Drake University’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences recently awarded John R. “Jack” Ellis, PH’57, with the 2011 Lawrence C. and Delores M. Weaver Medal of Honor.
Ellis received the award in recognition of his dedication to the healthcare profession and his philanthropic support of the University’s pharmacy program at a ceremony held in late April. The event was attended by Drake alumni, faculty, staff and students.
“This medal is a lasting gift and one of great significance to the future success of the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences,” Ellis said. “It provides a venue for alumni to examine how we have used the assets we acquired here at Drake to mold ourselves into productive professionals.”
As part of the ceremony, Ellis delivered the annual Weaver Lecture. His speech, titled “How to Plant a Tree,” described the ways in which his grounded rural upbringing shaped his approach to education and career experiences, contributing to his strong work ethic and commitment to philanthropy.
He also discussed the impact of mentorship, citing retired Dean of the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and fellow Weaver Medal recipient C. Boyd Granberg as “the epitome” of integrity and professionalism. Granberg served on Drake’s faculty from 1950 to 1984.
“Dr. Ellis’s speech was excellent,” said Travis Gau, a fourth year in Drake’s professional pharmacy program from Robbinsdale, Minn. “I appreciated that he specified that his intentions were to give thanks, but also to give direction to the students in the audience. He is an amazing individual that has done so much for Drake’s pharmacy program.”
Kathryn McDonald, a fourth year pharmacy student from Littleton, Co., agreed with Gau’s assessment of the event. Ellis sponsored her white coat when she entered the pharmacy school, so she had a personal connection with the speaker.
“The ceremony was beautiful, and Dr. Ellis’s speech was inspiring,” McDonald said. “He was surrounded by family, friends, faculty and students who were all there to honor his dedication to our profession.”
Presented annually, the Weaver Medal of Honor was established by Lawrence Weaver, a 1949 pharmacy graduate and dean emeritus of the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy, and his wife, Delores.
Ellis family supports advancement of pharmacy education, professionalism at Drake
In 2006, Jack Ellis and his wife, Audrey, pledged $1.5 million to Drake to fund an endowed faculty chair in the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. The inaugural John R. Ellis Distinguished Chair of Pharmacy Practice was awarded in 2007, and the title is currently held by John Rovers.
“I received a tremendous education at Drake and the faculty helped me form my professional work ethic,” Ellis said. “We wanted to make a gift to enhance the education of pharmacy students, so that they can make a difference in the profession. An endowed chair is a stable, lasting gift that will keep on giving.”
In October 2010, the Ellis family committed $500,000 to renovate a pharmacy laboratory and to create a new, state-of-the-art space for the growing field of study in pharmacogenomics, also known as personalized medicine.
Ellis and his wife also have established a charitable remainder trust for Drake and make annual donations to the University at the President’s Circle level. Two of their children, John, JO’82, and Barbara, BN’77, are Drake graduates.
Following his graduation from Drake in 1957, Ellis began his career at global healthcare company Abbott Laboratories , conducting research and development. In 1969, he became a diplomate of Lake Forest School of Management.
Ellis was named manager of Abbott’s pharmaceutical operations in 1979 and, in 1985, he was promoted to director of Abbott Park Operations Pharmaceutical Division. After 35 years with Abbott, he retired in 1992.