In Memoriam: James Ross ’51
Middlebury Vice President for Human Resources sent the following message to the campus community on November 22, 2021.
Dear Faculty and Staff,
I write with the sad news that James D. Ross, 92, longtime business manager for the College and alumnus of the Class of 1951, died on September 19, 2021, at his home in Middlebury, Vermont, with his loving wife, Ann McGinley Ross ’53, by his side.
Jim joined the College staff in March 1956 as an assistant business manager in the Business Office. Within a few months, he had been made business manager and assistant purchasing agent for Athletics. In 1965 he was promoted to the role of business manager for the College, a job he did until he retired in 1991, completing 35 years of service. He then continued as a part-time consultant for Middlebury.
In a letter to Jim dated June 28, 1991, at the time of his retirement, it states, “Middlebury has indeed been fortunate to have someone of your caliber among its employees; one who looks at the College as an institution worth dedicating his professional life to, rather than as merely an employer. Such people are extremely rare but are cherished by those who have the opportunity to work side by side with them.” Comments from colleagues and supervisors over the years talk of his “cheerful and loyal service,” his “even temperament,” his “patience and good-humored firmness,” and his “dogged persistence” as he went about his work for Middlebury.
Howard Kelton, former manager for the Snow Bowl and golf course, says, “Jim was my boss for 18 years and I can’t remember a single time that he criticized anything I was doing. He wasn’t a micromanager but was always there to help you. He would come almost daily to the Snow Bowl for lunch but didn’t talk business. He’d just look around and be happy with the situation and be complimentary.”
Jim was born April 9, 1929, in Proctor, Vermont, and was raised in Rutland. After graduating from Middlebury, he attended Syracuse University School of Business Administration, earning his master’s in 1952. He then attended Officer Candidate School and served in the Navy during the Korean War on board the USS Cotton, sailing to Korea and around the world. He and wife Ann moved to Cornwall, Vermont, when he accepted the job at Middlebury and raised their family there.
His greatest passions were his family and his community. He served as a volunteer with numerous organizations, including on the Porter Hospital board for 26 years, the Addison County Chamber of Commerce board for 25 years, and on the board of the Addison County Community Action Group, now HOPE. An advocate for education, he served on school boards for all levels, including the Middlebury Union High School board where he was director from 1971 to 1984. He played a leading role in conceiving, raising funds for, constructing, and operating the Cornwall elementary school. He ran the Mid-Vermont Skiing Council, guiding countless young skiers into racing, including his own children. He volunteered for the Vermont Center for Independent Living, installing wheelchair ramps across the state, and was given the Governor’s Award for Distinguished Service from the Vermont Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. He was also honored with the 1998 Stephen A. Freeman Award from the Rotary Club and a 2001 Bicentennial Citizen’s Medal from the College.
His energy seemingly limitless, he devoted much time to his family. Daughter Patty writes, “He was the person who taught us how to ski as soon as we could walk; the person who snuck our cousins and us into the College pool at night to skinny dip in the dark; the person who snuck my sister and me to sit under the 50-meter ski jump at the Snow Bowl during Winter Carnival as long as we were quiet (of course we giggled) so we could watch and hear the jumpers fly over our heads; the person who let us drive the Scout in the field below our house when we could barely reach the pedals; the person who got inner tubes from old tractor tires and took us over to the White River to go tubing all day. He was a big kid at heart and the most fun-loving person I have ever known.”
Close friend Terry Aldrich, former Middlebury men’s and women’s head cross-country coach, adds, “Jim and Ann loved to ski and passed on their passion for the sport to their three children. After the kids progressed up into the race program, Jim would drive them all over New England to the races. For over 40 years Jim volunteered as a starter for the cross-country events at the Middlebury Winter Carnival. Regardless of the weather, we could always count on Jim to be there in his old, red down parka. Even when the carnival events had to be moved due to lack of snow, Jim would make the trip to help at the races.”
He is survived by wife Ann McGinley Ross ’53; children Peter ’78, Laurie ’81, and Patty Ross; grandchildren Abigail ’04, Cailin ’12, Grady, and Connor ’14 Ross, and Marley and Bo Tran; and great-granddaughter Sally Jacobs.
Vice President for Human Resources & Chief People Officer