By: Maria Arnold Fischer (Theta Xi, California State University, Northridge)
Alpha Chi Omega suffered a huge loss with the recent passing of Ellen Little Vanden Brink, past National President as well as so many other things too numerous to list.
I’m one of the many ones who had the honor, privilege and extreme pleasure of knowing Ellen for nearly 30 years and I’m so grateful that she was part of my life as a mentor, role model and friend. It’s difficult to find the right words to pay tribute to this amazing woman who meant so much to me, as well as to countless others, but hopefully what follows at least comes close.
I had the opportunity to meet Ellen during my last semester of college at an event that was taking place at Delta Psi, thanks to my little sister, Marla Patanelli Baker, whose mother, Mollie Magrill Patanelli, had been the longtime chapter advisor there. I was applying to be a collegiate field consultant following graduation and wanted to make a good impression on our National President, naturally. I remember how nervous I was but she couldn’t have been warmer or nicer to me when I met her.
At the time, I had no idea this would be the start of relationship that would span decades and have a tremendous impact on me. I think it’s safe to say that Ellen had the undying admiration of all who had the good fortune to know her. She was smart, funny, vibrant, strong, compassionate, warm, loving and incredibly dedicated to not only Alpha Chi but to the National Panhellenic Conference, for which she also worked tirelessly and received accolades and recognition for her work over the years. In a word, she was a LEGEND.
I’m incredibly grateful for all the hours I had the opportunity to spend with Ellen, both in person through our work at Epsilon, whether at the chapter house or on a retreat, as well as on the phone. The conversations we shared ran the gamut from lengthy discussions about our work with Alpha Chi at the time – and from which I learned so very much – to conversations about our lives. I cherish all the memories I have of Ellen and they will always be with me. I hope she knew how much she meant to me and what an impact she had on my life. Ellen was a true original, such a special lady through and through, and there will never another like her. I’m a better person for having known her and for that, along with so many other things, I can’t possibly thank her enough.