Carson honored by Washburn faculty at memorial service

Matt Kelly

Her legacy was expressed through the sometimes broken voices of commentators as they fought back tears.

Students, faculty, and staff celebrated the life of Ellen Carson last Wednesday at Washburn University.

Carson was a distinguished professor in the school of nursing.There was courage, laughter, and there were colors of pink throughout the room in memory of Carson, who died of cancer, January 16.

Jerry Farley, Washburn president, attended the memorial service, and briefly discussed how members of Washburn have a family-like relationship and that, since Carson’s passing, her “work family” found themselves no less affected Carson’s passing than her own “real family.”

“In a school like Washburn we all become part of a bigger family, and we feel as though we’re family,” said Farley. “This is our work family. It’s different than our personal family and our personal lives that we have away from work, but this work family is something that’s very special. It’s something that affects each one of us, and it’s difficult for us, in our work family, to lose someone just as it is for our personal family to have that happen. In fact, sometimes we will spend more time with our work colleagues than they will spend with their families, if you don’t count sleeping at home.”

Farley said that each individual in attendance at the memorial will never forget how they have been touched by Carson, or the contributions she made to the university, or how she has enriched the lives of her friends and family.

He said that her legacy is reflected in the lives of the people she mentored and was close to, her students in particular.

“Students will carry on her memory, and carry on what she taught them to touch hundreds of thousands of other people,” said Farley. “What more could each one of us ask? So when we think of Ellen today it is truly a celebration.”

Following the words of Farley, there were comments from Cynthia Hornberger, special assistant to the president, Nancy Tate, associate vice president of academic affairs, and student Angie Jamison, as well as a poem read by Tom Averill, professor of English.

Each of these speakers were asked to keep their comments to no more than five minutes in length, and each expressed what a challenge it was celebrating the life of such an inspirational person in such a short time.

“We knew Ellen as an exceptional colleague, a master teacher, and a competent administrator,” said Hornberger. “Our school is, in fact, the better for having Ellen with us the past eight years. Ellen used her talents to advance the mission of the university, and the School of Nursing, first as the associate dean, and then as a professor in both the undergraduate and graduate nursing programs.”

There was a recurring theme among the comments made at the memorial, as several of the speakers mentioned that, even toward the end of her life, Carson cared more for others than she did for herself.

Hornberger said that Carson was both “reasonably fearful, and fearless.” She expressed that, even in her last days of life, Carson was brave and prayerfully concerned for her family.

“In her last days, her concerns were for others,” said Hornberger. “My last email from Ellen was a prayer for others: ‘God our father, walk through my house and take away all my worries and illnesses, and please watch over and heal my family in Jesus’ name, amen.'”