Williston gave the future businessman a chance to chart his own path
The transition from his home country of Liberia was a difficult one for Charles Ross, who had to adjust to a new environment and new faces. At Williston, though, the shy student became a confident tennis team manager and mathematician. Mr. Ross, who says he’s now in his “second career,” is the finance director of the NFL Players Association.
What did you try at Williston that pushed you out of your comfort zone?
For sports, I tried just about everything, baseball, hockey—I gave everything a try. I wanted to see what I might become passionate about. I wanted to try drama, but didn’t have enough nerve. My public speaking confidence was quite low. In the end, I played soccer and basketball, and I enjoyed managing the varsity tennis team. Tennis has remained an interest for me, and I plan on attending all four Grand Slams at some point.
Did you discover the passion you were looking for? What was it?
Math has always been my favorite subject, and I knew whatever I would do would include numbers. Beyond that, it was a very difficult decision. As a practical matter, there were many options but I
ended up taking the business route. I majored in accounting, became a CPA, and eventually went on to law school. I knew whatever I wanted to do, I needed to be passionate about. It was really an endeavor on my part to find that.
Can you describe the dorm culture?
Dorm life was new to me, but overall it was fun. It was a great group of guys. Ed Pytka ’71 was my roommate and we have remained friends. I am looking forward to seeing him at next year’s alumni Reunion. I recall the dorm master was a former military man who lived down the hall with his family. He was a good authoritative figure, but gave us enough latitude to be boys and have fun without being self-destructive. There were many pranks involving water bags and tampering with your bed sheets, mostly harmless pranks.
What was going on in the world around you?
It was a very difficult time actually: the Vietnam War; the military draft, which affected my peer group. Everyone was worried, wondering ‘Am I going to get drafted?’ Also, I remember the Biafran War in Nigeria, which was closer to home for me. Nigeria also had a mandatory military draft system. It certainly caused me to think about how I would respond if I were drafted. It was also 1968, which was not long after Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. There was racial tension. Nothing that I felt personally, but it was certainly in the news and in the newspapers. I would spend weekends in New York, and really felt it when I was there.
Can you describe yourself as a teenager?
I started coming out of my shell at Williston. I was a shy kid. I was the middle child of five. My two older siblings were very outgoing with a lot of friends. So Williston gave me an identity. When you are the third one growing up, you feel like you have to play a certain role. But at Williston, I was the first one, so I got to chart my own path.