Sister Kathleen A. Ross, S.N.J.M., Ph.D.
As the founding president of Heritage University, Sister Kathleen A. Ross,
S.N.M.J., Ph.D. led the growth of
a unique liberal arts college from 85 students to its 2010 status as a
university with an enrollment of more than 1,400. She retired from the
presidency in July 2010.
In 1982, she responded to the request of two Yakama Indian women to lead a
new four-year institution where non had previously existed. Her M.A. in
Non-Western History from Georgetown University and Ph.D. from Claremont
Graduate University in Higher Education Management and Cross-Cultural
Studies prepared her to lead an institution that is considered by many to be
a model of the multicultural future for American higher education.
Heritage University is located on the Yakama Indian Reservation in central
Washington state, where significant populations of Mexican immigrants have
settled along with rural white and Asian American populations to form a
truly multicultural agricultural community. Sister Ross served as a
consultant for Yakama Nation projects for more than 25 years and has written
and spoken extensively on intercultural communication, especially in higher
In 1989, she received the $25,000 McGraw Prize in Education. The Governor
and Legislature awarded her the Washington State Medal of Merit in 1995. In
June of 1997 she was named a MacArthur Fellow with a "genius" grant of
She holds honorary degrees from thirteen institutions including Dartmouth
College, New Hampshire; Alverno College, Wisconsin; Pomona College,
California; the University of Notre Dame; and several universities in
Washington, including Seattle University and Gonzaga. She is a member of the
Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary and lives on the Yakama
Reservation town of Toppenish.