Ross becomes new man on campus for Alcorn State

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 24, 2008

Practically born in a cotton field George Ross has finally returned to his native Mississippi.

And he has done so in a most prestigious way.

Ross is the newly appointed president of Alcorn State University.

Email newsletter signup

Ross said he is in the midst of realizing the goal of a lifetime.

“I have always wanted to be the president of a university,” he said.

Born in Utica in 1951 Ross’ father took his family from Mississippi to Washington, D.C., when Ross was just 4 years old.

“My father moved our family for a better job opportunity,” he said. “He is the smartest man I’ve ever known.”

Ross gives credit to his father for providing him with a strong work ethic and drive to succeed.

And that strong ethic instilled by his father has carried through Ross’ life.

Ross’ resume reads more like a success manual than one man’s accomplishments.

It’s eight pages long.

Starting in 1973 Ross worked as a certified public accountant, in 1986 Ross served as director of finance at the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit, and in 1999 Ross landed in Atlanta where he served as executive vice president of Clark Atlanta University.

In 2002 Ross began his most recent role as vice president for finance and administrative services and treasurer at Central Michigan University.

“Being at Central Michigan was very rewarding,” he said.

Rewarding and productive.

While at Central Michigan Ross developed and implemented “The CMU Promise.”

“The promise is meant to benefit the students,” he said.

The plan essentially locks in incoming students at a five year fixed tuition rate.

“Tuition rate raises are extremely common,” he said. “It’s often necessary for the school, but makes it difficult situation for students.”

In the spring of 2005 Central Michigan authorities approved Ross’ student help plan.

This attentive sensitivity toward the student body is what separates Ross from other university leaders, one Alcorn official said.

Alcorn’s Vice President of Academic Affairs Napoleon Moses said Ross’ compassion toward students is what made him a top choice for many Alcorn officials involved in his hiring.

“He has a truly amazing devotion to the student body,” he said.

That devotion to the students could be thought of as Ross’ cornerstone philosophy for running the school.

“My whole career is built around student learning,” Ross said. “Business plans should be supplementary to student learning.”

Both Moses and Ross agreed that not all schools are run with such a focus on students.

To that notion Ross poses a simple question.

“Wouldn’t all campuses strive for that?” he asks.

Moses said Alcorn’s future students will benefit.

“We want to revamp the school’s image,” Moses said. “He will be able to look at the landscape of the school and get a sense of direction for where the university needs to go.”

Anyone who follows Alcorn’s goings on will certainly have heard that the school wants to recreate its image.

But Ross said for now he’s just taking a wait-and-see approach for what the school needs.

But Ross almost never got the opportunity to adopt any approach at all at Alcorn.

After he was named the new president, his doctors discovered leukemia.

In mid-December he finished his last round of chemotherapy.

“When I was done I think I hugged every nurse in the building,” he said.

Ross was originally going to start his new job as president in July.

“On May 28, I was just feeling really, really bad, really sick,” he said. “About two hours later I found out I had leukemia.”

After two days of aggressive chemotherapy Ross spent an entire month in the hospital.

“That was a very hard time,” he said. “I was not sure how the future would play out.”

In September Ross was scheduled to take his post again but decided to finish his chemo and started in January.

“Getting the opportunity to start again is like receiving an amazing gift,” he said.

Ross’ second chance at a lifelong career goal is also his second chance at life.

Ross said there was a time while he was in the hospital; he later found out, that he was actually near death.

But that is not slowing him down.

“I am so lucky, blessed actually,” he said. “I’m getting a second chance at my 15 minutes.”