Professor remembered for advancing program

Fabiana Torreao

The man who now holds Ralph G. Ross’ former post as head of the Humanities Program remembers Ross as an eloquent speaker and an effective lecturer.
“He was very active in promoting the Humanities Program,” said George Kliger, program coordinator.
Ross, who led the program in the 1950s and 1960s, died April 7 of complications from pneumonia in Uplands, Calif. He was 89.
Kliger was a philosophy graduate student when he met Ross in 1953. During Ross’ 16 years as the program chairman, Ross worked to advance humanities within the College of Liberal Arts, inviting contemporary icons to teach at the University, including poet John Berryman and Nobel Prize winner Saul Bellow.
“There was a whole galaxy of teachers teaching humanities,” Kliger said.
Kliger said Ross was frustrated because of the lack of support from the administration in establishing a humanities department, with full-time professors devoted to humanities and a department budget. Ross left the University in 1966 to become the director of the humanities institute in Scripps College in Claremont, Calif.
“It was difficult to promote an interdisciplinary program,” Kliger said. “Professors often thought that unless you specialize, you’re not really doing serious research.”
At his departure, Ross lamented the emphasis large universities were giving to specialization. Kliger, who spoke with Ross in 1995 at a literary critics conference where they both were panelists, said Ross was disgusted by the difficulties he encountered in getting administrative support for a department.
The humanities department, which was abolished in 1992, officially became a full department in 1972. Now with only a program, humanities officials are trying to re-establish the department.
“(The department) became very much like the program that Ralph Ross wanted,” Kliger said.
Ross is survived by his son, Allan, of Lake Forest, Calif., and his daughter, Penelope, of Texas.

Fabiana Torreao covers St. Paul campus and welcomes comments at [email protected]