Lewis University student Ashley Ellis of Oak Lawn, Ill., received the Father Aquinas Colgan Award during the university’s undergraduate Commencement Ceremonies held Sunday, December 16 at the Romeoville main campus. This special recognition is awarded to a graduating senior at each of the University’s undergraduate Commencement Ceremonies held in May and December.
Ellis graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminal Social Justice. She earned a 3.016/4.0 cumulative Grade Point Average. Ellis credits a visit to a juvenile detention facility for inspiring her vocation and life’s passion.. “I wanted to be a Sport Management major, but I had the opportunity to visit the Joliet Illinois Youth Center, a maximum security facility for juvenile offenders. … I encountered countless young men imprisoned there, children that desired better, but were not greeted with the empowerment and confidence necessary,” commented Ellis. She continued, “It was these moments that ignited my passion and motivation.”
Involved off and on campus, Ellis was president of Mu Theta Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, president of the Gospel Choir and an Arthur J. Schmitt Scholar at Lewis University. She serves as a youth leader coordinator at Stepping Stones in Chicago working with youth in the juvenile justice system and is an intern in the Cook County Juvenile Court and probation system.
Students are nominated for the Father Aquinas Colgan Award by University faculty and staff. To be eligible for nomination, a student must be an undergraduate who has qualified for graduation, who is a four-year student of Lewis University with a minimum grade-point average of 3.0, and who has demonstrated exemplary personal, intellectual and social development in the spirit of Lewis University’s Mission.
A Lewis University tradition, the Father Aquinas Colgan Award has been presented to an outstanding undergraduate student at the University’s Commencement exercises since 1955. The award recognizes students who have demonstrated personal and intellectual growth, a strong commitment to their faith, and a firm dedication to the Lasallian values of justice and association.
The award honors the memory of Father Aquinas Colgan, O. Carm., who was chaplain early in the University’s history. A U.S. Army chaplain during World War II, Father Aquinas died on May 6, 1945, while attempting to rescue a wounded corpsman. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for valor, becoming one of only seven chaplains to receive this honor in World War II. He had previously received the Purple Heart with an Oak Leaf Cluster for acts of heroism and for two earlier wounds. Father Aquinas is remembered for his character, bravery, and persistence in pursuing goals, and also for his deep personal faith.
Lewis University is a Catholic university offering distinctive undergraduate and graduate programs to more than 6,500 traditional and adult students. Lewis offers multiple campus locations, online degree programs, and a variety of formats that provide accessibility and convenience to a growing student population. Sponsored by the De La Salle Christian Brothers, Lewis prepares intellectually engaged, ethically grounded, globally connected, and socially responsible graduates. The ninth largest private not-for-profit university in Illinois, Lewis has been nationally recognized by The Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report.
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