Ellen Stroud '95 - Kingsport, Tennessee; Co-founder, Pinnacle Ranch

In 2008, Ellen co-founded Pinnacle Ranch, which provides mental health services, personal growth, learning opportunities and organizational development using equine-assisted activities, also known as "horse therapy." Before entering the mental health field, Ellen advocated for people on social justice issues concerning hunger and food insecurity. She consulted with Feeding America to advocate for feeding the hungry and served as public affairs officer at the San Francisco Food Bank. Ellen has been recognized as an "Outstanding 40 under 40" for her commitment to community.

"During my freshman year at Roanoke I spent spring break in Washington, D.C. with a group from the Chaplain's Office, working in soup kitchens and clothes closets that served the homeless. We were encouraged to join individuals as they waited in line or as they ate their meal. Spending time talking and listening to the stories was uncomfortable but inspiring. I learned that I was one big medical bill or accident away from sitting in their chair. The gentleman who had a master's degree, a wife and children went through a tough time and lost everything. He said that he didn't want me to feel sorry for him; he wanted me to do something. It took me a few years but I did. I had the chance to advocate for and obtain $610 million over 10 years in additional funding that would provide more food for those in need and would provide needed resources for the soup kitchen that was serving the man I met. After years of advocating for groups of people who do not always have a voice in public policy, I switched from being an entrepreneur to working with individuals."   

"My business partner and I started Pinnacle Ranch, which offers growth and learning opportunities that enable clients to discover new strategies for changing problematic patterns and behaviors in their lives. As I spent time as the equine specialist - part of the treatment team with a counselor - I found myself wanting to know more about the change process. So I went to graduate school and am about to graduate with a counseling degree. I remember at Roanoke hearing that learning is a lifelong process and at a liberal arts school you learn to learn. I am the product of that philosophy. I learn every day. Having a commitment to continual learning helps me strive to meet the highest standards possible so that I can make a difference." 


Released: May 30, 2014