Vol. 12. No. 4
Spring 2003


Lou Callister tells friends that he and his wife, Ellen, built their 45-year marriage on a “solid foundation of incompatibility.” If Ellen is nearby, she agrees...and then smiles the special smile she reserves for mischievous children.

Anyone who believes Lou’s playful claim doesn’t know either of the Callisters. Louis H. Callister JD’61 is one of Utah’s most prominent attorneys, listed in the 2001-02 edition of “The Best Lawyers in America,” and was a 12-year member of the U’s Board of Trustees.

Ellen G. Callister BS’57 MS’67 devotes much of her time and effort to helping those in need, especially individuals and families struggling with addictive disease.

Both Callisters were awarded honorary degrees during Commencement exercises last May. On Oct. 1, Lou gave up his position as president and chair of Callister Nebeker & McCullough to become “of counsel.” He wants to devote more time to the social causes he and Ellen share—finding answers for addictive disease, supporting better education opportunities for Native Americans, and taking care of the West’s natural resources, among others.

When the fourth of their seven children died after years of struggle with addictive disease, Lou and Ellen endowed a foundation in their son’s name—the Edward G. Callister Foundation. As Ellen says, “We felt if we could find a way to help even one individual or one family avoid the suffering Edward and our family experienced, it would make Edward’s shortened life more meaningful.” The foundation is dedicated to: (1) increasing public awareness about conditions leading to substance abuse, (2) supporting research and education about addictive disease, and (3) providing assessment and clinical services for those affected by the disease.

The foundation was instrumental in creating an on-campus organization called the Utah Addiction Center (see Getting a Fix on Addiction). Its functions are research, education, and treatment. A major effort includes identifying scores of research and education projects currently under way throughout campus.

Recently, the foundation made a generous grant to the School of Medicine in order to develop a curriculum for teaching medical students about how to deal with addictive disease. Incredibly, the program may be the first of its kind in the United States.

Working with KUED, the foundation produced a television documentary titled “Hope,” broadcast as a public service by every television station in Utah. “Hope” earned a prestigious national PRISM Award from the Entertainment Industries Council.

Lou and Ellen also created “Advocates for Improved Understanding of Addictive Disease,” a volunteer committee of community leaders. The committee develops strategies to reduce or eliminate barriers of ignorance and discrimination that interfere with the treatment and functioning of those suffering from addictive disease.

Among other projects developed under the guidance of the advocacy committee are: (1) a 24-hour telephone hotline (587-HOPE), (2) a comprehensive, one-stop Web site focused on addictive disease (hopetoday.com), (3) the most extensive opinion poll ever conducted in Utah about public attitudes concerning addiction, (4) help-resource posters mailed to school counselors in every Utah high school and middle school, (5) ambitious ad campaigns on radio and television to inform Utah citizens about the nature of addictive disease, and (6) newspaper articles about the debilitating social stigma attached to the disease.

Lou and Ellen, through the foundation, also work with various agencies that serve addicts. Lou has been known to ride with Volunteers of America as they reach out to homeless addicts to offer shelter and treatment. Ellen is helping to develop an education program aimed at middle school students. The foundation provides funding for vitamins and medications used in the treatment of addictive disease. The Callisters sponsor conferences, seminars, and other gatherings designed to improve understanding among counselors, social workers, psychologists, and professionals. Ellen has become one of the state’s leading experts on addictive disease—although she steadfastly denies that status.

Ellen and Lou Callister may be “incompatible,” as Lou jokingly claims, but they are inseparable in their quest to find answers to a debilitating disease that affects more than one in 10 Americans...and an even larger percentage of families. Their joint efforts offer hope to human beings too often ostracized by uninformed neighbors, friends, and associates.

—Don Gale BA’58 MA’60 PhD’86 is president of Words, Words,Words, Inc. He was chair of the Alumni Association and chair of the National Advisory Council, among other on-campus posts. For 22 years, he wrote and delivered editorials for KSL radio and television.

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