Kat (Kathleen) Ellis1967-2020

The Department of Languages and Cultures celebrates the life and career of our esteemed colleague, Dr. M. Kat (Kathleen) Ellis, who passed away unexpectedly on April 8, 2020. Kat came to WCU in 2009, after studying in North Carolina, Ohio, and Michigan, where she completed her doctoral degree at Michigan State University. Initially a member of the Kinesiology Department, Kat worked very hard to set up the American Sign Language and Deaf Studies program on our campus, as well as to enlarge the curriculum in these areas. She also worked tenaciously to leave a legacy, as shown by her unwavering commitment to the development of new programs (including a BA in ASL-English Interpreting, an ongoing initiative that she kick-started by collecting a massive amount of information and drafting an impressive preliminary proposal). Step by step, she gave her all towards the program, researching, writing and dreaming big while continuously increasing the offerings in the ASL and Deaf Studies areas. It was thanks to her determination and perseverance that the ASL and Deaf Studies program was rehoused in the Department of Languages and Cultures in 2018. Most importantly, she took time to invest in her students. Under her leadership, the ASL and Deaf Studies programs grew exponentially. Kat was determined to change her students’ lives for the better and to encourage them to become advocates for the Deaf within the Deaf community. Her most influential quote was “Be a Deaf Ally!”. After her untimely passing, her students and colleagues praised her love for knowledge, her dedication to create safe, healthy, open spaces for hearing and deaf students and their families, and her overall ability to inspire everyone she worked with.

While unfortunately Kat did not live to see some of her plans come to fruition, her legacy will live on. We miss her fun, energetic, and enthusiastic personality. We will continue to be inspired by her passion, her commitment to her field and her students, and her dedication to a world full of opportunities for everybody.