Jim and Beth Ellis
Looking back on his time at Northern Illinois University, Jim Ellis, '63 accountancy, says, "I was very fortunate to have good business professors who were very kind to me. They opened some doors that might not have otherwise been opened."
Now Jim is holding the door open for future College of Business students by establishing the James T. Ellis Scholarship Endowment for the Department of Accountancy through his estate. He knows his education played a big role in his successful career and he hopes this scholarship will do the same for future students.
Jim is well aware that times have changed and that tuition, room, and board have increased significantly since his years as a student. He feels good knowing that his gift will forever help students ease the burden of paying for an education.
Education was important in Jim's family. His mother and father graduated from the University of Illinois and his father became a lawyer. Even so, after high school Jim found himself in his Belvidere hometown working a dead-end job.
"I really wasn't even thinking about college and my parents encouraged me to visit NIU."
Jim married his high school girlfriend and, in 1960, they were among the first to move into NIU's married student housing.
"It was a long, cold walk from Annie Glidden to my business classes," he remembers.
Teaching those classes, Jim says, were the professors who did a lot for him: Drs. Clint File, Fred Poor, and Kathleen Iliff.
With the arrival of a baby girl, classes, and a part-time job, Jim recalls little time for social activities. He carried 18 hours each semester and went to summer school, graduating early in 1963 with a bachelor's degree in accountancy.
NAVIGATING THE REAL WORLD
Jim and his family headed to California, where he worked his way up to accounting manager for a company. In 1991, he started his own practice, where he has had the pleasure of working with his two oldest daughters.
Jim still lives in California with Beth, his wife of seven years, and has four married children and nine grandkids. He's working part time now, leaving time to run on the beach, go to horse races, and restore a 1955 Chevy Bel Air hardtop. He has traveled the world as well, touring the continents of Asia, Africa, Australia, and Europe.
"I feel very blessed," Jim says. "I know that my degree, in no small way, contributed to my success." As the James T. Ellis Scholarship opens doors for NIU students, Jim predicts they will also succeed. "I'm just an average person. If I can do it, anyone can do it. The rewards are worth it."