Laurentians Inspire: Anthony Ross '75, M’78 | St. Lawrence University

Laurentians Inspire: Anthony Ross '75, M’78

A Lifelong Commitment to Leadership in Higher Education

In honor of Black History Month, our Laurentians Inspire series for the month of February celebrates Black Laurentians who have made a difference and left their mark on St. Lawrence.

“The most important consideration in creating lasting change is to realize that, as leaders, we must recognize that it’s not about us but about our universities,” says Anthony “Tony” Ross ’75, M’78, whose lifetime of higher education leadership roles began with his St. Lawrence experiences.

“We must be willing to engage with everyone, listen to their concerns and thoughts, and provide the leadership necessary to move the institution forward.”

Whether it was serving as assistant vice president and dean of students at Northern Arizona University, serving as the associate to the president at Wichita State University, or in his most recent role as interim president of Bergen Community College in Paramus, New Jersey, Ross’ expertise in higher education management has become an asset for many schools throughout his 45-year career. Pointing to the need to be “open and self-confident” and “strong in one’s convictions, but reasonable in one’s actions,” Ross says he feels most fulfilled when he sees “the smiles on the faces of students, the willingness of others to be engaged and be a part of the solutions we seek, and the positive outcomes of the work.”

“My primary goal was to graduate college and set the example for my siblings,” says Ross, who was the second oldest of eight siblings growing up in Rochester, New York.

In addition to being a first-generation college student in the early 1970s, Ross’ challenges were slightly more complicated than the average undergraduate with his marriage and the arrival of his first child between sophomore and junior year. Even while juggling many priorities in his life, he remained involved on campus. Ross led the Saints men’s basketball team to three league titles and two NCAA appearances as captain and served as president of the Black Student Union.

“The summers following my junior and senior year, I was hired as a counselor and advisor for the HEOP (Higher Education Opportunity Program) summer program and it was there that my love for working with college-aged students--my peers at the time--started to take hold,” says Ross.

After graduating in 1975 with a sociology degree, he became the first full-time HEOP director at St. Lawrence, as well as a member for the Affirmative Action Committee while working towards his Master of Education degree, which he finalized in 1978.

“The educational foundation gained from my undergraduate and graduate experience, along with being the first full-time director of the Higher Education Opportunity Program at St. Lawrence, propelled me to a career in higher education that I could not have imagined,” says Ross. He believes it was also unique training for a career in building and supporting diverse communities on college campuses.

Ross’ career also includes helping to manage public and charter school systems as well as volunteering in dozens of organizations that amplify underrepresented voices, promote inclusivity, and improve conditions both on and off campus. He has received several honors for his dedication to higher education, including the NAACP Image Award, the Fred Turner Award for Outstanding Service to NASPA, and many others.

“The solutions are far from simple,” says Ross. “However, they start with a commitment to hold honest conversations, listen intently, and commit to action with a realistic timeline.” Having worked in education at all levels, Ross emphasizes that follow up with all constituents regularly is crucial. “The work must begin at an early age and be continually reinforced throughout our adult years.”

Ross demonstrates these commitments as a volunteer in many community and professional organizations as well as in his service to his alma mater. Besides being recognized in the Athletics Hall of Fame in 1986, Ross served as a St. Lawrence trustee from 1998 to 2004, has volunteered as a career advisor and mentor, was a founding member of the Multicultural Advisory Committee, and is a member of the Laurentian Alumni of Color.

"It’s easy to overlook the challenges we face as a society, when ‘life is good’ for only some of us,” says Ross. “It’s important to remember that life may not be as good for others and we should work toward making it a better place for all.”

About the Author

A native of Buffalo, New York, Hannah Rutkowski ’22 is an English major with a concentration in creative writing. Rutkowski serves on the editorial board of two student-run literary publications The Laurentian and the St. Lawrence Review and her academic interests also include film studies and gender studies with an emphasis on the interdisciplinary relationship between culture and media.