Education transforms lives. He’s said it. He believes it. He’s also lived it.
“Without education, I’m not sitting here,” President George E. Ross said, sitting at a table in his Warriner Hall first-floor office. “The path I chose changed my life. When I say education transforms lives, I mean it, because it transformed mine.”
Ross spent much of his childhood in Flint, moving to the city at the age of 13. His father drove a city bus. His family, on public assistance, didn’t have much. None of his older siblings had graduated high school, and he, too, considered dropping out.
But at the advice, or more fittingly the demand, of his high school math teacher that he not only graduate but continue his education after high school, Ross buckled down.
Not only did he become the first of his siblings to graduate high school, but he was accepted into college. Ross went on to earn his bachelor's and master's degrees in business administration and a Ph.D. in higher education administration.
He had a career in public accounting before making the jump to higher education. He was named CMU’s 14th president in 2010.
Ross, now, reflects on where he is and the role that high school teacher had in his success. She wouldn’t give up on him and knew what an education would mean for him.
It’s shaped who he is as a leader in higher education.
“The ability to learn and keep asking questions is the key to success,” he said. “I tell students, ‘We owe you two things: knowledge and character.’ It’s not only what you learn in class, it’s what you find in yourself.”
That’s why he dedicates time to personally spend with students, whether in his office, while strolling around campus or in his home.
“I’ve rarely turned down a request for a meeting from a student,” Ross said. “At the end of the day, that’s why we’re here. It’s important to hear directly from the students.”
So, students will always have his ear, because he believes in them and their futures.
“People still question the value of higher education,” Ross said. “It does transform lives. Beyond jobs and a career, it shapes you as an individual.”
Ross personally mentors several CMU students.
He and his wife, Elizabeth, are avid golfers.
Ross has 31 years of higher education leadership and management experience.