Lou Ross and Rosanne Esposito-Ross remember their first visit to Willamette.
Their son, Michael ’04, was looking for a college that was the right fit. “You read all the materials and look at all the information, but until you get there you don’t have a sense of a place,” says Ross. “Michael looked at a bunch of schools, but when we came to Willamette, we walked on campus and looked at each other and said, ‘I think this is it.’ We liked the people and the campus and were very comfortable, almost like we had been there before. And for Michael, it was the best decision he could have made.”
Their son, a former high school valedictorian and avid figure skater, flourished at Willamette, throwing his creative energy into writing and his social energy into heading up the Interfraternity Council for two years. He’s now pursuing a master’s degree in screenwriting from the University of Southern California.
Michael may have gotten his cue from his father. Lou, who retired early from the New York City Planning Department in 1992, is a writer himself. His current book is about the expansion of Major League Baseball to the West Coast in the late 1950s. “I’ve always been a big baseball historian,” Ross says. He spends days poring over baseball records and piecing together the decades-old puzzle of franchise changes and cross-country expansion.
Like her son and husband, Esposito-Ross was also headed for a career as a writer, but she changed course. She serves as executive vice president of Expeditors International of Washington, a company that arranges the logistics of delivering cargo around the globe, without a hitch, 24/7. Fortune magazine ranked Expeditors as the most admired American company in its category, praising its sense of social responsibility and employee talents.
After Michael’s graduation his parents stayed involved with the University, becoming founding members of Willamette’s Parents Committee and making a series of gifts. They recently pledged $100,000 for the Ross Family Scholarships, which will allow students with an interest in creative writing to pursue their dream, just like their son is doing. “Our son got a partial scholarship, so this is our way of paying back to someone else.” The Rosses are part of a growing trend of parent involvement at Willamette, with the Parents Fund bringing in $217,794 last year, a record-breaking 38 percent increase over the previous year.
“The bottom line is that the whole experience while Michael was at Willamette was totally positive, and for us as parents it’s been totally positive. Everyone was there if we needed them. It’s the type of place where if we drove down there this weekend, it would be like going to a friend’s house.
“In university settings things evolve so quickly,” Ross says, explaining why they believe parent giving is so important. “So many facets of a university need focus. You can’t hope to be a successful university if you remain stagnant. That’s why we’ve been very happy with the on-campus expansion and the additional faculty brought in. It adds energy to the school. It’s important that parents look at this and give, in the framework of how much they can give.”
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