Celebrating Barbara Eells, 2018 Distinguished Alumna

If there’s one word that best describes Barbara Eells, it is “determined.” That mindset has guided Eells her entire adult life, starting with her first Southwestern class in 1975. She wanted a college education, no matter the barriers.

Over the next decade as she worked full time in a medical office, Eells raised three children. She also studied nights for her college degrees. Finally in 1986, she graduated with Associate of Arts degrees in Social Work and Criminal Justice.

“This is a remarkable accomplishment, considering Barbara drove at night 167 miles on a dark, curvy highway, roundtrip to the Coos Campus to attend classes,” said Dr. Patty Scott, Southwestern president. “Barbara accomplished all of this before there was distance education and e-mail, before we had a campus in Brookings.”

In 2018, Southwestern honored Barbara Eells with its Distinguished Alumna award for her dedication to learning and constant focus on improving people’s lives in Curry County.

One woman’s desire to learn and lead

Eells started taking classes as a reserve sheriff’s deputy and continued her studies after graduating from Southwestern. She completed her bachelor’s degree from Eastern Oregon University through Southwestern’s University Center, and moved into her profession that has spanned more than 30 years in Curry County.

“I believe the answer to a lot of problems is education,” Eells said. “I think the more people are educated and open their minds to new ideas, the more we can make our homes, community and nation a better place to live.”

“I believe the answer to a lot of problems is education.” – Barbara Eells

Eells managed the Victim Assistance Program in Curry County, went on to work in Child Protective Services and co-founded the Oasis Shelter Home. She also mentored and trained others in fields of child abuse and domestic violence prevention. Eells’ educational and professional accomplishment equals the effort she put into community involvement and advocacy over the years.

As a member of the Curry County Multi-disciplinary Team, she advocated for treatment for sexually abused youth. She also founded the first Child Advocacy Center in Gold Beach. When Eells tried to retire, she still spent several years managing the local animal shelter office. Eells continues to volunteer with the Curry County District Attorney’s Office, and in other places. 

“I believe none of us make it to our goals alone, and I feel when we succeed at our goals, we should pay that forward by advocating in our own communities,” Eells said. “I am an activist for the vulnerable and disenfranchised. Whether that’s abused children, battered women or neglected animals, I try to be a voice for those who have no voice.”


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