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Jane Ross was a prominent businesswoman and philanthropist in Clark County. She served in the Women’s Army Corps of the Army Air Force during World War II. Ross owned a photography studio in Arkadelphia (Clark County) and operated her family’s timber enterprise. She also received several awards and honors during her lifetime.
Jane Ross was born in Arkadelphia on December 23, 1920, to Hugh Thomas Ross and Esther Clark Ross. She had one sister. She grew up in Arkadelphia and graduated from Arkadelphia High School in May 1938. Ross graduated from Henderson State Teachers College (now Henderson State University,) with a BA in May of 1942.
Ross worked as a Navy photographer in Washington DC for six months in 1943. She studied color photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York, the home of Eastman Kodak. She received her degree from the Rochester Institute in 1947.
Ross enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps of the Army Air Force on July 17, 1944, and trained at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. Assignments as a photographic technician took her to Wilmington, Delaware and Manchester, New Hampshire. Ross was awarded the Good Conduct Medal, American Theater Medal, and Victory Medal for her service in Delaware and New Hampshire. She was discharged from the Army on January 31, 1946, with the rank of Corporal.
When Jane Ross returned to Arkadelphia following the war, she opened a studio, Photos by Ross. She owned and operated this portrait studio from 1948 to 1955. Henderson State University still displays Ross’s photo collection on an annual basis. Although Ross’s first love was photography, she gave it up as an occupation in 1955. The death of her father and family obligations outweighed her love of photography. Jane Ross was heiress to her family’s southwest Arkansas timber fortune. J. G. Clark, Ross’s grandfather, began an empire in the forest products industry in the 1880s. After her father’s death in 1955, Ross operated the large timber enterprise.
In 1966, Ross established the Ross Foundation, a philanthropic organization, with her mother. The foundation’s financial backing came from Esther Ross’s timber holdings. Ross became the executive director of the Ross Foundation after her mother’s death in 1967, while still operating the timber business. She remained chairman of the board of the Ross Foundation until her death in 1999. However, in 1979, she relinquished some of the control over daily operations of the Ross Foundation to her relative, Ross Whipple.
The Ross Foundation, which continues to operate, focuses on education. It has provided ongoing support of Group Living, Inc. of Arkadelphia, which assists mentally disabled individuals. The Ross Foundation is credited with developing the Joint Educational Consortium between Henderson State University and Ouachita Baptist University in 1974. The Ross Foundation provided more than $4,000,000 in support to the community of Arkadelphia in its first twenty-three years. The total contributions of the Ross Foundation to date exceed $10,000,000. The Ross Foundation, along with Jane Ross and Amy Jean Greene, helped to found the Clark County Historical Association in 1972. Since most of the assets of the Ross foundation are in timberland from Clark County, she believed that the money that came from the county should stay in the county.
Ross served many organizations, including the Arkadelphia Chamber of Commerce, Conifer Girl Scout Council, Riverwood Nursing Home, and the Clark County Memorial Hospital. She was also Chairman of the Board at Merchant and Planters Bank in Arkadelphia, and chaired Henderson State University’s Board of Trustees.
Ross received many awards for her generosity and contributions to the community. She was Philanthropist of the Year in 1995 and Henderson State University’s Distinguished Alumna in 1984. She has also been named the Honorary Paul Harris Fellow by the Arkadelphia Rotary Club in 1995 and was inducted into the Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame the same year. Ross was given the Purple and Gold Award by Ouachita Baptist University in 1983. There is an endowment fund set up by Ouachita Baptist University in her name. She also received recognition from many other organizations.
Ross died on Friday, July 9, 1999, from complications after heart surgery and was buried at Rose Hill Cemetery in Arkadelphia. She was never married.
For additional information:Richter, Wendy, ed. Clark County, Arkansas: Past and Present. Arkadelphia, AR: Clark County Historical Association, 1992.
Ross Family Collection. Riley-Hickingbotham Library Special Collections. Ouachita Baptist University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas.
Christin NorthernOuachita Baptist University
Last Updated 10/16/2009
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