Uncovering the Why Behind Manor College’s Go-To Guru

Tamara Ellerbe (Murrell Dobbins CTE Technical High School, Philadelphia) graduates with her Bachelor’s Degree in Health Services.

Tamara Ellerbe

Every institution has its go-to guru. The college veteran who can find anything on campus within a few minutes. It’s the student who remains unafraid to introduce themselves to others who are sitting alone. 

Tamara Ellerbe is that guiding light at Manor College. She’s often found in the cafeteria hanging with friends or helping in Manny’s Market. During an Open House, she’s leading tours, telling new Blue Jays about what life is really like on Manor’s campus. When there’s an event and something’s missing, Ellerbe often runs to grab it herself. Often, it’s with her own money and, when you try to reimburse her, she replies, “It’s OK. I got it!”

A social gravitational pull accompanies her warm personality. People seek Ellerbe out just to talk about a problem or excitedly unveil their latest achievement. It’s akin to the charm possessed by Manor’s longtime receptionist Anne Kiczula, who Ellerbe’s subbed for on multiple occasions. 

For Ellerbe, her extroversion isn’t a learned skill, it’s ingrained in the fabric of her identity. After all, her father, William Perry, was the same way. 

“When we were at cookouts, everybody would just come up to him and shout, ‘Hey William!,” Ellerbe said. “The whole time, he’s smiling, shaking everyone’s hand. He was a bringer. If they were missing something, he’d go grab it. He was a helper.” 

That’s who Perry was all the time, Ellerbe said. When Ellerbe and her cousins were young, Perry was the adult who had the most fun. There were trips to the arcade or Chuck E. Cheese. There was the trip to Disney World when Ellerbe was 2.

Perry was the father who let the kids have fun, even if it broke parenting rules. He’d sit on his front porch in Germantown and watch the kids play in the yard until 10 p.m. Ellerbe still laughs at how Perry – a notoriously terrible cook – would always eat TV dinners or Chef Boyardi. Today, she can’t stomach the sight of them. 

Ellerbe’s favorite memories are when no one was around. Perry would throw a vinyl record on the player – usually The Temptations, The Whisperers or The Stylistics – and he’d dance with her. He’d pick her up and sing “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder. To this day, the song still makes her cry. 

In July 2012, when Ellerbe was only 12, Perry was diagnosed with Cirrhosis of the liver. He went through dialysis and got a liver transplant. Unfortunately, he died two years later. 

On the day he died, Ellerbe went to visit him in the hospital. It was “the best and worst experience,” she said. 

Ellerbe (low center) with her father (left) and two of her cousins during an arcade trip.

Perry was on life support as the doctors told Ellerbe’s mother, Tonya Ellerbe, Perry was in his final moments. Tonya explained to Ellerbe what was happening and Ellerbe had a chance to say goodbye to him with her cousins. Once they got to the elevator, one of her cousins began crying. 

“I felt fine, I knew I couldn’t do anything about it, but my cousin kept crying, saying all the good things he did for her,” Ellerbe said. “I didn’t expect him to have that kind of impact on her.” 

After his death, the community rallied around Ellerbe. 

“My dad was so well known that everyone in the neighborhood would check in on me,” Ellerbe said. “They made sure I had everything I needed for school. They were always my guardians.” 

Ellerbe doesn’t talk about her father much. It’s not out of anger, but a desire to not let her emotions get the best of her. Still, it’s hard for her to think of the events he missed. 

“I just want to know how things would be different,” Ellerbe said. “I bought my first car when I was with my mom. He always talked about wanting to buy me my first car. There’s just so many father-daughter things that he never had the chance to do.”


If Ellerbe’s personality came from her father, she got her drive from her mother. Tanya works for a cleaning service in the Philadelphia area. It was Tonya who made sure Ellerbe believed in an education. 

“She went to a trade school and always said she wanted better for me,” Ellerbe said. “She reached out to my counselors and asked them to help me through the college process because she always believed in having an education.”

While at Murrell Dobbins CTE Technical High School in Philadelphia, a college counselor talked to Ellerbe about Manor College. At the time, Ellerbe’s friends were looking at larger colleges, but the counselor believed she needed to be in a smaller environment. 

The high school took a tour of Manor College, where Ellerbe met Jessica Zsoldos, the current Director of Admissions. 

“The way she talked about Manor, it sounds so cliche, but it made me feel like I belonged here,” Ellerbe said. I did another tour a year later and I was hooked.” 

Now, giving tours of her own to potential students, Ellerbe reflects on her own experience. 

“There’s a saying you hear that in college, professors aren’t going to hold your hand, and that’s true,” Ellerbe said. “At Manor, they’re not going to hold your hand, but you know they want to help you succeed and will do everything to make that happen.” 

During her time at Manor, Ellerbe became a Presidential Ambassador and a member of Rotaract and Student Senate. In January 2024, she became the first woman of color to receive the Mother Josaphat Medal, the institution’s highest honor. She additionally received the Kyle McIntosh Memorial Award in April, given to a student who embodies the spirit, energy, kindness, and love of Manor. 

She will graduate in May with her Bachelor’s degree in Health Services. It’s a bittersweet moment. Ellerbe, a first-generation college student, often thinks about Tonya when thinking about graduation. 

“I would’ve loved if my Mom went to college and had the opportunity to experience what I had,” Ellerbe said. “It’s an accomplishment. I just feel bad that she hasn’t gotten the chance.” 

As the sun sets on her time as a student at Manor, other students on campus have made it a point to approach Ellerbe to explain just how much she means to them. On one instance, one introverted student told Ellerbe, “Without you, I would never have come out of my shell. You are the one person who told me to never give up and go make friends.”

Ellerbe’s own favorite memory is the most recent Grad and Family Picnic. She loved watching faculty and students interact outside of the classroom – playing volleyball, having cookout food, and dancing. Those heartwarming moments are the ones Ellerbe will miss most.

“I met so many people I never thought I would have met,” Ellerbe said. “I just fell in love with this place. I made a family here.”

Meet our Graduates

Diego Peralta

Brooke Strassle

Eddie Fortesque

Neysha Medina

Yelyzaveta Mazepa

Wandell Scott

Keith Donofrio

Hailey Ramirez

Tamara Ellerbe

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