Ann and Dennis Ross make music even better at Wichita State

An opera professorship endowed by the couple will bring a celebrated alumnus back to campus

Alan Held, center, with Ann and Dennis Ross, who established the professorship he will hold in the WSU College of Fine Arts.
Alan Held, center, with Ann and Dennis Ross, who established the professorship he will hold in the WSU College of Fine Arts. Held will begin his full-time position in the fall. He plans to move his family to Wichita from Pennsylvania. Held says he will continue his performing career but on a curtailed basis.

Ann and Dennis Ross are well known for their appreciation and support of operatic music. Now, they are helping WSU’s opera program achieve new heights with the creation of a professorship that will be filled by the esteemed bass-baritone, Alan Held.

    The College of Fine Arts unveiled news of the prestigious position at a reception in January attended by the Rosses and Held, who earned his master’s degree from Wichita State in 1985. Fine Arts Dean Rodney Miller also announced that opera star Samuel Ramey, who has been a guest artist in residence at WSU the past two years, will move to Wichita and have a daily presence in the School of Music.

    “When Sam Ramey agreed to come to Wichita State, that was such a boost for the program,” said Dennis Ross, a Wichita physician. “Now with Alan Held coming, it’s like a one-two punch, in the best sense.”

Alan Held
“It is so great to be home. I think that, more than any other department in the university, the College of Fine Arts is very much a family. I am so happy to be back in this family.”

    The Rosses have supported Wichita Grand Opera for many years, with Dennis previously serving as its board chair.

    “After being involved with Wichita Grand Opera, I can now appreciate and understand how people get so deeply involved with opera,” he said. “Each performance is so different, yet all of them bring out the same emotions that have been a part of the human condition for centuries.”

    At Wichita State, the Rosses have supported a variety of music programs. They were generous supporters of the effort two years ago to bring Ramey to WSU through establishment of a guest artist-in-residence program.

    “Ann and Dennis have the distinction of being among the top philanthropic leaders for music in this community,” said Diana Gordon, WSU Foundation director of development for the College of Fine Arts. “We at Wichita State feel very lucky to be among the recipients of their generosity.”

“This is a way that we can advance the best interests of Wichita State.” 

- Ann Ross

    The couple believes that charitable giving should be carried out in two ways, Ann Ross said.“You should try to serve God and you should try to serve your fellow man,” she said. “There are two ways to serve your fellow man. You can preserve life, and you can preserve the quality of life. Music is one way we can help preserve the quality of life.”

    Organ music is another special interest of the Rosses, who created the Ann and Dennis Ross Faculty of Distinction in Organ in 2005 at Wichita State. With the recent death of Robert Town, former organ professor at WSU, the Rosses agreed to move their support to opera to honor Town’s wishes to endow the organ professorship through his estate gift.

    “We want the organ program to be successful and we are confident that the support it will receive through Dr. Town’s gift will allow that to happen,” Dennis Ross said.

    Ann Ross added: “This is a way that we can advance the best interests of Wichita State in another area. We have full confidence that the organ program will thrive and continue the wonderful contribution it makes to our culture and our quality of life.”

 

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