Obituary: Rick Ellis, Washburn University professor and mentor


courtesy of Washburn University Public Relations

Unforgettable: Professor Rick Ellis died Sept. 23, 2021. He will be missed by his coworkers and students at Washburn University.

Rick Ellis died Sept. 23, 2021 at 72 years old.

Professor Ellis began his career at Washburn University in the family and human services department in 1990 after many years of experience from Capital City High School.

He served as chair of the Family and Human Services department from 2004-2006 and helped develop the department from certificate to degree granting.

In his time at Washburn, he was a part of starting the organization called Learning in the Community and became the director in 2006. The center helped students pursue a poverty studies minor, become a Bonner Scholar, and/ or complete a Washburn Transformational Experience in Community and Civic Engagement, which is how many students have come to know Ellis.

He gave much of his personal time and effort to local community service activities, volunteering with organizations such as Concerned Citizens for Topeka, Let’s Help, Literacy Action Network and the Topeka AIDS Project.

“He was a devoted loving husband, father and grandfather. Ellis is survived by his wife, Colleen, who lives in Topeka. Other survivors include two sons, Cameron Ellis and his wife, Johana Castano, their daughter, Isabella Ellis of Houston, TX and Schuyler Ellis and his fiancé, Brandy Hirsch of Portland, OR; his identical twin brother, Paul Ellis of Sugar Loaf, NY; his beloved dogs, Bosco and Pepper and his horse TucKer. He is also survived by his extended Washburn family of students and colleagues of whom he influenced and mentored throughout the years as a fervent advocate of social justice, human rights and equality,” more from his obituary can be found at the link below.

He was preceded in death by his parents; his brother, Curtis Ellis Feb. 14, 2021

There will be a memorial celebration for professor Rick Ellis Sunday, Oct. 3 at 3 p.m. in Washburn A/B in the Memorial Union. Masks will be required at this event.  A live streaming link will be made available for those unable to attend in person within Rick’s obituary at

According to WU Announcements, “Memorial contributions may be made to Washburn University Foundation, in care of the LinC Scholarship Fund, 1729 SW MacVicar Ave, Topeka, KS 66604 or to the Round-Up Club, 7843 SW 37th St, Topeka, KS 66614”.