Digital Media alumni celebrate ‘Bruceification’

Kiley Wellendorf

Kiley Wellendorf | News Co-Editor

“It dawned on me, that really, Bruce’s retirement is all about getting out there and Brucifing the world – it’s all about going out there and making a difference and seeing the world and giving it all right back to us,” Dr. Andrea Frantz said. “So, it is my distinct honor to welcome you tonight to Bruceification Day.”

Frantz, Associate Professor of Digital Media, spoke these words to open an event on Saturday, May 2, at Buena Vista University (BVU) that honored her faculty colleague, Dr. Bruce Ellingson, Professor of Digital Media. Ellingson will retire at the completion of this academic year after 31 years of service to BVU, ranging from teaching to administration, from newspaper advisor to radio station manager. In attendance at the event were nearly 70 alumni from New York to Kansas City who came to congratulate Ellingson and honor his contribution to their lives.

Organized by the Alumni Office and Ellingson’s Digital Media colleagues including Frantz, Associate Professor of Digital Media Jamii Claiborne and Assistant Professor of Digital Media Jerry Johnson, the event celebrated Ellingson’s leadership, teaching, mentorship and service over the years. The night included a reception, dinner and formal program that featured moving tributes, video messages and toasts to Ellingson that left guests’ eyes wet from both laughter and tears.

The celebration was attended by alumni spanning all decades of Ellingson’s career from his first students back in the 1980s to current students, and it was an evening filled with stories told from all generations. Many of Ellingson’s former students shared memories and moments from his classes, conversations in his office and as part of The Tack and KBVU during their time at BVU.

The event kicked off with cheese trays, fruit-kabobs, and blue-and-gold lining the tables set neatly around the podium. In the midst of the mini-class reunions, Ellingson’s past students told stories of their encounters with and appreciation of Ellingson.

Jake Krob, a Mass Communication alumnus who graduated in 1997, remembered Ellingson’s class about grammar, noting his strict structure, but mostly admired Ellingson’s constant drive to challenge students. Krob also worked outside the classroom with Ellingson on The Tack.

The Tack was a significant part of my life; it led to me being a publisher now,” Krobb said. “But Bruce was always really good at finding the right thing to say at the right time.”

Krob is now the owner of seven newspapers in Iowa, including the Mount Vernon-Lisbon Sun, in which he wrote his “Musings” column this week about Ellingson and the mentorship he gave. In the column, he concluded, “I hope everyone is as fortunate as I to have such a mentor in their lives.” (Read the full column).

David Ekstrom, a 2007 alum who currently works at Meredith Corporation with Successful Farming magazine, reflected on a specific piece of advice Ellingson gave him.

“Never settle anything short of perfect,” Ekstrom said.

Mark Haugen, an alum who currently works at KDSM in Des Moines as a video editor, shared another piece of advice Ellingson had taught him.

“Go out there and do it,” Haugen said.

Ellingson was honored in the program by his Digital Media department colleagues and others. It was a tearful event, full of memories shared amongst his fellow media professors who hold Ellingson highly.

Paul Bowers, a long-time friend and former BVU professor who worked alongside Ellingson for 22 years in Lage, traveled back to for the event. He took the podium and spoke about Ellingson’s beginning stages of creating what was then the Mass Communication program at BVU.

“I had dinner over at his house–Margie was cooking dinner–and we sat on the porch of his house which is on Grand Avenue where the dorms are, looking out over the campus. Graduation had come and gone and it was summertime and Bruce was telling me about all of the great things that would go on in this building, Lage, which at the time was nothing but a shell with studs in it,” Bowers said.

Following tears, laughter, and occasional interruptions from Ellingson leaving his seat to take photos of those who spoke of him, Ellingson also received gifts from alumni and current students, ranging from hand-made blankets to the purchase of one of his large National Park landscape photographs by the Digital Media program through the contributions of alumni. After the reveal of a video tribute created by Ellingson’s Digital Media faculty colleagues and featuring even more alumni stories and messages (view the video), a champagne toast followed, and the night ended with a speech from Ellingson in which he talked about his years at BVU and his love of storytelling.

“Thank you for allowing me to be a small character in your big stories,” Ellingson said.

With a heavy-voice and a genuine smile, Ellingson led the guests to selfies, group-photos, and an after-celebration at Kings Pointe Resort to continue to celebrate all that Ellingson has given to BVU and his students over the years.