January 15, 2013
Jerrold Ross, Ph.D., Dean of The
School of Education (SOE) since 1995 and Academic Vice
President of the Staten Island campus, was born in Brooklyn. He is
a staunch New Yorker who is enthusiastic about working on both the
Queens and the
What was your first career aspiration?
always wanted to teach. When I was a senior at the High School of
Music and Art in Manhattan, Juilliard offered me a scholarship to
study piano, while NYU offered me one for education. Although, I
was tempted by the opportunity to train with the great pianist
Rosalyn Tureck, I decided to go to NYU. I am convinced this
choice benefitted both professions.
Do you remember your first day at St. John’s?
I arrived at Marillac Hall, where The School of Education
(SOE) was then located. As I walked down the aisle to my office, I
saw rows of secretaries seated at desks close together, surrounded
by filing cabinets. The scene reminded me of a factory, provoking
me to say, “where are the sewing machines?”
One of my first priorities was to improve the SOE’s working
conditions and six years later, we moved to a building designed to
fit our needs.
Describe a typical workday.
I split my work week between both campuses. On Tuesdays
and Fridays, I go to Staten Island. I take the subway down to the
ferry and then enjoy the ride across the bay. Typically, I work
into each day meetings with faculty members and admnistrators
to discuss their proposals for new programs. On the other days I
meet with SOE chairs to discuss administrative issues as well as
programs. Following that, I meet with my staff to review our status
and draw up plans for the implementation of thse programs. I also
meet with students and attend all the committee meetings required
of University leadership.
I make time to answer every one of the 100 to 150 emails I
receive daily, including messages from the professional
organizations and external groups to which I belong, such as the
Department of Education (DOE) Arts Education Committee and the
Advisory Group to the NYS Commissioner of Education.
If you could live in any other time, what might that
I look forward to the future. I don’t believe in looking
back. The so-called good old days never existed. There’s never been
a time when the rich weren’t enjoying themselves while the poor
suffered, peace and prosperity have never existed everywhere
and for everyone.
If you could change something about your job, what would
you change and why?
I would like to find a way to make things move even more
quickly. I’d like to speed up the process of implementing new
programs, even though the SOE does have a deserved reputation for
acting quickly and being responsive to the changing needs of our
students dictated by the job environment.
What is the one thing about you that few people
That the New York SundayNews once
described me as a “demon director.” That’s when I was in charge of
Town Hall for four years
in the early ‘70s. They gave me the nickname because, according to
the reporter, there was “nothing” in my background “to hint” that I
would be able to introduce so many new programs so quickly.
I am sure few people would associate the idea for offering
“Legendary Ladies of the Movies” with me. Stars such as Myrna Loy,
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were interviewed live after their
film clips were shown. It really caught on. I broadened the guest
list to include stage actors, dancers and musicians. Today, these
programs are offered nationally.
Another thing few people know about me is that I love to
As a Dean, how would you like to be remembered?
For being visionary, for introducing and implementing key
SOE programs, and for spearheading innovative partnerships
with private schools, corporations, governmental organizations and
I also hope to be remembered for being tough but fair, and for
helping people to do more than they believe they are capable of
What five words would you use to describe SOE?
Well, the President of St. John’s [Rev. Donald J.
Harrington, C.M.] once described the SOE as “market-driven.”
I’d add engaging, quality, innovative and proactive.
What’s your proudest achievement at St. John’s?
As I begin my 17th year as Dean, I’m proud that the SOE
has spun off more new programs under my tenure than were introduced
in its entire history before 1995. (We turned 100 in 2008.) They
alternative teacher certification program designed for career
change students that Joel Klein, the former Chancellor of New York City’s
Department of Education, called the “best of its kind.”
I also take pride in having appointed 90 percent of our faculty
members and that the SOE is known for having a culturally diverse
faculty which seems to attract an equally diverse student
body. I am also proud of the fact we’ve designed many special
programs to help our graduates to teach students from different
What makes a degree from the SOE so valuable?
Principals and superintendents often comment on the high
quality of our graduates — their professionalism, toolbox of
teaching strategies, knowledge of subject matter and ability to
engage their students. Our graduates enjoy an enviable
post-graduation employment track record despite the prevailing
economic challenges. We have also played a key role in shaping New
York educational policies by working collaboratively with city and
What’s the best piece of advice you could give a
To work hard and then doubly hard and to be intellectually
curious, because employers today are looking for people who are
creative and visionary.
What’s an important lesson you’ve learned from a
I’ve learned that students are limited only by the
limitations of their professors, and that good advisement extends
beyond helping students select courses. What is required is an
awareness of and sensitivity to the economic, home and family
issues confronting students.