The Reverend Dr. Ellen Sloan ’72: Living a Life of Service

“In any profession, it’s all about relationships,” says the Reverend Dr. Ellen Sloan ’72. “If it’s advice people are seeking, offer it, but usually people are just looking for that human connection. So often that’s all we really need.” 

The Reverend Sloan, or simply “Ellen” as she prefers, has always led with a courageous heart while staying true to herself. Her compassion for others is the driving force behind a life lived in service of others that exemplifies Plymouth State’s motto of Ut prosim (That I may serve).   

When she arrived on campus, Plymouth Teachers College had transitioned to Plymouth State College, Smith and Grafton halls were new, Greek life was ubiquitous and, as in the rest of the country, students were embroiled in debate surrounding the Vietnam War.

Ellen made the most of her time at PSC. Her many roles included serving as student representative to the Faculty Advisory Committee and as Mary Lyon Hall dorm mother, and she was a member of the Student Senate, the Tau Omega Sorority, and the Kappa Delta Pi Honor Society. She graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in education.

Ellen excelled in her chosen field, specifically teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). Over the next 25 years she enjoyed a career that fulfilled her desire to explore the world and its myriad cultures. She recalls invigorating experiences in Maracaibo, Venezuela, where the international school included 25 nationalities, and then in the Netherlands, where she continued teaching ESL (K-12) and collaborated with others as an ESL education consultant with embassies and schools in Europe.

Returning stateside in 1985, Ellen was appointed the first female director of accreditation for K–8 schools in the New England Association of Schools and Colleges’ 100-year history. She created and facilitated an accreditation process for over 350 schools while also serving as associate director for the accreditation process of European schools.

After having earned a master’s degree in history/liberal arts at Dartmouth College, Ellen was looking for something more when a trusted mentor suggested a doctorate as the way forward. She earned her PhD in administration and organizational development while working full-time. Upon completion, she was asked to join the University of Connecticut’s Graduate School of Education as a professor and director of the Principal Preparation Program.

After several years of teaching and reviewing dissertations, Ellen once again followed her heart. Her new path was in the call to ordination, a process she found deeply calming. After completing a master’s in divinity, she was ordained an Episcopal priest and then she spent the next 20 years in multiple roles, including dean of community and chaplain at the General Theological Seminary in New York City. She spent the last 10 rewarding years as the first female rector of Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church on Sanibel Island, Florida.

At first, a few members of Ellen’s parish were reluctant to accept a female pastor but were moved over time by her empathetic approach to ministry, ability to connect the teachings of the church with current events, her open, relatable nature, and ability to laugh at herself.

Now recently retired, Ellen enjoys a pace of life more conducive to reflection and acknowledges the impact Plymouth State has had on her life. She credits professors including Norton Bagley, Mary Sanderson, Deans Foley and Smith, Peng-Khuan Chong, and Michael Fischler, a newly-minted PhD, with raising the bar during her time and has been thrilled to watch as the University continues to advance as an institution over the decades.

Plymouth State’s innovative approach to higher education and commitment to serving students from a variety of backgrounds continues to inspire Ellen. “I choose to give back to Plymouth State because I know my donation will make a difference,” she says.

Ellen also finds deep meaning and purpose through her work on the board of directors for F.I.S.H. (Friends in Service Here), a regional “human services” nonprofit that provides a host of important programs focusing on issues of food, education, community outreach, financial assistance, and more.

Ellen modestly shares the following wisdom regarding her own impressive life of service. “I’ve learned that relationships and the building up of community are most important. I regret those friendships from PSC that I did not keep up with over the years. Remember to listen, maintain a healthy vulnerability, and if you make mistakes, think of them as opportunities to learn.”