Brother Patrick Ellis, F.S.C., 84, a former president of both La Salle University and the Catholic University of America, died Feb. 21 in a Christian Brothers nursing home in Lincroft, N.J.
Born in Baltimore as Harry James Ellis Jr., he joined the De La Salle Christian Brothers after graduation from Calvert Hall College High School, and received the name in religion Brother Felician Patrick.
He graduated from the Catholic University of America in 1951, and his first assignment was to West Philadelphia Catholic High School, initially as a teacher and guidance counselor but ultimately as chair of the English Department. He earned a master’s degree and a PhD in English from the University of Pennsylvania.
In 1960 he joined the faculty of then-La Salle College as a member of the English Department, and two years later was appointed principal of La Salle-Immaculata High School in Miami, Fla.
Brother Patrick returned to La Salle in 1964 where he created the Honors Program. He later served as director of development and in 1977 was appointed president.
During Brother Patrick’s tenure, which at 15 years is the longest in the school’s history, the school’s campus increased in size, as did enrollment and in 1984 it was granted university status.
Even as president he continued with his first love, teaching, and also participated in a number of student theatrical productions.
As a spokesman for Catholic higher education Brother Patrick was among a group of delegates who met with Pope John Paul II in 1989 to discuss the Vatican’s role in world-wide Catholic education.
“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 McGinnis, who was one of his students. “Under his leadership, the university grew in stature and size. “He represented La Salle at every venue he could and is noted for his rendition of the National Anthem at many public events.”
In 1992 Brother Patrick left La Salle to become 13th president of his alma mater, the Catholic University of America, where during his six-year tenure he oversaw a $3.5 million project to enhance the campus computing infrastructure and complete the fiber-optic wiring for a high-speed computer network, and completed fundraising for a $33 million law school building.
“We will remember with gratitude his service to the Catholic University of America and his life-long dedication to Catholic education,” said Catholic University President John Garvey, who noted his memory will live on through the Brother Patrick Ellis Chair in Education, which was established by the university’s Board of Trustees.
After leaving the Catholic University, Brother Patrick served for five years as director of development for the Baltimore District of the Christian Brothers until his retirement to Calvert Hall in 2004.
A viewing will be held at De La Salle Hall in Lincroft on Feb. 26 from 2 to 4 p.m. Another viewing will be held on Feb. 27 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the De La Salle Chapel at La Salle University, which will be followed by his funeral Mass.
A final viewing will be held on Feb. 28 at La Salle Hall, 6001 Ammendale Rd., Beltsville, Md., followed by a prayer service and interment in the Christian Brothers’ Cemetery.
Lou Baldwin is a freelance writer and member of St. Leo Parish, Philadelphia.