The Lafayette Journal and Courier
June and July 1943

Monday June 28, 1943

David E. Ross Is Dead After Year's Illness
Community Mourns Death

David E. Ross

Stricken with paralysis nearly a year ago at the height of an illustrious career as engineer, manufacturer, educator, philanthropist and civic leader, David E. Ross, president of the board of trustees of Purdue university, died early Monday morning at the age of 71. His death is mourned throughout the local community, state and nation.


Stricken with Paralysis Year Ago, Life Ebbs Slowly Away, Depriving City and State of Illustrious Citizen--Inventive Genius Founded Sucessful Factories, University Benefactor of Talent and Wealth--Funeral Thursday.

David E. Ross, president of the Purdue university board of trustees, engineer, inventor, manufacturer, farmer, financier and philanthropist, and one of the state's best known citizens, died at the Home hospital at 12:10 Monday morning after a year's illness.

He was stricken with paralysis Thursday, July 16, 1942 at his home on South Seventh street, Lafayette, just about the time he was to have presided at a summer meeting and banquet of the National Chemurgic Council at Purdue. He had invited the officers and directors of the council and about 40 representative Indiana farmers to be his guests at the meeting. Instead he was taken to the local hospital where his condition was pronounced critical. During the past few weeks he had been sinking steadily.

His death followed within a few hours the deaths of two widely known members of the Purdue faculty: Dr. Stanley Coulter, dean emeritus, and Prof. Gilbert A. Young, retired head of the school of mechanical engineering.


While funeral plans were not completed Monday, the tentative arrangements awaiting confirmation by telegram from Mr. Ross' sister in California, it is understood that the funeral will be held Thursday afternnoon at 2 at Central Presbyterian church, Dr. W.R. Graham officiating. The remains are at Bradshaw's. Further details of the funeral and burial are yet to be decided upon.

It was announced that burial would take place on a knoll overlooking the Purdue Housing Research campus and airport, two of Mr. Ross' many benefactions to the university, this place of burial having been selected because it was Mr. Ross' wish that he be buried there.


Mr. Ross had been a member of the Purdue university board of trustees since 1921 and president of the board the last 16 years. He was widely recognized for his loyal devotion to his alma mater and became its greatest benefactor through generous gifts of money, land, buildings and equipment.

Born on a farm near Brookston, August 25, 1871, of a pioneer family, Mr. Ross attended the rural grade and high schools there. In 1893 he was graduated from the school of electrical engineering at Purdue university, but returned to the home farm in White county. While there he conceived the idea of a steering gear for automombiles and trucks which later brought him fame and fortune. He patented the device and, associated with his uncles, the late D.L. and William Ross, began its manufacture.


Since 1908 he had been president or general manager of the Ross Gear & Tool company, although the last several years he had served as chairman of the board. Mr. Ross also had other inventions to his credit, notably a rotary plow and highway traffic markers, both of which he presented to the Purdue Research Foundation, of which he was one of the organizers and a director. He also was closely identified with other industrial projects here, and long was active in the business life of this community and the state.

Mr. Ross brought to the board of trustees his practical views on farming and industry and these viewpoints coupled with a keen business sense and high idealism made him an outstanding board member. His deep seated interest in the university was manifested in countless ways, not only by material gifts of great value, but by almost daily contact with the university during the long period he served on the board.


It was Mr. Ross who conceived the idea of the Ross-Ade stadium at Purdue, which stands today as one of the many campus monuments to his forethought and generosity. He with George Ade, illustrious author and playwright and long time friend, bought the land for the Ross-Ade recreational field and contributed liberally toward construction. His gifts also made possible the Purdue airport; the Purdue housing research campus; the university's civil engineering camp, 11 miles southwest of the city; and a large amount on the new gymnasium and field house.

In addition to his many gifts to the university and personal time, thought and energy devoted to the university problems, Mr. Ross found time to aid many promising students, helping them develop new products and then establish businesses for themselves. A large number of successful industrialists of today owe their success to his guidance and help in getting started.


In 1938 the love and esteem alumni and friends held for Mr. Ross was manifested in the presentation of a beautifully bound book of letters from alumni clubs over the world. The presentation of the book was a highlight of the gala week program. No man had won a higher place in the hearts of Purdue men than Mr. Ross because of his strong support of the institution. He was noted for his brief and pointed statements in any discussion.

Finding time for service in civic life, he was for eight years a member of the Lafayette city council and was chairman of the Tippecanoe county tax adjustment board, also an active worker in the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. He was a director of the Indiana Chemurgic Council and had served as president of the National Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities.


He held membership in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers; Sigma XI, honorary research fraternity, and Sigma Pi Sigma, honorary physics society.

Mr. Ross never married and he is survived only by a sister, Mrs. Mary G. Stidham, of Oakland, California. Another sister, Ellen B. Kneale, preceded him in death. His parents were Mr. and Mrs. George Henderson Ross.

A Tribute

Statement by Edward C. Elliott, President of Purdue university:

"A multitude of people mourn the untimely departure of David E. Ross from their own lives. This modest man of might for more than 50 years was farmer, engineer, inventor, manufacturer. Always he was ready to act either as servant or leader of men of good will. He not only created his own distinguished and useful career, but he created the careers of a host of others. He was a multiplier of the power of men. Many knew him only as the inventor and maker of a steering device for motor vehicles. Many more knew him as the inspirer of men for the right steering of their own lives. Above all he dedicated his own life to the youth of the nation. This is a sorrowful day for Purdue university."

Two Trustees of Purdue Re-named

INDIANAPOLIS, June 28.--(AP)--Governor Schricker today reappointed three members of boards of trustees of Indiana and Purdue universities. He had expected to announce reappointment of David E. Ross to the Purdue board, having prepared the necessary papers, but the death of Mr. Ross, who had been president of the board, forced withdrawal of the appointment.

The governor said he would await recommendation of Purdue alumni before naming Ross' successor. Ross was the alumni member of the board.

Reappointed to the Purdue board for three-year terms beginning July 1 are Allison E. Stuart of Lafayette, and Dr. Kathryn McHale of Logansport.

Oral L. Wildermuth of Gary was reappointed alumni member of the Indiana university board for a like term.

Governor Mourns David Ross Death

Indiana's governor, the Hon. Henry F. Schricker, paid the following tribute to the late David E. Ross and telegraphed it for newspaper publication in this city and throughout the state:

"The state of Indiana has lost one of its most valuable citizens in the passing of David E. Ross. He served for many years on the board of trustees of Purdue, with great distinction, and demonstrated in all of his life and work the highest type of citizenship. He was always a leader in any project that had for its purpose the advancement of the university and the state. He supported any enterprise that was designed for the common good. Our state has lost a real leader."

Tuesday June 29, 1943

(By Henry W. Marshall, Editor-in-Chief)

Another distinguished name--that of David E. Ross--now adorns the roster of Indiana Immortals. Engineer, industrialist, educator, philanthropist and civic leader, his death at the age of seventy-one is a grievous loss to community, state and nation at large.

Purdue University, whose service and influence is worldwide, is deprived of a benefactor whose generosity knew no bounds. The institution also loses an ever-wise counsellor of such great value to his Alma Mater that during the years of his greatest devotion and contributions it was able to rise to greater and greater heights of achievement. We, who have served with Dave Ross as trustees of the university, mourn his passing and, in sorrow, pay our tribute of admiration and respect to him for all he has accomplished.

This genius in the several fields of activity in which he won renown, rightfully belongs in the Indiana Academy of Immortals because in addition to his noteworthy achievements, he was as truly Hoosier in his character and outlook as any talented person who had ever borne that proud title. One might say that he was as Hoosier as the majestic Wabash river and the stately sycamores that line its banks, or as that White county farm on which he first saw the light of day.

Purdue knew him best as its brilliant alumnus who put the interests of his university ahead of every other consideration in life, feeling that he owed more to the school for his success than to any other influence. His principal desire was to open the door of opportunity to ambitious young men everywhere, and at Purdue he found the way to accomplish this dream of his.

Much of Purdue's progressive development is the creation of his active intellect, his faith in the institution and his enthusiastic championship of everything worth-while in modern trends of education. As president of its board of trustees he furnished stimulating guidance in shaping policies and expanding its fields of service.

Its highly-acclaimed research laboratories, its stadium, airport, engineering camp and numerous other improvements may be traced directly to his vision, his interest and his generous bequests.

Many men, after achieving success in their chosen field, are content to retire to a life of ease and comfort once they have amassed a fortune. To him money was but a means to an end, a medium to be employed in making dreams come true, not for one family, or one set of friends, but for the whole of humanity.

Plans Completed For Ross Funeral Rites Thursday

Detailed plans were completed Tuesday for the funeral of David E. Ross, president of the Board of trustees of Purdue University, who died Monday morning, following a prolonged illness.

The body is at the Bradshaw funeral home, but will be taken Wednesday morning to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Linn C. Ross, 502 South Seventh street, where it will lie in state from noon Wednesday until noon Thursday. Friends may call there.

The casket will be sealed and removed to Central Presbyterian church for services at 2 o'clock Thursday afternoon, Dr. W.R. Graham officiating.

Mrs. Mary Stidham, Oakland, Calif., a sister, is ill and will be unable to attend the services.


Burial will take place on the Purdue Research Foundation campus on West Stadium Avenue. The cortege will move through the campus proper entering at the State and Marstellar street entrance and emerging at Stadium Avenue and University street.

Purdue university with the exception of the naval training schools will cease operations from 2 to 4 o'clock Thursday so that faculty and students may attend the funeral.

Active pallbearers for the Ross funeral are being selected from the student body because of Mr. Ross's interest in the students and a list of honorary pallbearers was announced Tuesday as follows:


Eight members of the university board of trustees; President Edward C. Elliott of Purdue; Prof. F. C. Hockema, Prof. R.B. Stewart, G. Stanley Meile, Prof. F.L. Goldsmith, Prof. Clare A. Coolidge, Burr S. Swezey, Profs. R.G. Dukes, H.J. Reed, V.C. Freeman, A.A. Potter, W.A. Knapp, J.L. Bray, R.B. Wiley, D.D. Ewing, C.W. Beese, H.L. Solberg, Mary L. Matthews, G.L. Jenkings, H.E. Enders, G.J. Mackey, Col. D.M. Beere, Commander H.J. Bartley, T.R. Johnston.


Governor Henry F. Schricker, Henry W. Marshall, George Ade, I. Floyd Garrott, Otto C. Neumann, Jesse C. Andrew, Ora L. Wildermuth, Gary John Callahan, Madison, Wis.; Charles J. Lynn, Indianapolis; J.E. Hall, Indianapolis; Robert A. Simpson, Vincennes; Palmer R. Edgerton, Jonesboro; Col. J.W. Wheeler, Crown Point; J.W. Burt, Indianapolis; W. Henry Roberts, Indianapolis; Walter Scholer, Dr. Herman B. Wells, Bloomington; Judge W. Lynn Parkinson, Judge Charles H. Robertson, Mayor A.R. Killian, Mayor Charles R. Burnham, Eugene J. Gruenwald, A.F. Kanne, M.W. Berghoff, R.A. Paniener, C.N. Deere, Linn C. Ross, A.J. McAllister, Rochester Baird, John A. Alexander, Fred Holmes, J.E. Bixler, Stanley Green, Paul Jones, Floyd Wymer, Maurice Knoy, Lieut. R.L. Harrison of Washington; Ona Myers and Harry Bartlett of Brookston; Gerald Habben.

J.K. Lilly, former trustee; Dr. J.E. Walters, Rome, N.Y.; Dr. Lillian M. Gilbreth, Newark; Mrs. Bessie T. Parks, H.E. Kahle, Ernest H. Schilling, John T. McCutcheon, Lake Forest, Ill.

George Ade Taken Ill; Slight Stroke At Hazelden Home

Into a Purdue community already saddened by the deaths of David E. Ross, Dean Stanley Coulter and Prof. G.A. Young, came additional bad news Monday. George Ade, famous Purdue alumnus of 1887, author, playwright and benefactor of the university, it was reported had been stricken at his home at Hazelden, near Brook. Saturday afternoon he suffered a chill, followed by a light stroke of paralysis that affected one arm and one leg, not impairing his mind or bodily functions. James D. Rathbun, his manager, said that Mr. Ade was resting rather well Monday.


BROOK, June 29--George Ade, 77-year-old Hoosier humorist and author, was too ill today to comment on the death of his long-time friend, David Edward Ross, president of Purdue university's board of trustees.

Mr. Ade, also a former trustee of Purdue, joined with Mr. Ross in making possible the stadium at Purdue, named in their honor.

Wednesday June 30, 1943

Purdue Notables' Funeral Services

Simple but impressive funeral services were conducted in this city Wednesday for two Purdue university notables who died over the week-end. Thursday afternoon the funeral of David E. Ross, president of the Purdue board of trustees, famous industrialist, engineer and Purdue benefactor, will be held.

By an odd coincidence the ceremonies were all held or to be held in the same building, Central Presbyterian church. The funeral of Prof. Gilbert A. Young was held at Central chruch Wednesday morning, with a large attendance of Purdue faculty members, staff members and students, as well as West Lafayette and Lafayette townspeople and numerous visitors representing the Purdue board of trustees and various engineering societies, Dr. W.R. Graham, pastor, paid a tribute to Prof. Young's life and work. Pallbearers were Dr. C.H. Robertson and Profs. H.G. Venneman, F.C. Hockema, D.S. Clark, Harry Solberg and L.V. Ludy. Burial in Grand View cemetery.

The funeral for Dr. Stanley Coulter was held at Central church Wednesday afternoon, with another throng present, including a delegation from Indianapolis and the Purdue board, faculty and staff. Officers of the R.O.T.C. in military uniforms were pallbearers. Burial in Spring Vale cemetery.

Thursday July 1, 1943


Statewide Participation in Funeral of Noted Engineer, Philanthropist. Sister's Flowers Adorn His Casket.

Purdue university, his beloved Alma Mater and recipient of his major benefactions, suspended operations in all departments, including the war training schools, Thursday afternoon, during the funeral of David E. Ross, president of the university board of trustees, widely known for his engineering and industrial achievements, his philanthropies and civic leadership.

Not only for Lafayette, West Lafayette and the university community was it a day of mourning, but for the state of Indiana which hailed Mr. Ross as one of Hoosierland's outstanding citizens. Hundreds of friends and admirers came from cities throughout Indiana and other states to pay their final tribute to the distinguished native of White county who rose to national prominence in manufacture and education.


The throng at the funeral at Central Presbyterian chruch, Dr. William Renwick Graham, pastor, officiating, exceeded the capacity of the auditorium, many of those present coming from out of the city. The auditorium was colorful with a mass of flowers, tributes from hundreds of friends here and elsewhere. The body reposed in a sealed copper casket in a central position at the front of the church, its only adornment being a double-end spray of pink roses and gardenias tied with green and white maline, from his sister, Mrs. Mary G. Stidham, of Oakland, Calif.

The west section of the seating was reserved for the honorary and active pallbearers, the central section for relatives and friends, the east section for Ross Gear and Tool officers and employes, as well as officers and employes of other Ross industries. Before the arrival of the cortege at the church a brief prayer service was conducted at the Linn C. Ross home on South Seventh street, where the body had lain in state for 24 hours.


Dr. Graham's funeral address was an eloquent summing up of Mr. Ross' life and deeds. The simple Presbyterian service was carried out. At the conclusion the honorary pallbearers marched out of church followed by the active pallbaearers carrying the casket. The honorary pallbearers formed a double line outside through which the body was borne, relatives following. The cortege moved eastward on Columbia to Eighth street, then to South and west to First, thence to Main and westward to the Purdue campus. Entering the campus at Marstellar street the funeral procession moved slowly through the campus to the exit at Stadium avenue and University street, thence westward to the Purdue Research Foundation housing area.


Burial took place on a beautiful knoll overlooking several of Mr. Ross' gifts to the university. Dr. Graham offered prayer and conducted a brief committal service. Purdue flags were all at half staff as were several in Lafayette, and taps were sounded by Purdue band buglers. In addition to students, who were active pallbearers, were two flower girls, Miss Lois Veit and Miss Ruth Frier, both Purdue students.

In the funeral cortege the honorary pallbearers occupied special cars, with city and county officials in one car; followed by many other cars for relatives, Purdue officals, Ross Gear, Fairfield and other industry officials as well as many other close friends.


Visitors included the members of the Purdue board, also Henry Roberts of Indianapolis, president of the Purdue Alumni association; J.W. Burt, also of Indianapolis, president of the Purdue class of 1893 to which Mr. Ross belonged; Dr. Herman B. Wells, president of Indiana university; John T. McCutcheon, Chicago cartoonist; Ora L. Wildermuth, of Gary, president of the I.U. board, and numberous others.

This Page was created by Jason G. King on September 22, 2001.