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What's Up Magazine

Ellenor Connelly Alvarez

Mar 28, 2011 04:56PM ● By Anonymous

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Asquith Creek sparkles invitingly in the sunlight and, just beyond it, the Severn River. Sleek sailboats bob at their moorings. The woodlands across the way lead up to Rugby Hall, once a proud boys’ prep school. That’s the panoramic view from the creek side of Dr. Sergio and Ellenor Alvarez’ spacious, 35-year-old home set back into the woods of Glen Oban in Arnold.

In the comfortable kitchen, there is a magnet on Ellenor’s refrigerator. On it is written a quote by Minor Myers, Jr., former president of Illinois Wesleyan University, that sums up Ellenor’s philosophy in life: “Go into the world and do well, but more importantly, go into the world and do good.” These are words she has lived by.

Ellenor is a volunteer’s volunteer. At 74, she is still active in a halfdozen local charitable efforts. In 2009, she was nominated by Anna E. Greenberg for the Volunteer of the Year Award given each November by the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County. Greenberg is an active volunteer herself (Historic Annapolis, The Annapolis Opera, the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, St. John’s College and was named Volunteer of the Year in 2008) but, “My god! For all I’ve done, she’s done more,” says Greenberg. “She’s inspiring! Very few volunteers volunteer to be the leader. There is nothing she’s been a member of that she hasn’t taken a leadership role in. That’s unusual.” Adds Greenberg: “She’s very creative. Not with her hands, but with her mind.”

A graduate of Boston College and trained as a nurse, she was working at a hospital in Massachusetts when she met her husband, a young doctor on the hospital staff. Dr. Sergio Alvarez, 80, is a now general surgeon and the former chair of the Department of Surgery at North Arundel Hospital (now Baltimore Washington Medical Center). “He’s a wind-up bunny,” Ellenor says lovingly. Though she has lived in Maryland for four decades, Ellenor has never lost her strong Boston accent. She has nothing against the letter “R;” she just doesn’t have much use for it in the middle of a word.

Though she continued to work her husband’s office, her nursing career ended when the first of their six children, Denise, arrived in 1964. The other Alvarez kids are Dr. Ellen Alvarez, Marie Alvarez Newman, Juan Alvarez, Stephen Alvarez, and Tricia Alvarez Ruschaupt. Tragically, Denise died from a hepatitis infection at age 16 and, at age 29, Stephen, a lawyer for the U. S. Coast Guard, was killed in an accident.

The Alvarezes’ four surviving children live in the area and have blessed them with nine grandchildren. Ellen is an audiologist with Chesapeake Hearing; Marie is both an interior designer and a mom; Juan is a mortgage broker, and before she became a stay-at-home mom, Tricia was director of public relations for Hospice of the Chesapeake.

Ellenor got involved in volunteerism through her kids. A devout Catholic and member of St. John’s the Evangelist in Severna Park, she hopped into fundraising for Archbishop Spalding High School, which her children attended. It didn’t take long for her to become active in medical societies, first with the Alliance to Med-Chi in the early 1970s, followed by the Anne Arundel County Medical Society (which became the Anne Arundel County Medical Alliance), both groups for the spouses of medical doctors. Her role as secretary for the first organization overlapped her term as the charter president of the second. So far, she’s served as president in 1982, 1983, 2006, 2007, and 2008.

While involved in the AA Co. Medical Alliance, she and Carol Friend started the Charles Ballard Senior Health Center at the Eastport United Methodist Church. “We began the Ballard Center in 1982. Ellenor has been head honcho of that program and responsible for its success. She gives of herself 100 percent. I can’t say enough about how wonderful she is,” says Friend. “[The Ballard Center] led the way and set the example for the county programs for the elderly. We put emphasis on exercise for people over 65. It was highly successful.

Some people,” Friend adds, “have been in the exercise program for over 25 years. Now in their late 80s, they are in better shape than people in their 50s and 60s.” “I first got to know her years ago from her volunteer work with Carol Friend,” said former newspaper columnist Mary Felter, who handles communications for the Anne Arundel County Department of Aging. “Being doctors’ wives, they saw that many seniors weren’t getting enough exercise or nutrition information, so they set up a program to accomplish this. It met a real need in the community.” Felter adds: “Ellenor sees a need and tries to fill it in a most gracious way.”

Anne Arundel County’s cultural scene bears Ellenor’s fingerprints, too. She has been involved with the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Friends of Annapolis Symphony Orchestra (FASO). She served as the FASO president for two years, and even started a sub-group called Forte—for FASO’s younger members.

Fred “Bud” Billups, another active volunteer, is a former naval officer, Exxon Corporation executive, and executive director of the Pew Charitable Trusts. He has served on six local charitable or cultural boards. “I first met Ellenor when we were both on the board of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra,” Bud says. “We worked together very closely on various projects. I came to have great respect for her, and found her to be very straightforward. Ellenor says exactly what she thinks. She gets things done and is a lot of fun to work with.

Ellenor was on the executive committee of the ASO during a time when we needed solid leadership and she helped provide that. She’s both a doer and a leader.”

She served on the year-long ASO Search Committee in 2004 to 2005, when it sought a new conductor. At the Search Committee’s recommendation, ASO leadership offered the position to Jose Luis Novo. “It was interesting learning what it took to be a conductor. I learned what to look—and listen—for,” notes Ellenor.

In a similar vein, artist, photographer and fellow volunteer, Donna Rhody, notes, “Ellenor made a difference with the Friends of the Arts by re-instituting the FOTA Scholarship for area students who study art in Maryland colleges. The Friends of the Arts has had many exceptional leaders and Ellenor is certainly one of them.”

“I am most proud of the Charles Ballard Center,” says Ellenor.

“I’m still working on it 29 years later. I’m also proud of the Anne Arundel County Medical Alliance because it touched so many people; I’m still involved.

“There are so many things I enjoyed doing because I am interested in them,” she says modestly. “Medical, health, education and art. I enjoyed each and every thing I did. When I was involved in all these activities, I couldn’t have done it without the help and support of my husband and children. I couldn’t do it without them. They were working right alongside me, hauling, pushing and pulling.” And she adds proudly, “They enjoyed it as much as I did.”