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Event explores the role of liberal arts, celebrates life of Clarksville scholar

January 14, 2002

As part of the 75th anniversary celebration, a panel discussion will be held in Gentry auditorium, 9. a.m., Saturday, Jan. 19, on the liberal arts in private and public colleges and universities.

Two professors from Rhodes College, Dr. James Lanier and Dr. Timothy Huebner, with join two APSU professors, Dr. Steven Ryan and Dr. Richard Gildrie, to explore the similarities and differences in the content and purpose of liberal arts in the two settings.

In addition to providing interesting discourse, the evening will mark the celebration of the life and contributions of Danforth R. Ross (1911-1998), a native of Montgomery County who taught in the English department of Southwestern College (now Rhodes) from 1955-1974.

Ross retired to his family's farm in Rossview in 1974 and, until his death, played an unobtrusive but vital role at APSU and in Clarksville. "He was a writer, a scholar, a teacher," says Dr. Richard Gildrie. "He understood connections among disciplines and understood that liberal education is not to be restricted to the classroom but is a way of life."

Ross was a farmer as well as a professor and wrote essays with titles like "The Humanness of Cows." His works were read and discussed by the Philomathic Society of Clarksville and include "The Contemporary American Short Story" (1963, 1972), "Farewell to the Leaning Tree and Other Happenings" (1995) and "Cumberland: Dream and Reality" (1995).

He published numerous articles in such journals as "Sewannee Review," "Critique, Border States." He often contributed to "The Leaf-Chronicle's" Cumberland Lore section.

A speech he gave to APSU's Phi Kappa Phi chapter in 1991, "The Value of an Unfocused Education," gives testament to his unique spirit, Gildrie says.

Ross' sister is Dorothy Ann Russo (Vanderbilt, MA in French), his widow is Dorothy Gertrude Ross (MA in art, University of Minnesota ) who taught art at Southwestern and at Memphis Academy of Art. Both still live on the farm.

Ross earned a masters's degree in sociology from Vanderbilt and a Ph.D. in American Studies from University of Minnesota (1954). Before that, he was a social worker and a reporter for the "Clarksville Daily Star." He was a WWII veteran of the Army Air Force.

"Few people are more 'interdisciplinary,' to use the current cliche describing a person of broad interests in many areas of scholarship and cultural development," says Gildrie.

The Ross Room contains manuscripts and papers he donated to the University. The public is invited to the panel discussion and to view the collection.