Pamlico Community College President Dr. Jim Ross announces retirement because of wife’s health

Pamlico Community College President Dr. Jim Ross, center, and his wife, Pam, left, greet a guest at the college’s inaugural Non-profit Leadership Breakfast in 2017. Contributed photo
Pamlico Community College President Dr. Jim Ross, center, and his wife, Pam, left, greet a guest at the college’s inaugural Non-profit Leadership Breakfast in 2017. Contributed photo
Dr. Jim Ross has served as president of Pamlico Community College since July 2016. He is the college’s fifth president. Contributed photo

Pamlico Community College President Dr. Jim Ross, who led the college to national recognition for student success and helped the institution deal with the challenges of both Hurricane Florence and the COVID-19 pandemic, has announced his retirement after more than seven years at the helm.

The Pennsylvania native cited a need to assist his wife, Pam, as she recovers from surgery and aggressive treatments for liver cancer as the reason for his decision to step away.

The Pamlico Community College Board of Trustees voted Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023, to accept Ross’s resignation letter and retirement. He formally was granted Family/Medical Leave (FMLA), which will make his effective retirement date Feb. 19, 2024.

Michelle Willis Krauss, the college’s vice president for instructional services, has been named acting president. A nationwide search for Ross’s permanent replacement will commence in the new year.

Pamlico Community College President Dr. Jim Ross, left, has said he intends to write a book about his late son, Dr. Robert James “Bobby” Ross, MD, PhD, center, who died in 2021 after a battle with ALS. Pam Ross, Dr. Jim Ross’s wife and the late Bobby Ross’s mother, is at right. Contributed photo

In a resignation letter to Board of Trustees Chairman Bob Lyon, Ross, who came to Pamlico Community College in 2016 after serving in executive leadership posts at community colleges in Virginia and Florida, wrote he believed it was time for him to focus on his family.

“Throughout the past several months, members of my immediate and extended family have urged me to retire so that I can devote more time to helping Pam and so that we can move to be closer to our family,” Ross’s letter states. “Pam and I have discussed this at length recently. Because of the extraordinary mental and emotional stresses associated with her fight to recovery, I have come to the conclusion that this would be a very positive step in her recovery process and that time is of the essence to facilitate progress in her recovery.”

He thanked Lyon and the Board of Trustees for their support during his tenure, writing his time at Pamlico had been the pinnacle of his career.

“The past seven years have been the highlight of my professional career because of the tremendous dedication of the faculty and staff and their joining with me in embracing a shared vision of making lives better,” Ross’s letter states. “Because of their serving with their hearts, our college has made countless lives better and earned national respect frequently as one of America’s best community colleges. This is appropriate because I have felt from my first days here that Pamlico County is one of our nation’s best communities filled with wonderful people. Thank you to you and each member of the Board for your love of our college and for making my service as President so special.”

In addition to focusing on his wife’s recovery, Ross said he hoped to begin work on a book about his late son, Dr. Robert James “Bobby” Ross, MD, PhD, who died at age 38 in January 2021 after a six-year battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS.

During Ross’s tenure, Pamlico Community College received multiple recognitions for community college excellence, including top 25 rankings from SmartAsset in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2023. In addition, WalletHub ranked PCC in its lists of top 10 community colleges nationally for students’ Educational Outcomes in 2020, 2022 and 2023.

Ross in 2017 oversaw the creation of an innovative program at Pamlico Correctional Institution in Bayboro designed to reduce recidivism among participants by teaching life skills such as anger management, avoiding substance abuse, maintaining family relationships and other issues. Students who go on to successfully complete the program earn an Associate in Applied Science degree in Human Services Technology (HST) from the college. The program is the first of its kind in North Carolina.

He also led the establishment of a Dental Laboratory Technology program on campus – the only one of its kind in Eastern North Carolina – and dramatically increased the number of short-term, hands-on career courses offered by PCC, including many in Allied Health fields.

Under Ross’s leadership, the college received high marks for its overall operations from a 2022 on-site review conducted by a team on behalf of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Perhaps Ross’s most impressive achievement was his successful lobbying for a $20 million legislative appropriation this year for a future Allied Health Center in Bayboro – a facility that he hoped would be home to a Nursing program.

With the numerous accomplishments over the last seven years, Ross always publicly praised the college’s faculty and staff and strong community supporters for making these accomplishments possible.

For his part, Lyon, the board chair, said Ross had excelled in his role as president.

“Dr. Ross did an outstanding job as president,” he said. “He implemented programs that we never thought we’d see in Pamlico County. He worked well with the Board of Trustees, and he will be missed. I wish him the best in retirement, and I pray Pam has a speedy recovery.”