Home » Pontiac Proud: Dr. Quinton T. Ross, Jr., President, Alabama State University
Pontiac Proud: Dr. Quinton T. Ross, Jr., President, Alabama State University
Dr. Ross’ formative years in Pontiac helped shape him as both an educator and a politician in Alabama
Growing up as the son of two teachers in the Pontiac school system, Dr. Quinton Ross had no intention of becoming a teacher himself. He wanted to get into politics. “I wanted to study political science, become a lawyer, and save the world,” he remembers. “But my mom, she knew best, and she told me, ‘Look, I don’t care what you get your degree in, just make sure you get a teaching certificate, something to fall back on.’ So I did.”
Twenty-eight years later, he’s now the President of his alma mater, Alabama State University, a prestigious institution with a rich history as an HBCU. “The path has been something I say that only God could have scripted for me,” he notes. “When I look at my journey and those things that have put me on this trajectory, it’s truly because of the experiences I had in Pontiac and growing up with two educators as parents.”
His parents were actually recruited right out of Alabama State to teach in Pontiac. “At the time, ASU was one of the premier teacher’s colleges in the country—it still is, but we also have several other programs that have received global recognition—but that’s how we came to be in Pontiac. And they both taught there for over 30 years apiece.”
While heavily influenced and guided by his parents, Dr. Ross’ perspective was also shaped by several of his coaches and teachers. “Even in elementary school, I was on the student safety patrol, and the teacher who supervised us was really instrumental,” he recalls. “She taught us how to treat people, how to be kind and respectful. She modeled that warmth, and those little things help develop you and the way that you see the world, that it’s a place you should give back to.”
At Kennedy Junior High, Coach Solomon also played an encouraging role. “He was a physical education teacher and coached all sports. Coach Solomon was really focused on us being prepared, whether that was for the game or for going to college. He wanted us to do something with our lives.” When Dr. Ross moved to Pontiac Northern High School, Coach Jimmy King and his wife Dorothy, as well as Joanne Battle, encouraged him and other students to consider going to an HBCU. “They were all products of HBCUs and so not only did I have my parents model that for me, these and many other teachers did, as well, and that really resonated with me. They expected us to do great things, and so we did.”
One of the extracurricular activities that Dr. Ross remembers fondly is participating on the Student Council at Pontiac Northern, which helped him learn parliamentary procedure and prepared him for future civic life. “I eventually became one of seven African American state senators to serve in Alabama’s state legislature, and those early experiences laid the groundwork for that,” he explains. “I was a freshman class senator in college and went on to become our student government president for our student body at ASU. But it all started in Pontiac.”
After graduating from ASU, Dr. Ross began teaching. “And I got bit by the bug,” he laughs. “I was a seventh grade English teacher, then moved into the administrative side of things, eventually becoming the first Black principal of a magnet high school in Montgomery, Alabama.” He earned his Master’s Degree in Education and his Doctorate in Education Leadership, Policy, and Law from ASU.
While his work has focused on building relationships and community throughout Alabama, Pontiac has a special place in his heart. “The work that Dr. Samino Scott is doing with the Collective Impact Partnership echoes the work that we’re doing here, where we’re focusing on what we call on campus Communiversity: focusing on wrap-around services for not only our students but the community as well. We provide opportunity and hope for the future,” he notes. “And, of course, Dr. Scott is part of the ASU family, so we’re proud of that, too.”
“I think it’s important for young people to realize, today, that they need to embrace all experiences—some of them might not be good, but we can learn from all of them,” Dr. Ross shares. “The youth talk about swag, about it being the way you dress, the way you look. But it’s really about how you hold yourself, with confidence, with knowing that you have a larger purpose, that you are valued, and that you value others. My definition of S.W.A.G is Students with Ambitious Goals. So, I tell them to focus on that. Set ambitious goals, and stick with them.”
We hope you were able to join us for some of these events and we can’t wait to do them again next year.