Former Central Michigan University President Arthur “Art” Ellis, 80, died Friday at Woodland Hospice, 2597 S. Meridian Road, following a battle with liver cancer.
A memorial service will be held on Tuesday at 11 a.m. at Clark Funeral Chapel, 114 S. Bradley Road. Visitations will be held on Monday from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m., and on Tuesday at 10 a.m. prior to the service.
“Working and Central Michigan University was one of the most important things he did in his life. He absolutely treasured his time there and we believe he left the university better than he found it,” Art’s son Mark Ellis said.
Ellis, CMU’s ninth president, was born on September 14, 1932, to Archibald and Antoinette Ellis in Grand Rapids.
He graduated from Jackson Junior College with an associate’s degree, from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree and from Eastern Michigan University with a master’s degree.
Ellis, a Korean War Army veteran, worked as a budget analyst from 1957 through 1968, before beginning his career in higher education by becoming secretary of the Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents in 1968.
In 1970, Ellis became Vice President of Public Affairs at CMU, serving as the university’s interim president in 1975 and again in 1985. He became president full-time in 1986.
As president, Ellis played a key role in creating the CMU Research Corp.’s Mount Pleasant SmartZone, The SmartZone was developed to attract and retain technological research companies in mid-Michigan.
Ellis retired from the CMU presidency in 1988, but was called back to public service in 1991 when Gov. John Engler appointed him as the director of the Michigan Department of Commerce. In 1995, the State Board of Education appointed him as the interim superintendent of public instruction before finally retiring in 2001.
Art, along with his wife and former mayor of Mount Pleasant Sibyl Ellis, was a strong presence in the area beyond CMU. Together, they owned and operated the now-closed Someplace Special, Inc., a Hallmark store, and Four Seasons Floral, 1218 S. Mission St.
In a news release, current CMU President George Ross extended his condolences to the Ellis family.
“Art Ellis was a champion of Central Michigan University for nearly two decades, and was equally effective in Mount Pleasant as at the state Capitol. We appreciate and benefit from his long service to Central Michigan University,” Ross said.
Art is survived by his wife; his children, Mark Ellis of Mount Pleasant, Marcia Tillotson, of Mount Pleasant, and Marian Mahoney of O’Fallon, Mo.; his seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.