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Honoring Brooke Ellison’s Inspirational Legacy with a Celebration of Life

Brooke Ellison, together with her mother Jean, was recognized on March 24 during a Celebration of Life event held at the Sidney Gelber Auditorium. In her book Look Both Ways, Brooke Ellison expressed, “One of the biggest gifts I have been given is my ability to share my life with people.”

The celebration on March 24 truly highlighted her success in sharing her life experiences with many individuals, enriching the lives of those who were acquainted with her and those who were familiar with her story. The Sidney Gelber Auditorium in the Student Activities Center was filled with Ellison’s family, friends, and colleagues who gathered to commemorate her life. Tragically, Ellison passed away on February 4 at the age of 45 due to complications of quadriplegia.

In 1990, Ellison was struck by a car while crossing Nicolls Road in Stony Brook on her way home from her first day of junior high school at the age of 11. This devastating accident resulted in a fractured skull and spine, multiple broken bones, and complete paralysis from the neck down.

Despite the challenges posed by her injuries, Ellison remained undaunted by her quadriplegia. She defied the odds by graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor of science in cognitive neuroscience, becoming one of the first quadriplegics to achieve this feat. Subsequently, she obtained a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a PhD in sociology from Stony Brook in 2012. She even joined the university faculty in the same year.

Ellison actively advocated for disability rights and stem cell research, receiving the Inspiration Award at the 2008 World Stem Cell Summit. She held various prestigious appointments, demonstrating her commitment to social causes and ethical endeavors.

The three-hour celebration honoring Ellison featured heartfelt tributes from loved ones, readings from her book, and anecdotes illustrating the profound impact she had on others and how she embraced each day with joy.

Friend and confidant Michael Rodriguez fondly recalled their shared experiences and adventures, emphasizing Ellison’s indomitable spirit in overcoming obstacles and exceeding expectations.

Each of Ellison’s accomplishments stands as a testament not only to her resilience but also to the unwavering support of her mother, Jean. Her family and friends, including her brother Reed Ellison, paid tribute to her remarkable journey and the profound bond she shared with her mother.

Actor Christopher Reeve, who also faced paralysis following an accident, connected with Ellison and directed a television movie based on her life, titled The Brooke Ellison Story.

Ellison’s legacy continues to inspire, reminding us of the strength of the human spirit and the transformative power of mutual support. Her profound words echo the sentiment that true miracles are made possible by the collective efforts of extraordinary individuals.

A memorial fund has been established in her honor to commemorate her enduring legacy.