Cile Spelce Elley ’91, Distinguished Professional
- Carlos Barron
Nearly half of Cile’s storytelling career was devoted to journalism. She covered stories ranging from the Branch Davidian Standoff to presidential elections, and proudly co-anchored the evening news in Austin with her father, as the nation’s only father-daughter anchor team. Reporting was more of an adventure into the minds and hearts of people than simply a job for Cile. She seemed to view the field of journalism through a humanitarian’s lens. Famed reporter Dan Rather, a long time family friend of Elley’s, recalls that “when Cile was first beginning to make her way as a journalist, she was unusually interested in learning about and reporting on the underside of society: the hungry, the homeless, the heartbroken… the helpless, the voiceless. This included studying and reporting on the politics and involvement of politicians regarding the downtrodden.”
Post journalism, Elley delved into higher education at Austin Community College and the University of Texas System. In both roles, she led major awareness, fundraising and brand campaigns, including the co-creation of an Emmy-winning PBS series. Now, as Electro-Fish Media co-owner and executive producer, she develops authentic strategy and content by peeling back the superficial layers so commonly accepted in today’s multi-media culture. These efforts have won her five Emmy Awards, two Emmy nominations and multiple recognitions.
It is true Elley has won extensive awards, but those who seem to appreciate her work the most are the clients she creates that work for. One of her past clients says, “When it comes to work ethic, she is at the top of her field. She manages her own team with respect and trust. When problems arise, she instinctively knows how to triage and solve the problem with a sense of calm and control.” Another client describes Cile as “compassionate and diligent in all her endeavors.”
Cile Spelce Elley has made quite a journey since her graduation from Southwestern University in 1991. However, she credits her alma mater with guiding her toward a career in communications. It is clear that several of the school’s core values were imprinted upon Elley. “She has been and continues to be a hard-working student, dedicated to a lifetime of learning and a champion at encouraging others to be so,” says Dan Rather. He goes on to say that “her commitment to being honest with herself and others is total, complete.”
Those who knows Mrs. Elley would say that her personal achievements are just as exceptional as her professional ones. Her church’s pastor shares that “in the midst of all the amazing work that Cile does in her everyday life—in her family, in the liberal arts community, and in her spiritual community—I’ve watched Cile selflessly and generously volunteer her time and resources to loving and caring for our refugee brother from Burundi and to ensuring that he has had housing, transportation, community, job-placement assistance. It has been very humbling and inspiring for me to watch Cile live out her core values in the context of her community, both locally and globally.”
If you ask those who know her, which words best describe Elley, you will hear: intelligent, loyal, energetic, hardworking, and kind, just to name a few. It is said that people seek her out because of her positive outlook and genuine love for others. Her career is a testament to that. For this reason, the Southwestern University Alumni Association presented Cile Spelce Elley with the 2017 Distinguished Professional Award.