Texas Tech University

A tribute to founding chair Billy I. Ross, Ph.D.

College of Media & Communication

Portrait of Billy I. Ross, Ph.D., founding chair of College of Media & Communication, TTU.

Billy I. Ross, Ph.D., professor emeritus, founding chair of the Department of Mass Communication and tireless champion of the now Texas Tech College of Media & Communication died on Oct. 8.

Ross was born on Jan. 21, 1925 to E. Herman and Mary Ward Ross. He is survived by his wife of 69 years, Avis Ross of Lubbock, one son, three grandchildren and four nieces.

He was a graduate of Murray High School, Kentucky, and earned an undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Missouri. He completed his master's degree at Eastern New Mexico University, and then finished with his doctoral studies at Southern Illinois University.

Ross served on the faculties at Hawaii Pacific University, Kentucky Wesleyan College, Louisiana State University, Texas Tech University and the University of Houston.

After coming to Texas Tech and moving to the newly created Department of Mass Communications from the College of Business Administration in 1970, Ross was selected as the first chair of the department, where he worked to establish the core curriculum of advertising, journalism, photography and telecommunications.

In 1987, Ross retired as professor emeritus, one of the highest honors for faculty at Texas Tech University, after serving as the founding chair of the then-Department and later School of Mass Communications for 17 years.

“From the first time I met him and interviewed with him, I knew he was a solid professional who had the best interests of students, and his colleagues, at the heart of all he did,” said Roger Saathoff, Ph.D., associate professor in journalism and electronic media with the college. “After that first meeting, I was always happy to meet with Billy and knew that he would consider seriously whatever I suggested or asked about.”

During his tenure at Texas Tech, Ross played a leadership role in establishing the groundwork for CoMC. He also founded other projects including the prestigious CoMC Hall of Fame and the Mass Communications Advisory Committee (now called the National Professional Advisory Board).

Ross went on to establish the nationally acclaimed Thomas Jefferson Award and the L.U. Kaiser Innovation in Teaching Award, along with the Don Belding Grant-in-Aid for international students interested in advertising.

Following his retirement from Texas Tech, the American Advertising Federation honored him with its Distinguished Advertising Educator of the Year award in 1989, which, according to the website, recognizes the best advertising professors in the country.

Ross then continued to become a Distinguished Professor at the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. He has been inducted into the halls of fame at both schools for his academic leadership achievements, Texas Tech University in 1991 and Louisiana State University in 2004.

Ross also served as one of the original founders of and held leadership roles at the American Academy of Advertising, Kappa Tau Alpha, the American Society of Journalism School Administrators (now the Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication), and numerous other regional and state organizations.

Ross served in the U.S. Army Reserve during World War II from 1943-46 when he was stationed in England, France, Belgium and Germany, and retired from military service as a colonel. His military awards include the Legion of Merit, the American Theater Ribbon, the EAME Theater Ribbon with two Bronze Stars, and the World War II Victory Medal.

If alumni wish to recognize Ross's many achievements, the family suggests memorials to the Billy I. and Avis M. Ross Achievement Award with the College of Media & Communication.

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