The Honorable Thomas Warren Ross '72
The law is the last result of human wisdom acting upon human experience for the benefit of the public," Dr. Samuel Johnson once said. The career of Tom Ross embodies that statement. Tom undoubtedly inherited some of his wisdom from his father Charlie '37 and acquired more of it from his Davidson mentors, but the true measure of his distinction is the way in which he has applied his learning and his life not just to the law, but to the higher goal of justice for all.
Following his graduation from Davidson and law school at the University of North Carolina, Tom served as a law professor, practiced as a trial lawyer, and served as a Congressional assistant before being one of the youngest people ever named as a North Carolina Superior Court judge. During his seventeen years on the bench, Judge Ross earned a national reputation as a jurist, and late last year was honored with the William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence, given by the National Center for State Courts to the best state court judge in the nation.
Not limiting himself to presiding over difficult cases in the courtroom, Tom's leadership of the North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission caused a comprehensive overhaul of the guidelines all North Carolina judges use to ensure fair and consistent punishment, and resulted in North Carolina's justice system being recognized as a national model by the American Bar Association, Ford Foundation and Kennedy School of Government. As director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, Tom supervised the infrastructure which supports North Carolina's judicial branch - essential work to advance the timely, efficient, and thoughtful administration of justice.
Having made significant improvements in the operations of the courts - and consequently, in the course of justice in every courthouse in North Carolina - Tom put aside his judicial robe, and became the executive director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation in Winston-Salem. Typically, he viewed this change not as a retirement, but as a way to work on philanthropic projects inaccessible to judicial remedies.
His life outside the courthouse has been distinguished by a lifetime of service. For this work and his many other accomplishments, Tom has received numerous awards including the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the Boy Scouts' Distinguished Eagle Scout Award, the Raleigh News and Observer "Tar Heel of the Week" Award, and Governing Magazine's National Public Official of the Year honor.
For your tireless efforts to build a just society through the strengthening of its judicial institutions, for your community involvement through your Church, the Boy Scouts, and other civic groups too numerous to mention, for your encouragement of higher education at Davidson and elsewhere, and for the lifelong exercise of your intelligence and integrity in a humanitarian spirit, Davidson is pleased and proud to honor you, Thomas W. Ross, with this Distinguished Alumnus Award on the occasion of your 30th reunion.