Brother Patrick Ellis, F.S.C., who served as President of La Salle University for 15 years, died on Feb. 21 of acute leukemia at a nursing home for Christian Brothers in Lincroft, N.J. He was 84.
Br. Patrick was President of La Salle from 1977 to 1992; his tenure as President is the longest in the University’s history.
He was born on Nov. 17, 1928, in Baltimore as Harry James Ellis Jr. When he joined the Institute of the Christian Brothers at 17, he took the name Brother Felician Patrick, but he was always known as Br. Patrick. He graduated from Catholic University of America in 1951. His first assignment was as a teacher and guidance counselor at West Philadelphia Catholic High School, and he later became Chair of its English Department. Br. Patrick went on to earn a master’s degree and Ph.D. in English from the University of Pennsylvania.
In 1960, he joined the faculty at La Salle College as a member of the English Department. He left La Salle in 1962 to become principal of La Salle-Immaculata High School in Miami, Fla., a school that focused on educating the children of refugees from Castro’s Cuba.
Br. Patrick returned to La Salle in 1964 and helped to create La Salle’s highly regarded Honors Program, which he served as Director until 1969. In 1965, he received the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching. He later served as Director of Development before being named President in 1977.
Br. Patrick’s tenure as president was a time of significant growth at La Salle. A talented and effective fundraiser, Br. Patrick reorganized the University’s development efforts. Among the most impressive developments was the opening of Connelly Library. Graduate programs were added, and in 1984 La Salle was granted status as a University. A new residence hall housing 250 students, a 500-seat dining hall, a 75-unit townhouse complex, and an all-weather track were also added. Under Br. Patrick’s tenure, the campus nearly doubled in size, helped by the purchase of Belfield Farm, including Peale House, which now houses the office of the University President.
Carrying on the tradition of the Christian Brothers, Br. Patrick continued to teach throughout his presidency, particularly an Honors course on satire.
Br. Patrick was active in many national and local educational and civic organizations. He once served as Chair of the Board of Directors of the 220-member Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities and Chair of Philadelphia’s Campus Boulevard Corporation, a cooperative organization of institutions adjacent to La Salle. He was a past Chair of the Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Universities and a past board member of the Greater Philadelphia Urban Coalition, the Police Athletic League, Catholic Charities of Philadelphia, and the Free Library of Philadelphia.
He was a recipient of the Barry Award, the highest honor conferred by the Catholic Historical Society.
In a history of La Salle commissioned by the University for its 150th anniversary this year, Br. Patrick was described as “naturally ebullient and witty, and never at a loss for words.” He was known for his theatrical nature and acted in a number of student productions, including Knickerbocker Holiday.
“La Salle University is what it is today largely because of Brother Patrick’s leadership during the late 1970s through the early 1990s,” said La Salle President Brother Michael J. McGinniss, F.S.C. “Under his leadership, the University grew in stature and in size. He represented La Salle at every venue he could and is noted for his rendition of the National Anthem at many public events. Brother Pat will be remembered as someone who made the Christian Brothers, the University, and the community better. People like me, one of his students, will remember his imagination and his ability to coax the best out of us. He will be missed, but his influence will live on.”
In 1992, Brother Patrick was approached by his alma mater, Catholic University of America, to become its President. He served in that position until 1998.
That year, he went to live at Calvert Hall College High School in Towson, Md. He was Director of Development for the Baltimore District of the Christian Brothers from 1999 to 2004. For the next five years, he lived in retirement at Calvert Hall, and then he went to live at De La Salle Hall in Lincroft, N.J., a nursing home for Christian Brothers.
A viewing will be held at De La Salle Hall in Lincroft, N.J. on Feb. 26 from 2 to 4 p.m.
Another viewing will be held on Feb. 27 at the De La Salle Chapel at La Salle from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 8 p.m.
A final viewing will be held on Feb. 28 at La Salle Hall, 6001 Ammendale Road, Beltsville, Md., from 10 to 11:30 a.m. There will be a prayer service at 11:30 a.m., followed by burial in the Brothers’ cemetery.