Charles Ross ’71

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.