Kathleen Ross, Ph.D.
Secretary, Yes We Must Coalition
President Emerita, Heritage University, Washington
Sister Kathleen Ross is nationally known as a leader in higher education, especially in the field of cross-cultural communication. Her career in higher education spans more than three decades. In the 1970s, she served as provost of Fort Wright College in Spokane, Washington where she oversaw the creation of outreach programs in Toppenish on the Yakama Nation Reservation that extended the opportunity for four-year college degrees to rural, minority and low income populations typically not served by higher education institutions. When Fort Wright College closed in 1982, she became the founding president of Heritage University in Toppenish, where she oversaw its growth from 85 students to more than 1400, stepping down in 2010. After spending a sabbatical as a Visiting Research Scholar at Claremont Graduate University in Spring 2011, she returned to Heritage where she has launched the Institute for Student Identity and Success. As the Director of this new Heritage University endeavor, she has received grant funding to promote degree completion by low-income, first-generation-to-college students nationally.
Dr. Ross has received numerous awards, including the 1989 Harold McGraw Prize in education, the 1991 John Carroll Award from Georgetown University, the 1995 State of Washington Medal of Merit, and in 1997 she was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow, the so-called “Genius Award.” She has received honorary degrees from more than a dozen colleges and universities including Dartmouth, Pomona, Notre Dame, Whitworth, Gonzaga, Pacific Lutheran, University of Puget Sound and Seattle University, as well as the Eastern Washington University Medal of Merit and the University of Portland Christus Magister Medal. Dr. Ross holds a B.A. degree from Fort Wright College (the predecessor to Heritage University), an M.A. from Georgetown University, and a Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University. At Claremont, she did her dissertation under the guidance of Howard Bowen and Peter Drucker on cultural factors affecting the success of American Indian students in higher education. Dr. Ross is a member of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, an order of Catholic Sisters dedicated to education, especially for the poor and disadvantaged.