A.D. Ellision, 2010 Distinguished Alum
By Toya Richards
Whether at a tall-steeple church with thousands of members or in a smaller, rural congregation where the size of the congregation was more intimate, The Rev. Dr. Addison D. (A.D.) Ellison Jr. (BD ’45) answered God’s call and served.
Though now retired after a long history of service that has included numerous pastorates and various leadership positions within the governing structures of the Church, Ellison still recalls his formative years at Louisville Seminary.
An important memory is that of The Rev. Dr. Julian Price Love, who served as Professor of Biblical Theology at the Seminary from 1931 to 1961.
“I can still remember his voice,” Ellison, whose health is now failing, said through his wife, whom Ellison married the same day he graduated from seminary. “He would read passages from the Scriptures, and they would just come alive.”
“He would just give legs to the words,” he added.
Ellison’s time at Louisville Seminary helped lay the foundation for his many years of service, and on April 27 he was one of four alums to receive Distinguished Alum Awards. The recognition, celebrated at a luncheon on campus during the annual Festival of Theology and Reunion, honors graduates for their vision, accomplishments, and leadership in their respective callings.
“Through their faithful service they remind all of us what it means to live as servants of God’s Word who are bound to the Word, who proclaim the Word to the Church, and who point the Church to the Word,” Rev. Dr. Dean K. Thompson, LPTS president, told luncheon attendees.
“As we behold their compelling influence across the decades to this present time, we are likewise compelled to recommit to our own ministries – our own service – and to help identify others who will follow after us,” he continued.
Ellison’s memories of Louisville Seminary also include the Rev. Dr. Arnold Black Rhodes, author of The Mighty Acts of God who taught Old Testament for nearly four decades at Louisville Seminary. Rhodes was not too much older than Ellison when he came to teach at the Seminary, Joan Ellison said.
A. D. Ellison said his study of Greek at Louisville Seminary served him well throughout his lifetime of preaching, and he referred to it often when preparing sermons. Ellison also honed his singing voice while a member of the Seminary choir, and he used those singing skills in every church he led, his wife shared.
But Ellison said he carried from the Seminary a deep love for those he was called to serve.
“A.D. just loved the people. The people were his profession and hobby,” Joan Ellison said. “He would rather visit the people and help them than sit at a desk. Every church has missed him, I think, because of his beautiful relationship with people.”
Ellison’s long-running years of ministry include service from 1946 to 1949 at Hopewell and Jeffersontown Presbyterian Churches in Louisville, Ky.; 1949 to 1954 at Prenter Presbyterian Church in W.Va.; 1954 to 1957 at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Charleston, W.Va.; 1957 to 1963 at First Presbyterian Church in Charleston; 1976 to 1981 at First Presbyterian Church in Hazard, Ky.; and 1981 to 1988 at Hudson Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, N.C.
The West Virginia native answered the call wherever it was, even in a coal mining camp congregation. “He didn’t wait around for a larger congregation,” his wife said.
Ellison earned the Doctor of Ministry degree from McCormick Theological Seminary in 1981. He also served as executive presbyter of the Presbytery of Kanawha, and after his retirement in 1988, he served 11 interim pastorates until 1999.
The 1945 Louisville Seminary graduate and his wife also have been faithful stewards at Louisville Seminary through the years. Ellison was a charter member of the Alum Association Board of Directors, and he and his wife established a scholarship for student aid.
“His whole ministry has been about loving the people he has served,” said Joan Ellison. Truly, “he has run the good race.”
The Ellison’s son, Zack Ellison, echoed his mother’s sentiments as he shared more thoughts on his father while introducing him during the awards luncheon.
“He loved the engagement of people,” said Zack Ellison, who is a member of the Seminary’s President’s Roundtable. One of his strengths was talking, listening “and actually having them feel very important,” and then he would integrate the people’s ideas into the church, he said.
Zack Ellison said his dad was devoted to the next generation of church leaders, had a passion for Christian education, and loved church camp retreats.
“He’s a true people person,” he said.
Since the Distinguished Alum Awards were established in 1986, 93 Louisville Seminary alums have been honored for their vision, accomplishments and leadership in their respective callings. To learn more, or to nominate an alum for this award, visit Louisville Seminary Distinguished Alums.
There are more than 2,200 active alums. 80.0% have graduated with the Master of Divinity degree; 68.3% are in active ministry; 20.7% are retired; 7.9% are students or in an inactive ministry period; and only 1.9% are out of the ministry. Alums serve in more than 60 distinct vocational professions, with the majority in church-based ministries.
Additional images from the 2010 Festival of Theology and Alum Reunion are available at: LPTS Photo Gallery