Remembering Rick Ellis

Indigo Magazine

Rick Ellis was a Hawaiian shirt-wearing cowboy with more cowboy boots than John Wayne. Rick was both an advocate for change and a man you could truly depend on. I had the honor of meeting Rick Ellis at my new student orientation in May of 2016. He stopped me and asked if I had ever thought about being a LinC Bonner scholar. I told him I had never heard of that; he told me it would be a way to get involved in my community with a group of nice, like-minded individuals and for the most part, he was right.

Bonner gave me the foundation for a great college experience. I found family here at Washburn, and for a girl whose home is five hours away, that was a big deal. Rick was a very large part of that family for me. He taught me that sometimes, the most important conversations take a while and that if you are doing what you love, you will always find happiness.

Skylar, Rick’s son, said something at his funeral to the effect of, “We are celebrating a man here today that we should have celebrated years ago.” Those words rang so true for me. Rick did things every day that deserved recognition. Both Rick’s legacy and love for Washburn started in 1991. He helped found the Learning in the Community program at Washburn, which began as a student organization, but became the Center for Community and Civic Engagement. In 2006, he became director of the center. Thanks to Rick and his efforts, Washburn students are now able to be Bonner Scholars, Poverty Studies minors and have the opportunity to complete a Washburn Transformational Experience in Community and Civic Engagement.

Rick had many loves in his life besides Washburn. Rick loved his wife, children and grandchildren endlessly. Rick also loved his students, his alternative break trips and his horses. I could never go to his office and have anything less than a 30-minute conversation about any of those very things. I remember when he was initially looking for his horse, he was so excited. He told me that this horse was going to be his retirement. I remember thinking that I couldn’t picture Rick Ellis retiring any time soon. I truly think a man like Rick could never truly retire; he was always going to be doing what he loved: riding his horse, caring for others and advocating for human rights, equality and social justice. How many can say we did what we loved from start to finish? Rick Ellis could.

He will always be loved. He will always be missed.
Anna-Marie Lauppe, LinC Bonner Scholar