Elmer G. Ellis, the former longtime president/CEO of East Texas Medical Center Regional Healthcare System, died Sunday. He was 78.
A celebration of his life is set for 11 a.m. Tuesday at Green Acres Baptist Church Chapel in Tyler under the direction of Jackson’s Burks Walker Tippit Funeral Home.
A private family service will take place at Christ Episcopal Church, where Ellis worshiped. The Rev. M. L. Agnew Jr. is set to officiate at the service.
Ellis retired last year after 50 years of leadership with Tyler-based ETMC. The hospital was part of the merger that created UT Health East Texas.
“The combination of reaching the 50-year milestone as I also reach retirement is gratifying,” Ellis said last year in announcing his retirement. “It has been a remarkable journey, as the healthcare experience and medical technology have changed vastly. I’m proud to have worked with thousands of dedicated team members, physicians and volunteers — the people who daily save lives and care for others.”
Ellis was born on March 5, 1941, in Paris, Texas, the son of Netta Crouch Ellis and Clarence Elmer Ellis. He worked four years at St. Joseph Hospital in Paris before moving to Tyler in 1968 and assuming the role of assistant administrator of what was then known as Medical Center Hospital. He became the president/CEO in 1985, a move that launched ETMC’s rise into a multi-hospital health network serving East Texas.
Ellis began to explore the possibilities of aligning with smaller communities to extend care into the region by developing a regional network of facilities and services with a goal of providing a continuum of care for East Texans.
“As I started thinking about what we could do for the rural hospitals of East Texas, I realized that we had to become problem solvers,” Ellis said in a prior statement. “That role carried the obligation to do the right thing by advancing healthcare to the highest level possible in these home communities.”
Under Ellis’ leadership, ETMC Tyler was designated as a Level I Trauma Center and its centers of excellence broadened to include advanced specialties in cardiology, cancer, neurology, movement disorders, behavioral health and kidney transplantation.
Ellis oversaw the development of East Texas Medical Center EMS into one of the largest not-for-profit providers of ambulance services in the region.
In 2011, as requested through a charitable gift from The Robert M. Rogers Foundation, the emergency department at ETMC Tyler was named the Elmer G. Ellis Trauma Center.
He was a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives and a past chairman of the Texas Hospital Association. He was honored with THA’s Earl M. Collier Award for Distinguished Healthcare Administration in 2006. Other honors include induction in the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame and recognition from the Boy Scouts of America with the Distinguished Citizen Good Turn Award. Over the years, he served on boards of many agencies.
“If you look at the level of service of the healthcare providers we have in our community compared to cities our size, we have Elmer Ellis to thank for that,” Kevin Eltife, a former Tyler mayor and state senator, said when Ellis retired.
He is survived by his wife, Betsy Marsh Smith Ellis, of Tyler; his son, Matthew Ellis, of Dallas; his daughter, Amanda Ellis, of Austin; and his step-children, Kingsley Smith, Dr. Evans Smith and Elizabeth Smith-Ortega, of San Antonio. Additional survivors are grandchildren MaGee Smith, Henry Smith, Taylor Smith, Marshall Smith, Ellie Tapp and Aurora Ortega.
Honorary pallbearers will be his grandchildren.
Memorial gifts may be made to the Boy Scouts of America, the Salvation Army and The Hospice of East Texas Foundation.
Editor’s Note: This Q&A is the latest in a regular series of Five Questions features with people shaping East Texas’ past, present and future.
DeAnna Hargrove is the managing director of the Tyler Civic Theatre Center, which stages plays and holds acting workshops in two buildings overlooking the Tyler Rose Garden.
Hargrove works with the center’s board to create opportunities for those who want to be a part of and to experience live theater in East Texas.
What is your first experience that left you excited about being in theater?
I was exposed to theater as a toddler, stepped onto the stage at 6, and was awed at 11 when my father took me to Granny’s Dinner Theatre House in Dallas for a production of “Brigadoon.”
My high school choral director was a show choir master-in-the-making, however.
Mark Sumner, now directing at Berkeley, took a sweepstakes-winning group of 72, including chaperones, overseas to perform in three venues and to hear amazing voices in another three. That experience was topped off with a trip to the Palladium Theatre in London to see Yul Brynner in “The King and I.” For me, that was the moment.
Ten years later I founded a theater organization in South Dallas’ Oak Cliff. Long story short, I wanted to give latchkey kids in my ethnically diverse community an opportunity to be invigorated by the performing arts by reaching them in the parks. I couldn’t have done it without a supportive husband and a lot of prayer.
Then, fast-forward another 10 years, and I landed in Tyler’s Rose Garden. It was here that I was able to take root and bloom.
In what ways have you been affiliated with Tyler Civic Theatre Center over the years?
In the spring of 2000, I was blessed to become TCTC’s education director to assist in nurturing the growing Acting Conservatory and S.T.A.R. (Summer Theatre Art Review) camps for youths offered by TCTC’s Rogers Children’s Theatre.
In three short years, we introduced a season of shows for students and their families and added a third employee. I was part of the teaching team, managed/promoted the programs and directed at least one production annually.
After 10 years, in the fall of 2010, John Woods retired after 20 years of successful leadership as resident director of our Braithwaite (theater) season.
Another esteemed co-worker also resigned after eight years of creative directing on the original Al Gilliam stage.
This left us with a season of nine shows from fall to spring, plus two summer musicals, and only one director. It was then that the board elected to shift me into a mentoring/managing position.
Directing, as well as designing and yes, acting, is still my passion. The majority of time, however, I help to grow our community of talent.
What a privilege to support other aspiring “creatives” to produce fresh and diverse dramatic works to fulfill TCTC’s mission: to entertain, enrich and educate through theater!
What are the challenges of overseeing a busy regional theater?
The challenges are: 1) managing the space, the time and the projects; 2) defining the parameters of community theater without smothering artistic creativity; and 3) if I’m honest, burning bright without burning out.
Supporting, motivating and sometimes protecting such passionate people can be exhausting — but what an honor to work within a “family” of people and on projects that inspire and challenge us to look at ourselves and others with wonder, compassion and a sense of humor!
Tyler Civic Theatre Center is staging the musical “Newsies” in performances that began July 25. Why do you believe this will be a hit with your East Texas audience?
Start with a historical tale of adversity and oppression. Mix in heartfelt melodies and rhythms. Now, throw in the energy of Smith County’s most compelling young triple-threat talents — most of them young men.
Mix them together and surround them with still more art, constructed in the doorways, painted on canvas, choreographed and vocally rehearsed until they’re breathless and try not to get caught up in the enchantment of this unforgettable production.
Ask around about “Mamma Mia!” (the musical the theater staged earlier this summer). This is a summer Tyler theatergoers will not soon forget
What are the priorities of the theater as it moves forward?
TCTC stands firmly on the foundation of its first 70 years. We aspire to continue to earn the support of the community in order to provide our region with quality homegrown entertainment by those who have chosen to do what I choose to do — bloom where we’re planted.
TCTC can make our environment more beautiful by doing our best, being our best and expecting the best of one another.
We want to reflect the people we serve, as theater should do, and reflect upon the world around us as theater must do.
We increasingly endeavor to fulfill our mission. After all, as we often say, “We act on your behalf!”
Nearly 200 people watched as the Madams of Mayhem took on the Conroe Cutthroats in a women’s flat-track roller derby bout during the Madams of Mayhem Summer Shovin’ event Saturday at the Flores Center in Tyler.
The event was the teams third home bout of the 2019 season and portions of their proceeds were donated to the Arc of Gregg County in Longview.
Team captain Ashton Ashberry, aka Cowgirl from Hell, said the team of over 40 members is comprised of people from all over East Texas with radically different backgrounds who come together to compete in the sport and serve the community.
“We really are a community. We have teachers, RNs, business administrators, (people) from every walk of life who come together for this…it’s not just for women, it’s for anybody who wants to be included.”
The Madams take on the Rockin’ City RollerGirls, of Round Rock, in their next home competition September 14 in Tyler.
For more information, visit Madams of Mayhem Roller Derby on Facebook.