Ellis Earns 2nd Lieutenant Bars Along With Degree
Bellevue University student Thomas Ellis was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army on May 17, 2019, having successfully navigated the Army ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) program at Creighton University. The two Nebraska schools are roughly 10 miles apart and partner to offer ROTC opportunities, including scholarships for Bellevue University students.
U.S. Army Major Dan Pecha, Professor of Military Science and head of the Army ROTC program at Creighton University and a Bellevue University alum, was in attendance at the commission ceremony along with JR Richardson, Director of the Military Veteran Services Center at Bellevue University.
While Ellis headed off to Basic Officer Leaders Course on May 27 and thus was unable to attend the 2019 Spring Commencement ceremony, his commission ceremony served as a cap on his Bellevue University career.
“The ceremony itself serves a number of purposes, including the opportunity to share that moment with friends and family,” Ellis said. “It also recognizes the work that was put in to get there. To me, it means a lot because I'm sharing it with my ROTC classmates -- people who went through the exact same thing I did.”
While a lot of military members learn about Bellevue University while stationed at nearby Offutt Air Force Base, Ellis first became aware of the school while stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii. A visit with one of the civilian education advisers got him interested in the Nebraska school.
“Bellevue (University) was one that accepted multiple credits and was geared toward the military, as well,” he said. “I decided to start while I was in Hawaii.”
In addition to earning his degree, Ellis had an eye on becoming an officer. The Army’s Green to Gold program and the Bellevue-Creighton ROTC partnership would help him accomplish that. Once enrolled, the Army saw fit to transfer him to Omaha.
A convenient class schedule and a helpful faculty allowed Ellis to hit the ground running.
“All the instructors that they had were great. They always worked with me. If I had any questions they would sit and talk with me,” he said. “With the ROTC program, I had some commitments that required me to be out of the classroom. I was able to work with the instructors to either get work done ahead of time so I could complete it before, or turn it in later.”
Ellis utilized the Military Veteran Services Center located on the Bellevue University campus to complete a lot of his homework.
“It was never overcrowded, so it's a great place for me to go to study on something,” he said. “I had access to the computers, and they always had some kind of refreshment there, too.”
Ellis, who just turned 37, is originally from Homestead, Florida. He joined the workforce out of high school before enlisting in the Army in 2012. He credits his wife, Lani, and their three children, Alonzo, 21; Dominic 16, and 5-year old Sophia,; with supporting his academic and career endeavors.
“My wife has always been very supportive,” he said. “Anything that I came up with that would benefit our future, she was more than happy. Her influence has really helped me out.”