Foundation Feature: Ellen Case

Ellen Case has learned what’s important to her and uses her time and talents to better those around her. Her grit, humility and heart are evident as she helps students on their educational journey so that they can get the most out of their experience.

Name, job title, employer, grad year and major
Ellen Case, retired, 1990 grad

Tenure on MSUM Foundation Board
1.5 years on MSUM Foundation Board

What energizes you in your role serving on the Foundation Board?
I like getting more involved in the student scholarship process.

What experiences at MSUM have influenced your life the most? Which have helped you succeed?
I had received a full academic scholarship from Valley City State University upon graduating from high school. I initially thought about a teaching degree but quickly determined that was not for me, so I transferred to MSUM mid-year my sophomore year. I moved to the “big city”, needing to juggle three jobs to put myself through college. I worked the graveyard shift at a local grocery store, wrote for the MSUM Advocate and worked in between classes (and other jobs!) at The Forum newspaper. Collectively, this work amounted to more than full-time employment while managing a full-time course load. I managed to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in four years while juggling these jobs – for that I am very proud. I always told myself that someday I would get involved at some level at MSUM to assist in providing scholarships to other students, enabling them to study more/work less while attending college so they didn’t have to sacrifice so much study/campus time. Less outside work means more learning time which equates to professional success! That experience has given me tremendous insight, empathy and gratitude for the student experience.

What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
Most people answer this question with either an academic or professional achievement that they are most proud of, but my answer is different. Most are not aware that I am a breast cancer survivor; 11 years cancer-free. This has shaped my life’s path in where/what/who I choose to devote my time and talents.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Who was it from?
Best advice given to me was from my father, although I think he may have picked it up from Teddy Roosevelt. He always told us, “Do the best you can with what you have where you’re at.”

In what ways have grit, humility and heart helped you in life?
Cancer is vicious. It doesn’t play favorites. It’s a club no one ever wants to be a part of. It causes you to reevaluate life and relationships and reprioritize things a bit.  As any survivor knows, grit doesn’t begin to describe what’s necessary to beat it. Even after you get through all the doctors and all the treatment the idea that “I have cancer” never leaves you and most decisions made moving forward are based on this knowledge. The beautiful thing about having this disease is that you develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for all those around you and it pushes you to actively be a better person and always be present for others.

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