Alexis Walker, 2006 Willamette graduate:
“Professor Ellis’ classes were always thought-provoking, effective and rigorous. One of his greatest strengths as a teacher is leading discussions. Discussions in his class were always rich with debate but would end in meaningful resolutions that I would not have reached on my own.
“Professor Ellis stands out among the Willamette faculty for the care and devotion he has for his students. He has time and again gone out of his way to be there for me and countless other students, not because he has to, but because he genuinely cares.”
Carol Long, former dean of the College of Liberal Arts:
“What is truly astonishing in the undergraduate liberal arts setting is how Ellis has incorporated research done by students in his own work. In the acknowledgement pages of five books, Ellis thanks 33 different Willamette undergraduate students who worked as research assistant on those five projects. It is a rare undergraduate professor who has done so much to introduce his or her students to the joys and rigors of research.
“What is probably invisible to the casual observer, but not to hundreds of Willamette undergraduates, is how research, logic, debate, and constant, thoughtful questioning inform Richard Ellis’ teaching style, in ways that help students to move beyond superficial assumptions into the deeper levels of understanding that will challenge them to accomplish more than they have ever imagined.”
Stacy Jones, 1997 Willamette graduate, senior financial analyst in the budget office for the City of Portland:
“My job requires me to work at the intersection of policy and finance in a highly charged political climate. Perhaps nothing I learned in college is more important to my work than what Professor Ellis taught me: to be a rational, critical thinker; to be a thorough researcher; to question and test what others view as unassailable, in government and in life. Professor Ellis is not an ideological or dogmatic teacher — he is not a ‘true believer’ trying to convert his students to any particular point of view or cause. He is a man of the Enlightenment, and he wants nothing more for his students than for us to view the world as rationally and critically as possible.”
Bob Hawkinson, former dean of Student Affairs:
“Richard Ellis is an extremely dedicated, demanding and creative teacher who is especially skilled at getting the best effort from students of widely varying ability and levels. His teaching is not confined to the classroom in that he has involved many of our best students in his research. Not surprisingly, a number of these students have gone on to distinguished graduate programs.”
Jerry Gray, professor of economics and 2005 Oregon Professor of the Year:
“Ten years ago, at a lunch in honor of our tenure decisions, the dean asked Richard to speak about his work for a group of trustees. He explained that teaching courses at the same time he is beginning to develop books and essays allows him to try out ideas on students and feel that he was learning from them as much as they were learning from him. I had observed this correspondence in Richard’s teaching and research for seven years, but this was the first time I heard him discuss his approach to teaching as a well-planned and coordinated strategy. This is a worthy but rarely achievable goal for most of us, but it is commonplace for Richard. I have observed (and envied) this for years.”