Like Music to His Ears: Celebrating a Father’s Legacy of Love and Wolfpack Spirit
By Kamilah Heslop
A minor, E7 and G are the first three chords of Rick Elmore’s favorite song to play on the guitar.
When he has free time in his busy schedule, you might find the 1992 Wilson College of Textiles alumnus strumming “Hotel California,” by the Eagles. Eyes closed, fingers skillfully moving along the strings of his acoustic guitar with a smile on his face.
It reminds him of one of his most cherished holiday memories: playing guitar with his father, well into the night, as the rest of the family and friends would sing along.
There was never a family get-together or party when the guitars didn’t come out.
After losing him in 2012, Elmore has held on even tighter to memories of his late father, Robert “Bob” Elmore ’69.
He remembers his father’s genuine kindness, his dedication to his church, his ability to make everyone feel seen and comforted, and his guiding principles for his personal and professional life.
Robert Elmore’s Seven Guiding Principles
- Be honest.
- Treat others as you would want them to treat you.
- Surround yourself with good people who can help you achieve success.
- Be willing to take a risk.
- Know your enemy.
- When you can use “we” instead of “I,” do it.
- Speak little, listen much and be slow to anger.
And, of course, Elmore remembers his father’s unfaltering love for NC State.
“My favorite and earliest memory of the university was the 1983 National Basketball Championship when I was in junior high school,” Elmore says, grinning. “We watched every game all the way up through that championship.”
Nicknamed the “Cardiac Pack” that year, the Wolfpack often left their fans anxiously biting their nails until the very end of each basketball game.
“I remember my dad opening up the front door and just screaming to the neighborhood after that championship win,” he says. “My dad was so excited. We all were. As far as being an NC State fan, at that point, I was hooked.”
For Elmore, very few things can compete with watching Wolfpack games with his father on television or in Reynolds Coliseum. They would cheer and chant “Go State” during the highs and shout in unison at the referees — a bit too loudly, he might add — during the lows.
Passing down a passion for textiles
His father didn’t only inspire Elmore’s love for the university. His guidance also led his son to the academic subject he would go on to study.
As a first-generation college student, Elmore’s father often spoke highly of the then College of Textiles. He had gone from working in a mill in rural North Carolina as a high school student to earning a scholarship to study textile technology at NC State while working in the spinning lab at the college for Professor Elvin Huchenson. From there, his father went on to enjoy a successful marketing and sales career in plastics and fibers that spanned from Celanese Corporation to Phillips Petroleum and British Petroleum.
Everybody wears clothes, and textiles are used in our lives every day,” Elmore says. “Whether they are in the interior of your automobile, in surgical gowns at a hospital or in composites used in airplanes, the opportunities within the textile industry are endless.
Elmore’s own love for textiles, fashion and merchandising blossomed during his time in high school, where he always had an appreciation for the latest in fashion and was even voted “best dressed.” He also served on the Belk, Inc. Teen Board.
“Everybody wears clothes, and textiles are used in our lives every day,” Elmore says. “Whether they are in the interior of your automobile, in surgical gowns at a hospital or in composites used in airplanes, the opportunities within the textile industry are endless.”
Elmore built upon his father’s legacy by earning a bachelor’s degree in fashion and textile management in 1992.
After working as a Wilson College of Textiles recruiter for two years, Elmore transitioned to product design, development and merchandising — first at Milliken Hospitality Carpets, then for Ithaca Industries, Inc. and later within the Sara Lee Corporation. In addition to being responsible for more than $1.3 billion in annual sales in his various roles within those organizations, Elmore managed the planning and manufacturing of products for Ralph Lauren, Armani, Reebok, Gap and Sara Lee Underwear.
Today, Elmore is the chief supply chain officer of global activewear and direct-to-consumer at HanesBrands, Inc., where he has served for 25 years in a variety of leadership roles including the vice president of global product development and manufacturing services.
One of his proudest moments at the company happened in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Elmore and his team coordinated the manufacturing of 30 million hospital gowns, from creation to distribution by the United States government, in only five and a half weeks. “It just takes a vision and the willingness and desire for people to want to rally around it,” he explains. “It’s about getting people in the organization, of all levels, engaged in wanting to help.”
That pride is also felt when Elmore can help others grow within the organization.
“I’ve been fortunate to have worked in so many different departments within Hanesbrands, from product development and merchandising to planning and procurement,” he says. “I’m blessed to be able to lead such a fantastic team. I now find the greatest joy in empowering and coaching other associates in the organization to reach their full potential. I’ve always had outstanding mentors and those who looked out for me to get me to where I am today. I’m excited about the opportunity to be able to do the same for others.”
Elmore feels the same way about the Wilson College of Textiles, and he’s made it his lifelong commitment to give back to the college that has given him — and his dad — so much.
Making education accessible and serving with pride
In 2014, Elmore and his wife Linda Coy-Elmore ’91 established the Robert W. Elmore Textile Scholarship to commemorate his father’s memory. The scholarship provides critical financial support for students in the Wilson College of Textiles.
“I’m a second-generation College of Textiles graduate so, for me, I’ve seen firsthand what a college education can do, across multiple generations, and the opportunities it afforded my parents and now my children,” he shares. “My wife and I feel like we’re in a position now that we can give others the ability to also impact generations for their families.”
Your contribution to my education not only means financial assistance, but it also adds to my confidence for success in my program.
Support from the scholarship has empowered students to study abroad, intern at their dream companies during the summer and focus on their studies — instead of juggling multiple jobs. That assistance has proven to be invaluable for them.
One recipient of the Robert W. Elmore Textile Scholarship says, “your contribution to my education not only means financial assistance, but it also adds to my confidence for success in my program.”
The next step in Elmore’s journey as a lifelong member of the Wilson College of Textiles came in 2017, when his friend and classmate, Charles Heilig III ’92, asked him to serve as vice president of the North Carolina Textile Foundation’s board of directors. Elmore had been introduced to the foundation, which was created to advance the college through engagement, partnership and philanthropy, when he was developing his family’s scholarship fund.
“Everybody wants to help move the ball forward,” Elmore says. “As the industry’s changed and things have become more global, roles have changed. You’ve got a very diverse representation of board members from big retailers like Walmart and big brand houses like VF, HanesBrands and other large material and textile supplier companies and apparel producers who are a part of that. So, we work together tirelessly to be the stewards of the foundation and ensure that the donors’ wishes are being respected.”
Our foundation’s board of directors have helped create opportunities and connect us to leaders in our industry. Rick’s invaluable direction during his tenure as board president has been integral to our success in the university’s Think and Do the Extraordinary Campaign.
Encouragement from Heilig, who was board president at the time, and insight on the board’s impact led Elmore to serve as president in 2019. Elmore has participated in many boards over the years, but says that “none of which have this level of engagement.”
“As industry representatives, as well as NCTF board members, we are also getting the opportunity to engage with students that are the future of the textile industry,” he says. “This collaboration allows us to see firsthand what our students are learning and how the industry is evolving to impact current and future learning requirements. This is part of what makes the Wilson College of Textiles such a special place.”
Elmore’s leadership, in combination with the guidance of the entire board, has been vital to the college and foundation’s success. His two-year term as president ends this month, but the influence of his service and generosity will be enduring.
“Our foundation’s board of directors have helped create opportunities and connect us to leaders in our industry,” Michael Ward, who serves as the executive director of the North Carolina Textile Foundation, says. “They open doors, they support us, and they are truly an extension of our team. Rick’s invaluable direction during his tenure as board president has been integral to our success in the university’s Think and Do the Extraordinary Campaign.”
Today, you’ll find Elmore and his family fully taking advantage of the time they have together.
“Our next big vacation will hopefully be this summer, and we’re going to the Outer Banks purposefully to learn how to kiteboard,” Elmore says, excitedly. “Our entire family is looking forward to it. Four years from now when we’re on vacation, we can grab a kite and all do it for the day. We’re building experiences and memories that will last forever.”
Losing a loved one, especially someone as important to Elmore as his father, has shown him how special moments with family are.
The next time he strums his guitar while singing that iconic line, “Welcome to the Hotel California. Such a lovely place, such a lovely face,” Elmore will surely think of his father — smiling, cheering on the Wolfpack and loved by so many.
His legacy continues.