Wife’s Legacy Inspires Veterans Center Director
Though Dave Ross has been at Georgia Tech for less than two years, these years have been some of the more formative of his life.
Ross relocated from Valdosta in September 2013 to be the first director of Tech’s new Veterans Resource Center. The following April, he lost his wife, Angel, who was still working in Valdosta at the time. She passed away unexpectedly following complications from surgery.
The experience, while traumatic, spurred a spiritual awakening in Ross. Today, he hopes to live in a way that honors his wife’s legacy. Angel, who worked as a nurse in the NICU at South Georgia Medical Center, was known for volunteering with children with special needs and going above and beyond in her work at the hospital and in the community.
“She did so much I didn’t even know about until after she was gone,” Ross said. “She was always volunteering for people and making a difference. She truly was an angel.”
In his own way, Ross is doing just that with Georgia Tech’s student veteran population. In his former role at Valdosta State University, where he was director of the university’s center at Moody Air Force Base, he made a point to meet students wherever they were to get them the resources they needed — whether that was on base or at a local coffee shop. Now, at Tech, he has a cozy resource center, outfitted with a mini-fridge and coffee, in the Smithgall Student Services Building. He’s just as likely to meet with students in Tech Square, though.
Ross works to support not only current student veterans, but also those who aspire to come to Tech. Many contact him while still serving in the military, in anticipation of one day applying. He works with Undergraduate Admission and departments across campus to help veterans understand the many complicated aspects of their enrollment and benefits.
“It’s a journey getting into Tech for any student,” says Ross.
One of Ross’ favorite things about working with incoming students is getting to connect them with current Yellow Jackets when they first arrive on campus. He pairs those in the same major for informal mentoring and facilitates opportunities that let them get together socially. Sometimes that means hosting employers who are looking to hire veterans and future Tech alumni; other times, it’s marching in a parade.
“The Atlanta Veterans Day Parade is one of my favorite days of the year,” Ross said. “It’s a great chance to get off campus and connect.”
Though the center operates out of the Division of Student Affairs, Ross hopes faculty and staff veterans on campus will also get involved with their activities.
“I want to be able to support them, too, and for them to know there’s somewhere on campus where they can connect,” he said.
Though he’s quickly established himself in the Tech community, Ross maintains a strong presence in Valdosta as well. He frequently visits his two daughters and granddaughter, and has an annual commitment the entire city would miss were he to be absent: For 12 years, he’s played the role of Clara’s father in the Dance Arts Valdosta production of The Nutcracker. His youngest daughter and granddaughter also have roles in the cast.
Ross has also made a point to enjoy Atlanta’s cultural attractions, including the city’s many festivals and its budding craft brewery offerings.
To learn more about veteran resources on campus, visit www.veterans.gatech.edu.