It is with profound sadness that we must inform the Marist community of the passing of Ellen Hancock, immediate past chair of the Board of Trustees. A pioneering technology executive and philanthropist, Ellen was one of the most dedicated and influential members of our Board, having served as a trustee for 34 years, including more than seven years as chair.
It would not be an overstatement to say that Ellen blazed a trail for women in the technology industry. She had a distinguished 29-year career at the IBM Corp., serving as one of the company’s first female executives at a time in which few women in the industry had such roles. By the 1990s, she had risen to senior vice president, overseeing its networking hardware, networking software, and software solutions divisions. Ellen was also a member of IBM’s Corporate Executive Committee and the IBM Worldwide Management Council. She later moved on to senior leadership roles at National Semiconductor Corp. and Apple Computer before serving as chief executive officer of Exodus Communications, Inc. and then president of Jazz Technologies, Inc.
Service was a central part of Ellen’s life. As a longtime Marist trustee, she was involved in almost every board committee, most recently as a member of the Technology and Advancement committees. She also served on the Presidential Search Committee that brought Kevin to Marist last year. Ellen always provided sound counsel and asked probing and insightful questions, drawing on her technology expertise and many years of senior management experience. She pushed the College to be the best it could possibly be—rigorous academically, strong financially, reflective of the ideals of the Marist Brothers, and with a culture of good governance.
In addition to Marist, Ellen lent her time and talents to many other organizations. At the time of her passing, she served on the boards of RAND Corp., the Institute of Advanced Catholic Studies, and Springboard Enterprises. She was also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and of C200, a women’s executive leadership organization. Ellen previously served on the board of Santa Clara University and on the corporate boards of Colgate-Palmolive, Aetna, Electronic Data Systems, and Ripcord Networks.
Ellen was a steadfast supporter of Marist, and she generously provided the lead gift for the Hancock Center, one of the anchors of our campus. This building and the innovation it nurtures will be part of her enduring legacy, as will the endowed scholarship established by the board in her name. Ellen actively supported this fund in order to share the gift of a Marist education with talented undergraduate students.
The magnificent Hancock Center was perhaps closest to Ellen’s heart because it combined so many of her passions: technology, innovation, collaboration, and academic excellence. She envisioned this building as a means to infuse technology into all of Marist’s academic areas. She wanted students of all majors to exchange ideas, develop their creative instincts, and understand how technology is changing their disciplines and future careers. The diversity of programs housed in the Hancock Center is a testament to Ellen’s vision: the School of Computer Science and Mathematics, Marist Poll, Student Investment Center, Marist-IBM Joint Study, Marist International Programs, Institute for Data Center Professionals, Enterprise Computing Research Laboratory, Office of Academic Affairs, and many others. Ellen often spoke of the importance of "aha!” moments, those occasions in which novel ideas are born. The Hancock Center will be facilitating these moments for generations to come, and it’s hard to imagine a more fitting tribute to this building’s namesake.