelve months of fraternity work, Lovell visited sixty-one active chapters at the most critical time, when they were groping for the proper ‘knowing how’ in the months following the winning of the war. In all other assignments other than chapter visitation work, this talented brother performed a useful service to the Fraternity, and we wish him well in his new field of endeavor.”
In early October, I was able to speak with the man who turns out to be the oldest Phi Delta Theta living chapter consultant, Lovell Elliott, Ohio State ’46. When he returned a call to General Headquarters, he was placed on hold. When callers are placed on hold awaiting someone to pick up their call, “Eternal Praise,” a beloved song of Phi Delta Theta, plays on our answering machine. When I picked up Lovell’s call from hold, he commented that the melody sounds a lot like Ohio State’s beloved “Carmen, Ohio.” From the start it was clear that this alumnus’ Buckeye pride remains strong even at 94 years old; most Buckeyes I know bleed scarlet and gray and are fiercely loyal to their school and its traditions.
At Ohio State, Lovell Elliott made the most of every opportunity including as editor of the humor magazine, and as president of the senior class. He hoped to make his final year one much less hectic, busy, and laden with responsibility.
He quipped that it was in his senior year that he finally allowed himself to “take a break,’” and one afternoon while at Larry’s in Columbus, when he saw the most beautiful woman across the room. Even though he was there to relax, he knew he had to try to meet this woman. Joan Textor, a Tri Delt and junior, was glad of his effort and before he graduated, he was pinned to this special lady.
He vividly remembers the evening he gave Joan his Fraternity badge to wear. He and his good friend, Walker Lowman, Ohio State ’45, and their dates were spending the evening at Walker’s parents’ home in suburban Columbus. During the evening, with the song “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” playing in the background, he pinned his girl.
Called to Lead and Serve Early
Lovell joined the Boy Scouts at age fourteen. When he went with a local Boy Scout troop to a YMCA and took the tenderfoot test, he was hooked.
In Waterville, Ohio where he grew up, he had a scoutmaster that saw Lovell’s potential for leadership early on. The Scoutmaster trusted this fourteen-year-old and Lovell said that after a while, he was often the one conducting troop meetings, planning the activities; basically, he was a kid scoutmaster.
Lovell attended Waterville High School and there were eighteen in his class. The top three in the class were good friends and went on to have successful careers, one as an atomic engineer, another a surgeon who graduated from Yale, and then Lovell himself, who had a successful advertising career.
Martin Hect, Ohio ’46 (a chapter consultant the year after Lovell), Paul Beam, and Lovell Elliott
Tales from the Road
Lovell graduated from Ohio State in March 1946 and in April, he started working for General Headquarters as its only other Phi Delt employee. Back then, it was Brother Elliott and Executive Secretary Paul C. Beam, Indiana ’22, and the women of the administrative staff.
Elliott remembers arriving in Oxford in to a disappointing and dreary rooming house with cold water and a bare lightbulb hanging from the ceiling. Within four days he found a nicer place, with a friendly landlady, and neighbors who looked out for him, and Oxford began to feel a lot more like home.
During his time at General Headquarters, the Memorial Library and General Headquarters building was rapidly taking shape on the site of Caroline Scott’s family historic mansion (first lady of US President Benjamin Harrison, Miami 1852). The year before, the cornerstone was laid and inside it was contained vital records of the Fraternity and a message to the world of 2048. Lovell helped plan the cornerstone ceremony for the new General Headquarters building at 2 South Campus Avenue. One of his tasks that weekend was transporting the dignitaries to and from Cincinnati. People like George Banta Jr., Wabash ’14, Admiral Wat Tyler Cluverius, Tulane 1895, President of General Council and Chairman of the Centennial Committee, Thomas McNeil, Miami ’31, J.H. Wilterding, Lawrence ’25, and Alumni Commissioner Barrett Herrick, Washington ’17. Other notables in attendance the day of the cornerstone ceremony included Verlin Pulley, Miami ’25, S. K. Ruick, DePauw 1897, Dr. John Edwin Brown, Ohio Wesleyan ’84, Walter H. Coles, Amherst ’97, and Miami University President Ernest H. Hahne.
Some of his tasks included revising and editing The Manual of Phi Delta Theta, creating lots of artwork, and four times a year making month-long visits, mostly by train, to about ten chapters each circuit. Lovell planned each trip, negotiated the destinations, maps, needs of each chapter, and made it back to Oxford with a little more knowledge and skill under his belt each time.
As you might imagine, chapter visits depended on how good a chapter’s operations were. The better the chapter, the shorter the visit. Each visit was informal, with Lovell serving to represent General Headquarters, and checking in on the ritual and other regular tasks of the chapter officers.
Lovell kept a diary during time on staff as a consultant. It was the kind with the onion skin copies, showing what his itinerary was. In it he notes that he visited forty-four of the forty-eight states and several Canadian provinces over his time on staff.
He had a number of visits that stand out in his memory. As part of a typical chapter visit, he was tasked with meeting the highest-ranking university official possible. When he visited Kansas State in Manhattan, Kansas he met with K-State President Milton Eisenhower, younger brother of US President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
It was at this meeting that Mr. Eisenhower gave some encouragement to Brother Elliot. Lovell planned to pursue a career in advertising after his stint at General Headquarters and he feared that an occupation in advertising didn’t measure up to the “service to others” expectation and lessons learned from Phi Delta Theta. Eisenhower helped Lovell to understand the value in pursuing his passion and this fortuitous meeting was a helpful spark that led to his pursuing a career in advertising.
On his visit to Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, he met the president of Brown, Henry Wristen, and lunched with Phi alumnus Wat Tyler Cluverius, president of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, in Massachusetts.
When he visited chapters, he typically stayed at a motel or hotel, and occasionally could stay in the chapter house. During his visit to Salt Lake City, the hotel he was able to find a room in was all booked up except for one room. This room happened to be the largest, most spacious room he’d ever seen; a sample room, which was a room that salesmen might book in to showcase their wares to potential buyers.
He made lifelong friends on the road. Johnny C. Warren, Syracuse ’39, was the chapter advisor at New York Epsilon. He and Warren had a lot in common as Warren was sales manager for WSYR but later moved to NBC-TV headquarters in New York to be the ads director of national sales. Warren eventually retired to Bar Harbor, Maine and where later Lovell and his wife visited.
Never Stop Serving
After serving the Fraternity, Lovell returned to Columbus and took a job with an advertising agency for eight months, followed by another opportunity in Charleston, West Virginia. Lovell and Joan were married in 1948 and lived in Charleston for seven years where they welcomed their first two children.
In 1955 they returned to Columbus, where he started his own advertising agency and successfully built his business for the next twenty-five years. It was there they had two more children.
Elliott currently resides in Cape Cod. There Elliott has conducted a worldwide business in historical autographed material, always having in stock all the presidents (his specialty) and other famous people, in a home with its lovely thirty-five square foot formal garden and where he has cultivated over 1,000 boxwood trees from cuttings.
He and President Emeritus Robert J. Miller, New Mexico ’50, are longtime friends. In fact, it was Brother Miller who named one of the consultant awards after Lovell Elliott.
Elliott is philanthropic and has established three major gifts to the 1) American Indian College Fund, 2) Service Dogs for Blind Veterans, and 3) Semper Fi Fund that helps vets who aren’t covered adequately by the VA benefits they receive. He is a major supporter of the Greater Boston Food Bank, along with twenty other organizations he likes to support with minor gifts.
When we have the opportunity to visit with our more senior members, we are always rewarded with an incredible conversation. Whenever undergraduates have the opportunity to reach out to their alumni, we highly recommend the old-fashioned telephone call. The results are worth the old-fashioned effort.