Norman E. Ross, Treasurer Emeritus, Dies at 101
Norman Ernest Ross, 101, Bates College treasurer emeritus who served the school for 44 years, died June 30 at Russell Park Rehabilitation and Living Center after a long illness.
Ross, a 1922 Bates graduate, was known for his careful management of Bates’ financial resources, his personal devotion to Bates community life and his civic work in Lewiston and Auburn.
“Norm Ross served Bates during demanding and formative periods of the college’s history,” said Bates President Donald W. Harward. “He never wavered in his stewardship of Bates’ resources, nor in his interest in the well-being of Bates people. He served Bates with distinction and honor, and is as responsible for the financial security of the college today as any one figure in our history.”
Ross was born in Kennebunkport Aug. 7, 1898, the son of Ivory Stone and Florence Benson Ross. He graduated from Biddeford High School in 1917 and entered Bates that year. Commissioned as a second lieutenant during World War I, he served as a director of the Student Army Training Corps at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He returned to Bates to earn his B.S. degree in physics and mathematics.
After graduation, he was a teacher and coach at Brandon (Vt.) High School. In 1924, he was appointed assistant bursar at Bates and in 1928 became bursar and superintendent of grounds and buildings. He was named treasurer in 1963. Ross retired in 1968 and was awarded an honorary master of arts degree from Bates. He served as chairman of the New England group of the National Association of Educational Buyers.
“Norm Ross set a model that many followed: a person who made Bates his literal lifelong work and love,” said William C. Hiss, vice president for external and alumni affairs at Bates and a 1966 graduate. “He was a mighty careful keeper of the college’s financial keys and protector of its grounds and buildings ‹ no student would dream of dropping a candy wrapper on the ground within sight of Norm Ross. But he was also the grand old man of the place who loved Bates and its place in the community. He made sure the college delivered on what it promised.”
Ross was as watchful when issuing examination bluebooks to faculty as when overseeing college building projects. He personified the Bates tradition of thrift, even trekking to Presque Isle in 1946 to buy a military-surplus potato peeler, refrigerator and dish washer for a new kitchen in the college’s Rand Hall. Yet he also aided many needy Bates students who had to be as careful with their finances as Bates had to be with its own. He found campus jobs for any student who needed one ‹ from Hathorn Hall bell ringer to coal shoveler ‹ and sought financial-aid gifts from local citizens when all else failed. “We knew all the kids and their backgrounds,” he once said. “I don’t believe we ever let a kid go home because he couldn’t pay a bill. No matter how tough the situation was, we wanted them to stay in college.”
In 1924, he married Marjorie Pillsbury Ross, a 1923 Bates graduate. The Rosses lived at 32 Frye St. near campus for 72 years, opening their home to Bates visitors and former students. He was a familiar figure at Bates athletic contents and served as an volunteer track official at Maine college meets for many years. In a 1978 interview with The Bates Student newspaper, Ross said, “Bates has truly come to be my school. I’m so involved with the college that anything that benefits the school, in a sense, benefits me.” The Rosses moved to Russell Park Rehabilitation and Living Center in 1994, and Marjorie Ross died Feb. 20, 1999. In January, Bates named the former Ross home, now a popular coffeehouse for Bates community members, the Norman E. and Marjorie P. Ross House.
“My oldest and fondest memories of Bates College are associated with my friendship with Norm and Marjorie Ross,” said 1965 Bates graduate Peter J. Gomes, a former college trustee and now Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard University and minister in the Memorial Church. “He could be a terror to us undergraduates: exacting, demanding, unyielding. We never knew anyone who cared so much for Bates or who worked so hard for it. I was one of the student organists, and he always hoped I was not wasting precious electricity by practicing too long in the Chapel. He hated waste. He loved Bates. He was my friend.”
Ross was a member of the United Baptist Church of Lewiston for 70 years and served as deacon, trustee and Sunday school teacher. In 1941, he was elected to the board of trustees of the then-Central Maine General Hospital. During his more than half-century of service to the hospital, now Central Maine Medical Center, he served as chairman of the buildings and grounds committee, overseeing many hospital construction projects. He was the board’s chairman from 1960 to 1962. In 1991, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of CMMC’s opening, the hospital named its new 89,000-square-foot addition the Norman E. Ross Centennial Wing, in honor of his service to the hospital.
“Norm Ross set the standard for Central Maine Medical Center trustees who served with him in the past, trustees who serve now and those who will serve in the future,” said William W. Young Jr., president of Central Maine Healthcare. “He was the consummate volunteer-trustee, and his enormous contribution to CMMC will last for many years.”
Ross was elected a trustee of the Androscoggin Savings Bank in 1934 and served as president and chairman of the board. “Over the years, he served our organization with uncommon devotion, characterized by an honesty and unselfishness that exemplified the values he espoused,” said Steven A. Closson, president of the Androscoggin Savings Bank. Ross was also a member of the Masons, Ashlar Lodge, No. 105 A.F. and A.M.
He is survived by numerous nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be planned at the Bates Chapel. Interment will be at Gracelawn Cemetery. Gifts in memory may be made to the Norman E. Ross ’22 and Marjorie Pillsbury Ross ’23 Endowed Fund of Bates College, supporting the general purposes of the school, 2 Andrews Road, Lewiston, ME 04086.