An Outpouring of Affection for a Beloved Dean

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

It has been said that a mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled. For more than a half-century, Jerrold Ross, Ph.D. has been igniting minds with a passion for learning that has grown stronger with every passing year.

Since 1995 Ross has served as dean of The School of Education at St. John’s University, and when he announced that he would be retiring at the end of the current academic year, his colleagues and friends were eager to join him in honoring a life well-lived and a career well-spent. Aptly titled Celebrating Jerrold Ross, Educator, the event raised more than $125,000 to support The Jerrold, Alice and Murray Ross Scholarship for Graduate Education. This endowed scholarship was established by Dr. Ross to provide financial assistance to deserving students who wish to pursue an advanced degree in The School of Education.

Jerry Ross is a builder of the universe of teaching excellence. His commitment to education, particularly Catholic education, is outstanding."
- Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M., President, St. John's University

This memorable evening was an expression of love and admiration for a man who has inspired thousands to make a lasting difference for others, particularly the poor and underprivileged. 

“Jerry Ross is a builder of the universe of teaching excellence,” noted St. John’s University President Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M. “His commitment to education,  particularly Catholic education, is outstanding, and he is wound with God’s mercy and love.”

Peg LaRosa D’Angelo ’70Ed has worked closely with Ross on many occasions. She served as Chairperson of The School of Education Centennial Celebration in 2008 and is an active participant in The School of Education Leadership Committee. When asked to assume the responsibilities as Chairperson of the Celebration Committee, it was a labor of love that she was more than happy to perform.

“This is a very joyous celebration for a wonderful man, someone who is a great scholar and who loves the University and The School of Education,” she said. “Jerry Ross had so many great ideas during his time at St. John’s, things like the Institute for Catholic Schools, in which students and faculty members actually go into the schools in the local dioceses to learn firsthand how they can help the education process. His legacy extends well beyond our University walls, and he will be greatly missed.”

The Ross legacy was a happy topic of conversation among many of the alumni and friends who came out to show their appreciation for the man who means so much to them, both personally and professionally. 

A lifelong educator who spent 28 years teaching elementary grades within the public schools of New York City, Geraldine DiPersia ’65Ed, ’67GEd first met Ross following her retirement, when she became active in School of Education alumni events. She was impressed with his boundless energy, his willingness to listen to others and his commitment to bringing the students and alumni together to share ideas and activities to enhance the educational process.

“Dean Ross will be remembered for many things,” remarked DiPersia, “but I think his legacy will be that he was really open and brought The School of Education to the forefront in New York while giving the students who were preparing to become teachers a global perspective.” 

Under Ross’ leadership, the School has opened its doors and shared its resources with teachers and administrators in both public and private schools throughout New York City and the surrounding communities. It is a reflection of his personal eagerness to address challenges head-on, find the most workable solutions and suggest strategies that will have a significant impact on  both students and teachers.

“Jerry [Ross] makes statements and backs them up with his own actions,” said Carmen Farina, Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education. “There aren’t too many people out there like that. We need more people like him, because he not only talks the talk but walks the walk as well. Our city is eternally grateful to him.”

And what of the future? As this beloved dean prepares to leave St. John’s, he is already looking forward to beginning the next phase of his life. Not surprisingly, he is thoughtfully considering ways in which he can continue to be an inspiration for others.

“You know, going forward I may volunteer to go into an elementary school and teach little kids again,” said Ross. “As I look at it, you can never stop being a teacher. That’s really the beauty of being involved with education on any level. There are always so many things to teach, and there will always be so many people eager to learn.”