At age 27, despite not being finished with his doctorate, Stewart Ross took the risk of accepting a temporary teaching position at Minnesota State University, with the hope that it would perhaps to lead to something more permanent.
The fill-in position in the music department was meant to last nine weeks in the spring of 1977. “It turned out to last 37 years instead,” said Ross, who moved from Mankato to Eagan last year and is officially retiring from MSU this spring.
Ross' career is filled with those kinds of connective opportunities that have led him from one interesting position to another, ranging from teaching, to serving as director of bands for 21 years, to playing trombone in numerous bands and orchestras, to being the founding director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at MSU.
And it all began when Ross was working on his doctorate at Northwestern University and a music professor at MSU became ill and needed to take leave. Ross learned of the temporary opening and decided to take a gamble. When the professor was unable to return, Ross was hired for a longer term.
“I was hired for another year, and then there was a national search, and I was already directing one of the bands, and they already (knew me),” Ross said.
Ross was hired permanently without having finished his doctorate, and every summer he had the intention of going back to finish. But the department always needed him to teach.
Had Ross not come to Mankato, he would have finished his doctorate in 1978; instead, he finally finished in 1985.
“But I didn't care. I had a wonderful job here,” Ross said.
Ross had been a gifted trombonist since childhood, which made it difficult to teach trombone when he started at MSU. It was hard for him to understand and remedy the students' problems.