PHOTO CAPTIONS: (Above) Samantha Bates, (right) a graduate of Ferris State University’s Criminal Justice Administration Master of Science, reacts to President David Eisler’s conferring of her diploma on Friday, May 31 in the University Center Founders Room. Bates missed her school’s hooding ceremony and commencement program on Saturday, May 11, having donated a kidney to a 12-year old family friend eight days before. (Below) Samantha is greeted at the door as she arrives for her surprise ceremony by Anthony Ellis, her "nephew" and kidney recipient.
When the time came this spring for Ferris State University graduate Samantha Bates to receive the symbols of her educational achievement, she chose instead to give, of herself, in a most literal, personal and meaningful fashion.
Bates, a native of Springport in Jackson County, donated a kidney to a 12-year-old “nephew,” Anthony Ellis, in a life-saving procedure on Friday, May 3. She participated in a hooding ceremony to recognize her Master of Science in Criminal Justice Administration, on Friday, May 31, then received her diploma, conferred by Ferris President David Eisler.
“I did not even have an organ donor designation on my driver’s license when I learned, in October 2018, that Anthony needed a kidney transplant,” Bates said. “I decided to see if I was a match, and as the process advanced, we learned that my kidneys were extremely healthy, and I could donate.”
Anthony, who is from Jackson, had an eight-year struggle with health issues related to his kidneys. With the operation now four weeks behind him, the young man is looking forward to his transition from recuperation to summertime activities, and seventh grade classes in the fall.
“It makes me thankful every time I think of what Sam did for me,” Ellis said. “I am looking forward to getting better and being able to get out and have fun.”
Eisler said that he was most pleased to meet with and present Bates her degree and to pay tribute to her excellence as a student.
“What a wonderful example of personal sacrifice and concern for others that Samantha demonstrated, through this gift,” Eisler said. “Few people will have the opportunity to do what she did for Anthony. It was my honor to take part in this ceremony, as she is truly a remarkable young adult and graduate of Ferris State University.”
School of Criminal Justice Director Joseph Ferrandino said that offering Bates the individualized hooding ceremony was an honor and believed it was a most appropriate way to recognize her perseverance and sacrifice.
“We were aware that Samantha, who was a varsity athlete, had also missed the commencement for her bachelor’s degree, in our program, because her team was in postseason play,” Ferrandino said. “Associate Professor Tim Eklin rallied us around the idea of having an event to honor her. Finally, Professor Nancy Hogan arranged to have Samantha arrive at the Founders’ Room in the University Center, in cap and gown, unaware of these intentions, following the last class for her CJA Master’s program.”
Bates was a three-time selection to the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference’s All-Academic Excellence team, as an undergraduate student-athlete, and a two-time All-GLIAC honoree for her play as a member of the Bulldog softball team. She served as team captain in 2017-18.
Following the surprise hooding ceremony and presentation of her diploma, Bates reflected on the developments of the last several months, where medical staff regularly suggested that she carefully consider her choice to donate.
“Every time I was asked about going through with the transplant, I thought of Anthony, whom I have known since he was born,” Bates said. “His mother, Kathy, has been friends with my mother, Tammy and my father, Jack, since they were young. Anthony deserves a childhood. All I hope is that he takes good care of our kidney.”
Members of the Bates and Ellis families joined university faculty, staff, classmates and representatives of media outlets at the ceremony.
“I am very appreciative of this honor, though the surprise of it was a bit overwhelming,” Bates said. “Ferris has helped me prepare for a career as a probation officer, and I am ready to encourage clients to make significant change in their lives, rather than our just ‘checking off the boxes’ for what the state requires of them.”