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Featured Alumna: Mary Caslin Ross (ICPES 72)


In 1972, Mary Caslin Ross was a sophomore at St. John’s University in New York, studying political science, when she met fellow St. John’s student Herb Stupp. Stupp had attended a prior institute at The Fund for American Studies (TFAS) and recommended that Ross check it out. “He said the opportunity would provide a chance to gain valuable experience and obtain the education of a lifetime,” said Ross. “He was right!”

Ross, a native New Yorker, took Stupp’s advice and ended up attending the Institute on Comparative Political and Economic Systems (ICPES) and, in 1973, a TFAS journalism seminar in New York. Ross later served as a program director at TFAS in 1976 (when TFAS President Roger Ream was a student) and was the first TFAS graduate to receive the Outstanding Alumnus Award in 1994.  Ross is currently a member of the TFAS Board of Regents and a former member of the TFAS Board of Trustees.

Her career after TFAS has been one of service and accomplishment, and her involvement in free-market and pro-liberty organizations is longstanding. “As a mission-driven person, I have spent my entire career dedicated to philanthropy, the less fortunate and needy by designing solutions in various free-market, public policy and foundation executive positions,” she said.

Today, Ross is a visiting senior fellow with Classroom, Inc. and a visiting fellow with The New Criterion magazine. Prior to these positions, Ross was executive consultant for eight years to the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and co-created the International Foundation for Research in Experimental Economics (IFREE) with Nobel Laureate Vernon L. Smith. Ross was also a founding director of the Philanthropy Roundtable, has served as a lecturer for the State Policy Network and as a member of the Dignity and Dependence Project of the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s advisory committee. Finally, Ross has served as the executive director and secretary to the Boards of the Achelis and Bodman Foundations. She continues to serve on the Board of Trustees of the JM Foundation.

My sisters, Katie and Colleen, and brother, Mike, and I all attended the ICPES program on scholarship, and it changed our lives,” said Ross. “All of our careers evolved from the lessons learned at ICPES. We felt that it enabled us to develop further knowledge and skills on the importance of free markets and democracy, and also increased our confidence that anyone can achieve the American Dream.”

Ross says she hopes to give back to TFAS by reaching more students with TFAS scholarships because she never would have been able to attend ICPES had it not been for a generous donor.  “I intend to keep supporting TFAS,” said Ross. “The lessons taught are the respect of others, that education and hard work are vital to a good life, that a life mission of service is a noble one, and that one can make changes in society for good through many avenues.” Her philanthropic work has certainly been illustrative of those lessons, and we’re proud to have her as a member of the TFAS family.


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