Luther Sherman Ross.jpg
Luther Sherman Ross Photo Credit to: Drake University
Originally Submitted by: Nicole Barnett, October 2011

Early Life
On September 6th, 1864, Luther Sherman Ross was welcomed into the world by his parents, Ruth and John Ross, in Bond County, Illinois.[3] He was born and raised in the Chicago area, and he studied at the University of Illinois, majoring in biology and graduating in 1889.[2] He continued to do postgraduate work and received his Master of Science degree a year later. [2]

Higher Education
Throughout college he dated a woman named Ellen Bardwell, whom he married on June 22nd, 1892 in Leverett, Illinois.[3] After their marriage Luther came to Drake University to become a professor in biology and chemistry.[3] Since Drake was a small school, he taught most, if not all, of the science courses offered. During the summers him and his family traveled to Chicago so he could work on his PhD which he received in 1919. This granted him the title of the Department Head of Sciences at Drake.[3]

A Professor at Drake University
Professor Ross was very active at Drake University, from having an open door policy for his students and faculty member to becoming the biggest advocate for athletics.[1] Professor Ross was described as blunt, and honest with everyone and “those who know him best love him most.”[1] It has been said, that he was a true friend to most students.[1] He and his wife were nicknamed the “parents” of Drake, because of their openness and engagement in Drake’s activities.[4]

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Luther and Ellen Ross. Photo Credit: Drake University

Outside of Drake
It was a well-known fact that the Ross family did a lot of traveling in their spare time. They had a house in Chicago, Des Moines, and in Claremont, California.[2] After serving 40 years as a professor, and chairman of the athletic council, Ross announced his retirement in 1935.[4] He and his wife moved to their home in Claremont,[2] where he later died on Monday April 4th, 1943 at age 78.[4]

Drake University honored Professor Luther Ross by having an annual award given to a senior majoring in biology, who is recognized by their outstanding student excellence, performance, and with the confidence from the majority of professors’ promises success in the field of biology. In 1962 Drake also built a dormitory intended for married students in honor of Professor Ross.[5]


[1] Blanchard, C. (N.D.). Luther Sherman Ross History of Drake University vol 1.
[2] Curray, J.R. (2004, July 14). Person Sheet, Ruth Lovilla Ross., pp. 4
[3] Curray, Jr. (2008, September 30). Person Sheet, Luther Sherman Ross.
[4] Former Professor Dies in West (8 April 1943). Drake Times-Delphic vol. 61 no. 26, pp. 4
[5] Luther Sherman Ross Award (N.D.) Drake University: Department of Biology