A relaxed University President George Ross removed his tie and poured himself a cup of tea Thursday night as he prepared to speak to students of the Honors Outreach Network.
Ross spoke about his life and experiences at his first fireside chat in the Larzelere back lobby. Ross reminisced on old childhood memories, spoke of his education and gave words of advice to the audience of about 40 students.
“You can’t look at a person and know their story,” he said.
Ross was born to cotton farmers in Mississippi, and is the seventh of 12 children. Although his parents encouraged him and his siblings to get an education, Ross was the only one to follow through.
“I’m the first and only one out of us 12 to graduate from college. I’m the first one to graduate from high school, for that matter,” he said.
Ross credits his early teachers with keeping him on track and helping him reach his academic goals. He claims these teachers saw something in him that he didn’t see.
“There’s nothing special about me,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of help along the way.”
The audience also had plenty of questions for the president; many regarding his views on the path Central Michigan University will take in the future. He said the health professions department will continue to increase, and the College of Medicine will continue to provide positive changes for the university.
Ross said students need to be provided an education at an economical cost, and that online education will continue to grow and thrive in the next decade.
“I’m optimistic,” he said.
Among other topics, Ross briefly discussed the recent scandal involving former CMU Education and Human Services Professor William Lord Merrill, who was jailed Tuesday following four charges related to child pornography.
Ross said the technicians who discovered the inappropriate material took the right action by notifying supervisors and authorities immediately.
“Nobody at your university hesitated to do the right thing,” he said.
Students were pleased with how the night went.
Hudsonville freshman Bethany Tacoma thought the chat was very interesting. She was surprised by what Ross has overcome during his lifetime to get to where he is today.
“I didn’t realize all the adversities he’s faced,” she said. “(I learned) to never give up on your dreams, always keep working and striving for better.”
Other students, including Bad Axe junior and Honors Outreach Network President Nick Varner and Big Rapids senior Michelle Vanhala, were pleased with how comfortable Ross was and how much he opened up to the questions of the audience.
“No matter what position of authority we attain, we’re all still human,” Varner said.
Varner said after listening to the president at the chat, his confidence in Ross’ leadership abilities has been solidified.
Ross offered the audience some advice before the night was over, stressing the importance of gaining an education.
“The best gift we can give you at Central Michigan University is to teach you how to learn,” he said.