Dr. George Ross spent nearly 30 years in higher education driven by the desire to make a difference. As the son of a Mississippi sharecropper, the only child in a family of 12 siblings to attend college, and the first Black president of Central Michigan University, Dr. Ross has made an impact at every stop in his career.
Dr. Ross found his professional start in finance. After working in the private sector as a certified public accountant and Director of Finance for the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit, he made his way into higher education. Dr. Ross took on various demanding roles, including Vice President for Business and Fiscal Affairs at Tuskegee University, Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and Executive Vice President at Clark Atlanta University. From there, he was Vice President for Finance and Administrative Services and Treasurer at Central Michigan and wasn’t actively looking to take a position elsewhere. Then, however, a president vacancy in his home state came calling.
Alcorn State University announced Dr. Ross as its new President in 2007. The institution is a 45-minute drive from the small town where he was born, and Alcorn State pursued him determinedly. At the time, the school was experiencing financial woes, and he knew his strong CPA background would be beneficial. In just two years at Alcorn State, Dr. Ross improved the school’s fiscal standing, secured $47 million for new student housing, and increased enrollment. Dr. Ross was then named President at CMU, where he led the university for eight years.
Since joining Academic Search as a senior consultant in 2018, Dr. Ross has taken on his searches the same way he approached any other job in his career: doing the right thing. He is forthcoming in his method and lets honesty and integrity guide him. Dr. Ross believes in the power of hard work and considers higher education transformative and life-changing.
Although he was born in Mississippi, Dr. Ross attended high school in Flint, MI. It’s likely that Dr. Ross wouldn’t have received his diploma, let alone become a university president, if not for the guidance of his 11th-grade math teacher. Ms. Miriam Schaefer of Flint Northern High School saw Dr. Ross’ strength with numbers and his potential to excel and not only refused to allow him to drop out of high school, but she convinced him to apply to Michigan State University. With her faith in him, Dr. Ross went on to earn both a bachelor’s and master’s in business administration from MSU, plus a doctorate in higher education management from the University of Alabama. He also completed post-doctoral studies at Harvard. When Dr. Ross became president of Central Michigan in 2010, he tracked down and visited Ms. Schaefer, who was then 95 years old and still residing in Flint, and thanked her for her unwavering confidence in him.
In addition to his executive work, Dr. Ross is a member of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation’s Board of Trustees and was previously the secretary-treasurer of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ board of directors. As President of Central Michigan, Dr. Ross launched the university’s College of Medicine, opened a biosciences building, increased university-funded scholarships, and much more.