The Ellis Family


Kathy Lyn Ellis Adriance

The Ellis Foundation began awarding scholarships to honor the memory of an inspirational teacher, Kathy Lyn Ellis Adriance, daughter of Danny and Willa Ellis. A graduate of Fort Scott High School, she was a lifelong teacher who impacted the lives of her students in and out of the classroom. When she died of breast cancer in 1997, she was a teacher in the Blue Valley School District in Overland Park, Kansas. She inspired others with her love of life and learning, and she is the reason the Ellis family began offering scholarships.

Chris Ellis, President

Chris Ellis, brother of Kathy Lyn Ellis Adriance, is President of The Ellis Foundation, and continues the charitable vision of his parents as a memorial to his sister. In 2002, he set aside his successful business ventures and devoted his energy to philanthropy. He brings passion and vision to the work of the foundation, and under his direction the foundation has cultivated corporate sponsorships, expanded the mentoring program, and developed new technologies to scale the program to a national audience. 


Cathy Ellis, Vice President

Cathy Ellis, wife of Chris Ellis, is Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer of the Ellis Foundation. Cathy's vision for a mentoring program began her work at the foundation. She brought to life a program where students are mentored and become mentors, where alumni offer advice and opportunities, and where students are supported through obstacles and celebrated in their successes. She continues to cultivate the foundation's partnerships with high schools and counselors, allowing the program to continue to grow and flourish.  In addition to the mentoring program, Cathy works alongside her husband, Chris, in building and supporting donor relationships.

Danny and Willa Ellis, Founders

Danny and Willa grew up in Rich Hill, Missouri. These high school sweethearts spent decades as successful business partners and applied their entrepreneurial expertise to their non-profit work.

Danny and Willa Ellis were profoundly impacted by their daughter’s influence on her students. During the year after Kathy’s passing, they offered three scholarships in Fort Scott, Kansas, in her memory. They immediately saw a tremendous need for scholarship assistance, as well as a mentoring program directed towards results.

Danny and Willa retired from active work with the foundation in 2011, with Willa passing in January 2018.  Her presence is greatly missed but her passion for and dedication to the students continues through the work of the foundation.


The Ellis family continues to provide endowment support for the foundation and scholarship assistance to students in Fort Scott, Kansas, Rich Hill, Missouri and Kansas City.