UMKC Law Mourns Loss of Beloved Alumna

JoEllen represented everything that makes UMKC Law graduates stand out in our community: an outstanding student, talented advocate, indefatigable student and alumni leader, beloved colleague, and volunteer.

UMKC Law Mourns Loss of Beloved Alumna

On January 2, 2021, JoEllen Flanagan-Engelbart (JD’15) passed away from  COVID-19 complications, only a few days after she gave birth to her baby boy Ross.

JoEllen represented everything that makes UMKC Law such a special place.  She was an outstanding student who never rested on her laurels but continued to work to improve.  She was a staff member of all three of the law school’s journals and was an outstanding member of our trial advocacy competition teams, given the highest marks both for her analytical skill and artistry.

At the same time, she gave back to the law school through her student organization leadership.  She led our Association of Women Law Students organization, remarkably taking on the position of president as a second semester first-year student and holding that post for two years. She built partnerships among our many law student organizations that promote diversity, empowerment, and inclusion, such as Outlaws (LGBTQA), Black Law Students Association (BLSA), Hispanic Law Students Association (HLSA), Asian Pacific Islander Student Association (APILSA), Family Law Society, and Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys (MATA). With these organizations, she organized events that shed light on issues facing women in society, from discrimination and stereotypes in the legal profession, to domestic violence, child abuse awareness, balancing work with family, and successfully active member in many other student organizations. 

JoEllen graduated cum laude with pro bono honors, recognizing the astounding quality and quantity of her volunteer work in the community while in law school, logging well over 1000 pro bono hours at the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office alone, but also working with Rose Brooks and other community organizations. She was the recipient of the 2015 Judge John W. Oliver Public Service Fellowship.

Upon graduation, JoEllen joined the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office – her dream job according to her uncle Ross Nigro (JD’92). She continued to give back to the law school, serving on the newly formed UMKC Law Young Alumni Committee, supervising law student interns at the Prosecutor’s office, and mentoring many more besides. 

JoEllen will be greatly missed by many.   Our deepest condolences go to her husband Matthew Engelbart and son Ross and all those whose lives will be diminished by her absence.

Published: Jan 10, 2021