By Helena Rodriquez
John and Betty Ellis ironically met in a marriage and family class at Eastern New Mexico University in 1986. They had differing views on marriage, yet they tied the knot and put their education on hold.
Twenty years later, following careers in restaurant management and the birth of their two now-teenage daughters, the Portales husband and wife will finally do what they first set out to do before they met in that fateful class. They will walk across the stage and receive their college diplomas.
The Ellises are among 248 students who will graduate from ENMU today.
“We have been waiting 17 years to walk across that stage,” John Ellis said. “With that piece of paper, we can get in the door in places where we want to work instead of places where we have to work.”
A door has already opened for him. He did an internship this past summer with an accounting firm, Fleming, Widner & Jones of Clovis, and has been offered a full-time position there.
He will receive a bachelor’s degree with double majors in accounting and business administration. Betty Ellis will also receive a bachelor’s degree with double majors in criminal justice and sociology.
The couple returned to ENMU in 2003 after losing their jobs when a restaurant they co-managed in Colorado was closed. It has taken them three years — going to school fall, spring and summer, often while taking class overloads — to complete their degrees.
“God is so good and so are our families. … We couldn’t have done it without them,” Betty Ellis said. “Our experience here has been rewarding and challenging. This has been one of the most exceptional things we’ve done, besides having our children.”
John Ellis said his mother helped them out while they were in school, as did his wife’s parents. Her brother John, who lives in Portales, offered to let them live in a house for free until they finished school.
The Ellises will celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary Jan. 31. Betty Ellis recalled how she first saw her to-be husband-to-be in the old bowling alley at Eastern, where The Student Success Center is located now, and commented to a girlfriend, “I’m going to marry that man!”
John Ellis, who is originally from Tucumcari, wants to become a certified public accountant. His wife, a Raton native, has a dream of going to law school, perhaps after both of her daughters are in college. In the meantime, she is keeping her eyes open for jobs in the area.