Carmon Ross, the second president of Edinboro State Teachers College, was born on 28 February 1884 in New York City. He earned his Ph.B. in Scientific Latin from Lafayette College in 1905, where he was a charter member of the Phi Delta Kappa chapter. He earned his A.M. in Educational Administration in 1916 and his Ph.D. in Education in 1922 from the University of Pennsylvania. At Penn, he was editor of the College Annual, Business Manager of the College Magazine, and secretary of his class. His doctoral thesis was titled The status of county teachers' institutes in Pennsylvania. He was Superintendent of Schools in Doylestown, Pennsylvania from 1906 to 1934. He also directed the demonstration schools at State College during the summers of 1921-1933.
Ross was elected president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association in 1934. He served on many other organizations, including the New Jersey School Survey Commission, the Pinchot School Finance Commission, and the Ten-Year Plan for Pennsylvania Education Commission. He was a long time member of the National Education Association, serving on its Committee on Higher Education in 1936.
Ross was elected president of Edinboro State Teachers College on 9 April 1934. He was officially appointed by the college on June 1, and his inauguration was held November 23. He served on the Budget Committee of the Board of Presidents of the State Teachers Colleges in 1938-39. After resigning from Edinboro on 15 August 1940, he worked briefly for the Pennsylvania Department of Public Instruction, before becoming superintendent of schools in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, a post he held from 1941 to 1945. He became executive director of the Public Education Association of Pennsylvania shortly before his death in 1946, from complications following an operation. He is buried in Doylestown.
Ross married Emma W. Kratz on 30 December 1914. They had three daughters, Angela, Barbara, and Catherine. Mrs. Ross succumbed to influenza on 17 February 1937, after a long illness. Dr. Ross was remarried in 1941 to Mary E. Read.
Dr. Russell E. Vance, in his history of the college, wrote that Ross "seemed to possess a pedantic attitude which was not appreciated by many." This attitude comes across clearly in some of Ross's correspondence, especially in letters to bureaucrats in Harrisburg, whose sole function seemed to be denying his requests for purchases. Celestia Hershey, a retired teacher, came to his defense in a letter to State Superintendent Lester K. Ade, when she wrote that "you have [in Ross] a president who possesses knowledge, idealism, and all other necessary qualities except, perhaps, tact." His inner nature is indicated in a postscript to a get-well note from a friend after one of his many illnesses, in which she urged him to "take things more easily than you generally do."
His health was a perennial problem, punctuating his personal crises. He thought of resigning in 1935, less than a year after coming to Edinboro, possibly in response to his fight to defend the college from attempts by the legislature and private colleges to close or restrict the role of the public colleges. He was ill in the winter of 1936-37, but continued working. In 1936, as he planned for the college's 75th anniversary, rumor spread that a new board would soon replace him. His wife fell ill later that year and died in February 1937. He suffered a heart attack at the end of that year and spent several weeks recuperating, but pushed himself back to work to prepare for the ground breaking for four new buildings in early 1938. Less than a year later he was undergoing an operation at the Cleveland Clinic.
A student from the Class of 1937 who was close to the Ross family described him as "ambitious" both intellectually and professionally, but somewhat distant personally. Although his correspondence demonstrates his deep concern for the well-being and success of the Edinboro students, the dedication to him in the Conneauttean does not seem as warm as the ones for Presidents Crawford or Van Houten. His portrait in the 1940 issue shows a man visibly aged from the one who came to the college six years earlier. Although only 56 years old, he was not well and had only six more years to live.
Vance suggests that "local political issues" led to the decision of the board of trustees to request Ross's resignation. He points out that Ross had to make tough decisions during a very difficult time in the college's history. This fact, along with his lack of the common touch, did not enhance his popularity. Whatever the reasons, he "presented his resignation as President of the College to become effective on August 15, 1940" at a special meeting of the board on 6 April 1940, "for the good and welfare of Edinboro State Teachers College."
Administrative History: Edinboro State Teachers College faced challenges throughout Dr. Ross's administration. As he said in his inaugural address, "These are the days that truly try men's souls." The state government slashed spending on the state teachers colleges by fifty percent in response to the economic calamity of the early 1930s. All faculty and staff were given ten percent pay cuts in 1933, and Edinboro employees lost an additional eight percent of their salaries. He worked for years to restore the pay cuts, finally succeeding in 1938. In cases where there was some doubt about an employee's salary before the cuts, he fought to get the most money possible for his faculty and staff.
When Ross became president of Edinboro, the legislature was discussing closing up to four of the state schools. He joined with others in the community to defend the state colleges. He felt it necessary to issue a press release in 1935 to refute rumors that the college would close.
At about the same time, a group of private liberal arts colleges in the state mounted a campaign to bar the state teachers colleges from providing training in secondary education. Romeyn H. Rivenburg, Dean of Bucknell University, wrote numerous studies to support the campaign in 1934 and early 1935. Ross responded with a "Summary of a case for State Teachers Colleges," and wrote to other college presidents to organize resistance. After a series of statewide meetings the effort was defeated.
To offset the budget cuts, student fees and room and board had to be raised, creating hardship for many students who already had trouble making ends meet. An alumni loan fund was set up to help those in need to defray these costs.
Dr. Ross also made extensive use of the new federal assistance programs, especially the Works Progress Administration and the National Youth Administration, to provide jobs for students and others in the community. These programs had the additional benefit of providing labor for long-overdue maintenance and repairs on campus. In addition to such menial tasks, the WPA also supported "white collar" projects. For example, Edinboro received over $1800 to hire a librarian to catalog 16,000 books for the library. Student artists were also used to paint murals in Normal Hall.
Fewer than 300 students were enrolled at Edinboro, counting full and part-time, in any year that Ross was president. He attempted to recruit new students by sending information and representatives to local high schools, and inviting seniors to the college to meet with faculty and tour campus.
Beyond personnel matters, Ross apparently did not involve himself much with faculty or departmental affairs, if his papers are any guide. Even though the college catalog lists twenty-three standing faculty committees in 1938-39, Ross kept almost no files on them. Ross probably relied on the Dean of Instruction, a position he strengthened after becoming president, as his intermediary with the faculty. However, if either Elmer C. Stilling, who held the post until 1936, or William A. Wheatley, who served until 1939, ever prepared written reports for him, they were not filed with his papers.
Faculty at the state teachers colleges formed the Association of State Teachers College Faculty in Pennsylvania in 1937. They met with the Board of Presidents and state legislators to influence pay, benefits, curricula, syllabi and teacher certification.
In 1938, faculty ranks of Professor, Assistant Professor and Instructor were established. Edinboro's faculty lacked the desired number of full professors, and Ross tried to increase the number who possessed the doctorate. Because of the budget cuts, he was unable to recruit new faculty until late in his term as president. He hired C. J. Christensen as Instructor in Rural Education in 1938, to run a model one-room school on campus. Carroll Atkinson also joined the faculty in the fall of 1938. Ross brought in Orville R. Bailey in the fall of 1939 as the new Dean of Men, health education instructor, and assistant athletic coach. Bailey was to take over coaching football, track and swimming from Coach "Sox" Harrison. Ross was apparently trying to oust Harrison, but Bailey never coached any sports, and was gone by 1942.
In addition to the new faculty members, Ross was also able to hire Hazel Ober as resident nurse/dietician, and made Dr. Harold Ghering the first full-time college physician. New diagnostic equipment was provided for the college clinic for screening students' health.
Two significant changes were made to the college curriculum during the Ross administration. A two-year core curriculum was established in 1935. In 1937, a thorough revision was conducted which made the curriculum less specialized. Starting in 1939, all Edinboro students had to pursue a degree in order to obtain state certification to teach. Ross was able to procure the latest technology for the classroom, including radio equipment, film projectors, and sound recording devices. He also strengthened the library's budget for materials and supplies.
Dr. Ross reached out to the community in many ways. He invited parents to campus for "Guest Day," and began regular vesper services one Sunday a month, using local clergy. The college advertised "lecture/entertainment courses" to the general public for $2, as well as extension courses. It offered various services to local public schools, such as library loans, performances by an instrumental trio, and speech testing. Ross organized a conference of superintendents and principals at the college shortly after becoming president, on the topic of "How Edinboro can help the schools in its area." He made use of radio broadcasts to publicize special events on campus, and explored the idea of a regular show about the college.
The student newspaper, The Spectator, began publishing bi-monthly in 1935. Ross supported the students' efforts by procuring advertisements for the paper from local businesses. He also made use of the student activity fees to bring the latest films to the campus for screening, as well as many noted lecturers and performing artists, including Gutzon Borglum, Will Durant, Robert Frost, Rockwell Kent, and Carl Sandburg.
Edinboro gained regional and national recognition under Ross's direction by joining the Eastern States Association and the American Association of Teachers Colleges in 1935. Ross also applied for Edinboro's membership in the Middle States Association. Locally, he was instrumental in the formation of the Northwestern Pennsylvania Schoolmen's Club, composed of superintendents, principals and college faculty.
The two most noteworthy single events during Dr. Ross's stewardship of Edinboro were the celebration of the college's 75th anniversary, and the construction of four new buildings. At the diamond jubilee held on 23 April 1936, Governor George H. Earle of Pennsylvania surprised attendees by arriving from Harrisburg via private plane, to deliver his address on "The Interest of the State in the Education of Teachers" in the college auditorium. State officials, educators from throughout the northeast, and prominent alumni joined with faculty and students in the ceremonies.
In its review of Edinboro's history for the celebration, the Erie Daily Times reported that during Dr. Ross's administration "the college has continued its growth and has greatly extended its service as an educational center to the surrounding communities. Dr. Ross has also made substantial improvements in equipment and buildings, and has established a student-faculty co-operative government which has been unusually successful."
In conjunction with the anniversary, the first annual Rural School Conference and Music Festival brought educators from all over the region to campus for the weekend. The conference continued to be held every spring during Ross's administration.
Dr. Ross worked with the Department of Public Instruction and the Department of Property and Supplies, and lobbied state legislators for years in order to obtain $742,000 in federal funding for four new buildings. On 11 February 1938, ground was broken for a teacher training school (now called Compton Hall), and a new gymnasium, auditorium and power plant. State and local officials gathered outside with college and community members and students for the ceremony, which was broadcast live on radio station WLEU in Erie. This expansion of the physical plant would serve the college well when enrollment greatly increased after World War Two.Note written by Barry Gray