Carol Varnadore Aebersold

UT Knoxville, ’70

Growing up in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Carol Aebersold had an elf doll named Fisbee who, according to her parents, kept his eye on her for Santa.

She continued the Fisbee tradition with her kids—and now Aebersold’s The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition is a holiday mainstay for families around the world. More than 11 million sets of her book and the accompanying Scout Elf doll have been purchased since 2005.

Families know how The Elf on the Shelf works: When a family adopts a Scout Elf and names it, the elf receives Christmas magic and can fly each night to tell Santa about the day’s adventures. Each morning, the elf returns and perches in a different place to watch the fun.

At UT Knoxville, Aebersold graduated with a degree in music education. She taught music for many years in Appalachia and across the South.

“As a first-generation college student, I was terrified just thinking about attending UT. I thought I would get lost in the crowd. Instead, I made lifelong friends and enjoyed instructors who had confidence in me. Because they believed in me, I learned to believe in myself. I hope I have made them proud,” Aebersold says.

Aebersold and her twin daughters, Chanda Bell and Christa Pitts, run Creatively Classic Activities and Books, which they started in Marietta, Georgia. Aebersold also served as executive producer of the 2011 animated special An Elf’s Story and used her music training to co-write the special’s original songs, “Each and Every Christmas” and “Extravaganzalorious.”

Part of the Tennessee Alumnus100 Distinguished Alumni feature.