Kathleen Ross, SNJM
My mother liked to tease me: “No wonder you turned into a college president. You were born on a college campus!” Yes, it happened on California’s Stanford University campus where my father was a Teaching Assistant and my mother had just left her career as a Physical Therapist with the U.S. Army. At age 2, we moved to Seattle where my younger sister Rosemary and I were raised. Mom had significant bouts of illness, keeping her homebound, and I battled asthma, but we walked the 1 to 6 blocks to HNA Seattle every year, grades 1 through 12. My greatest love was playing the violin.
In 1959 I headed to Gonzaga’s Honors Program where my intellectual life expanded, and my spiritual life called me to answer God’s love with a total life commitment. After Novitiate at Marylhurst and two years at Fort Wright College (FWC) in Spokane, I served six years as a high school teacher at Holy Names Academy Spokane.
Not being satisfied with the World History textbook, I pursued a Georgetown University Master’s in Non-Western History (Africa, Islamic Civilization, Russia, China). Two years later, a major leap of faith turned me into the Academic Vice President at FWC. Soon I was involved with starting a FWC outreach on the Yakama Reservation with Martha Yallup and Violet Rau. After completing two years at Claremont Graduate University and a Ph.D., I was shocked to learn that FWC was phasing out. Martha and Violet insisted we start a new college so the only locally-available 4-year degrees could continue. Heritage University opened in 1982 with 85 students and was accredited in 1986. Retiring from the Presidency in 2010, I looked with amazement at the 1400 students and the astounding ways Our Loving Creator had engineered miracles, large and small, to overcome incredible challenges. Personal highlights included surviving a 15-month battle with breast cancer (1991), being named a MacArthur Fellow (1997), serving on a Congressional Advisory Committee (to 2001-05), and holding a full Yakima Youth PowWow on campus (2007). How grateful I am to all those who have walked these many seasons of grace and gratitude with me!