Spring 2015

Measures of Gratitude

Again and again, this proud member of the Class of ’42 chose to help future generations

Mathew Ross, A38, M42, A70P, M74P, maintained close ties to the medical school throughout his career as a psychiatrist and right up until his death last year at age 96. Now that connection endures with a remarkable legacy: $7.1 million to support financial aid.

Ross, who left the bulk of his estate to the school, created the Dr. Mathew Ross and Brenda Ross, Ed.D., Trust Scholarship, which represents the largest estate gift the school has ever received for financial aid. His generosity will cover a substantial portion of tuition for five aspiring physicians each year.

“In recent years we have made financial aid a priority, and this exciting gift contributes significantly to our progress,” says Dean Harris Berman. “We accept Dr. Ross’s gift with deepest gratitude. He was at times one of our toughest critics, but that spoke to his high standards and enormous pride in the university.”


Mathew Ross in a 1975 photo

The only son of Ukrainian immigrants, Ross grew up in Boston, where his father was a jeweler. As an undergraduate at Tufts, he was an unabashed Jumbo, participating on the cheerleading squad all four years. After graduating from medical school, he served in the Army, where he met his future wife, Brenda Boynton, who was dean of Army students at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland and served in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC). Together they raised four children, including Doug Ross, A70, a lawyer, and Gail Ross, M74.

Mathew Ross’s career spanned decades that saw dramatic changes in the national discourse about mental health. He brought a can-do attitude to bear on improving access and reducing the stigma of therapy. That attitude evolved into a life philosophy he thought best embodied by the turtle, an animal that conveyed strength, patience, endurance and longevity, among other virtues. Eventually, the turtle was adopted as a family emblem, along with the motto “To get ahead, you must stick your neck out,” Doug Ross says.

Indeed, Ross’s life reveals a man undaunted by risk and intrigued by the new. After the war he set up a private practice in Beverly Hills, California, but he was troubled by how “scattered pockets of psychiatric practices of varied sophistication” lacked any central stabilizing force, as he wrote in a historical report. He went on to organize the Southern California Psychiatric Society.

The joy of learning and exploration informed other career highlights, including a Fulbright fellowship in 1962 to study the Dutch community mental health system and his service as medical director of the American Psychiatric Association. He held academic appointments at Harvard, Brown, George Washington, UCLA and UC-Irvine. Later in life, he served on the California Senior Legislature, which annually proposes legislation to preserve and enhance the quality of life for older Californians.

“Dr. Ross was at times one of our toughest critics, but that spoke to his high standards and enormous pride in the university.” —Dean Harris Berman

Ross was retired when, in 2001, he turned to Tufts University School of Medicine to develop his innovative and holistic ideas on some of those quality-of-life issues. The Mathew and Brenda B. Ross Initiative on Aging, a cross-university endeavor, accomplished a great deal in its seven years. But when it did not meet Ross’s high expectations, he abandoned the project.

It’s a testament to his lifelong dedication to Tufts, though, that Ross overcame his disappointment and continued to support the medical school. He created an endowed scholarship in 1992, and more recently made a gift to the school through the university’s Financial Aid Initiative, which matches, dollar for dollar, any newly established endowed scholarship of $100,000 or more, additions of that amount or more to existing endowed scholarships and any four-year term scholarship pledges of $60,000 or more through June 2016. The goal is to raise $50 million for scholarships. The gratitude Ross felt toward Tufts undoubtedly played a part in directing his recent estate gift to endow yet more scholarships, says Doug Ross.

The gift also honors Brenda Ross, who died in 2009. With degrees from Boston University, Harvard and the University of Wisconsin, she was untiring in her passion for education and lifelong learning, especially for seniors. Her career included serving as associate dean of continuing medical education at the University of California, Irvine, a city councilor in Laguna Woods, California, and senior advocate in California’s Department of Aging.

Doug Ross says the gift is also true to his father’s character, because it is focused on the future.

“He was always thankful to Tufts for giving him a professional life,” he says. “He wanted to repay that debt by making the same opportunities available to students who show the promise of becoming outstanding physicians. If he were here today, he would tell them one thing: ‘Do your best.’ That would make him happy.” —Laura Ferguson

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