Ross expected to take ASU reins in July|[04/05/07]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 5, 2007

LORMAN – George Ross has a reputation that precedes him, and it’s a good one.

A Mississippi native, Ross, 55, will become the 17th president of Alcorn State University in Lorman this summer. Interim President Malvin Williams said he expects Ross to take over in July, but an exact date has not been set.

&#8220Ultimately, I believe it was his credentials” that led to his appointment, said university spokesman Christopher Cason.

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Those credentials include more than 30 years’ experience in higher education. Ross will come to ASU from Central Michigan University, where he was vice president for finance and administrative services and treasurer. He has also served in administrative roles at Clark Atlanta University and Tuskegee University.

&#8220We’ve very impressed and excited to be here,” Ross said Wednesday. His wife, Elizabeth, an Alabama State University graduate and 25-year-teacher, has accompanied him througout his campus visits.

Born in Utica, Ross moved to Michigan with his father when he was 5 years old. But he said Mississippi memories dominate his childhood.

&#8220I spent every summer here between age 5 and 17,” he said.

The College Board voted unanimously Tuesday in favor of Ross to replace Williams, who was called out of retirement to lead the university last August when then-president Clinton Bristow Jr. died of an apparent heart attack. Bristow was days short of starting his 12th year as president of the 3,000-student university when he collapsed during a campus jog. By act of the Legislature, the dining facility on campus, something he worked to achieve, will be named in Bristow’s honor.

Williams said Ross should have a smooth transition, despite public protests by students over announced limitations in course offerings two weeks ago. That situation is apparently headed toward resolution.

&#8220There are no burning fires at Alcorn,” Williams said after a one-on-one meeting with Ross Wednesday afternoon. &#8220Alcorn is and has been a well-managed institution for many years.” Williams said that Ross will have time to develop strategies, implement policies and set goals. Williams served at the university for nearly 30 years himself as the vice president for academic affairs. He said he’s willing to offer advice on one condition.

&#8220Only if he asks,” Williams said and laughed.

While Ross doesn’t face a long list of pressing concerns, he said one of his first priorities will be to re-evaluate the university’s long-range strategic plan.

Some of the challenges Alcorn faces include making faculty salaries more equitable with other state universities, ongoing campus construction projects and supervising the establishment of new academic programs.

Cason said he will also be busy overseeing the university’s accreditation process by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 2011. Ross said he’s ready to listen to what the university community has to say.

Around the campus Wednesday, everyone who had met him had nothing but praise for Ross.

&#8220He was very friendly,” said freshman political science major Nakisha Snell. &#8220I thought he was very professional.”

Snell, who is also the freshman class vice president, said she hopes Ross works to keep school spirit and morale high.

Mass communication professor Jerry Domatob said he is excited and optimistic about the transition.

&#8220He’s very experienced and he’s a great guy,” said Domatob. &#8220He came across to me as a very sincere leader.”

Even students who hadn’t met Ross personally are aware of his resume.

&#8220I hear he’s well-qualified for the job,” said freshman mass communication major Edgar Lewis.

Domatob was also thrilled that Ross accepted the opportunity to return to the area. &#8220He’s coming back home now to make his contribution” to the community, Domatob said.

Senior Trena M. Boyd, an accounting major, said that while change is good, she hopes he respects Alcorn’s tradition as a historically black college. Founded in 1871, Alcorn was the first institution in the country established for the higher education of blacks.

Lewis said he hopes that Ross will bring all the pending plans and ideas at Alcorn to fruition and feels that Ross has a good start. &#8220I think there’s a lot of groundwork that’s been laid,&#8220 said Lewis. &#8220He has to carry the torch.”