Elon shapes the education career of superintendent Andrew Houlihan ’01

By Sofie Cambell, student June 24, 2024

Andrew Houlihan’s ’01’s journey to superintendent of Union County Public Schools all started with a visit to Elon University.

During Andrew Houlihan’s ’01 junior year in high school, the search for a suitable four-year university in North Carolina led him to an unexpected yet fateful visit to Elon University.

His parents, having visited Elon for a work event, encouraged him to explore the campus. The moment he stepped foot on the grounds, he knew it was the place for him. Enrolling in the fall of 1997, he pursued a degree in elementary education and immersed himself in various extracurricular activities. He participated in intramural sports, was President of Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity and studied abroad in London.

Houlihan received a full tuition scholarship as a North Carolina Teaching Fellow, a prestigious state award for high school students dedicated to teaching for at least three years. The award provided Houlihan opportunities he would not have had otherwise.

“This scholarship enabled me to work alongside my Teaching Fellows peers as a cohort and helped provide various activities that range from state/national education policy work to the study abroad experience,” Houlihan said. “In addition, I was able to really benefit from high quality teaching and learning experiences through the school of education.”

Gravitating toward leadership

Group of people pose together
Houlihan and his Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity brothers.

Upon graduating from Elon, he embarked on his teaching career at AB Combs Leadership Magnet Elementary School in Raleigh, North Carolina. Initially, Houlihan resisted following in his father’s footsteps in becoming a superintendent. His perspective evolved once he began teaching.

“As the son of a superintendent, I grew up never wanting to do ‘what he did,’” Houlihan said. “My perspective changed, however, when I began teaching. I gravitated toward leadership and leadership roles, was supported to pursue such by my principal and took the necessary steps to attain additional degrees that would qualify me for such.”

After completing his master’s degree and doctorate, he became the principal of Parker Elementary School, a music magnet school in the Houston Independent School District (HISD) in 2010.