UNC President Thomas Ross to deliver Elon Law’s 2014 Commencement Address
Thomas W. Ross, president of the 17-campus University of North Carolina system, will deliver Elon University School of Law’s Commencement address on May 24, 2014.
One hundred and six students will receive the Juris Doctor degree at the law school’s ceremonies, which will be held at 5 p.m. "Under the Oaks" at Elon University in Elon, N.C.
Ross has served as UNC president since Jan. 1, 2011. His strategic priorities for UNC, outlined in his inaugural address, include adapting the UNC system to better serve students of varying ages, backgrounds and educational pathways and preparing students for lives of leadership and service in their communities. Some of his early achievements as UNC president include expanded outreach to North Carolina’s military community, reorganization of the university’s international engagement efforts and creation with the UNC Board of Governors of a 2013-2018 strategic plan for the UNC system.
Ross served as president of Davidson College, his alma mater, from 2007 until he assumed leadership of UNC. In addition to executive leadership in higher education, Ross has extensive experience in law practice and the North Carolina judicial system. He graduated with honors from the UNC School of Law in 1975. He practiced law for five years with the law firm of Smith Patterson Follin Curtis James & Harkavy in Greensboro, N.C. In 1983, he began 17 years of service as a North Carolina Superior Court judge.
In 1990, Ross was appointed by North Carolina’s chief justice to lead the new Sentencing and Policy Advisory Committee. In 1993, the North Carolina General Assembly adopted the sentencing system recommended by this committee, which lengthened sentences for violent crimes and increased community-based alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenses. In 1999, Ross became director of the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts.
Ross’s contributions to the judicial system have been recognized through the William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence (2000), given annually to one state judge in the nation; Governing Magazine’s National Public Official of the Year Award (1994); the Foundation for the Improvement of Justice Award (1995); the North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers Trial Judge of the Year Award (1996); the American Society of Criminology President’s Award for Distinguished Contributions to Justice (2007); the NC Justice Center Defenders of Justice Award (2008); and the North Carolina Bar Association Citizen Lawyer Award (2010).
In 2001, he became executive director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. Earlier in his career, Ross held positions in higher education and in the public sector, including service as chief of staff in the Washington, D.C., office of U.S. Representative Robin Britt and as assistant professor of public law and government at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Government.
Ross serves in numerous civic and community leadership positions, including membership on the Board of Governors of the Center for Creative Leadership and the Council on Competitiveness, and on advisory boards for the NC Humanities Council and the NC State University Institute for Emerging Issues. In 2012, Ross participated in the Conference on Law and Leadership co-hosted by Elon Law and the Center for Creative Leadership.
Born and raised in Greensboro, N.C., Ross has been married since 1972 to Susan Donaldson Ross, a graduate of the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Education and a former executive director of the Greensboro Bar Association. They have two adult children.