Deacon Michael David Ross, Ph.D., age 78, a former Professor and Academic Dean at the Pontifical College Josephinum, died Sunday evening, March 3, 2019, while hospitalized in Honolulu, Hawaii, of kidney failure and complications from severe pancreatitis. A sign in his room asked that he be addressed as “Deacon Mike,” reflecting his commitment to and love for the Church.
Deacon Mike was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1940, to Sidney Ross and Lee (Genud) Ross, both first-generation Americans of Jewish descent. As members of the Communist Party, his parents worked actively with poor and marginalized people for democracy and justice, providing role models for their children’s lifetimes of social justice service.
The Ross family moved to Baldwin, Long Island, in 1948, where Michael graduated high school. He then attended Antioch College, class of 1963, where he majored in and taught history at an Antioch summer program. Following graduation, he attended Columbia University, where he earned a Ph.D. in political science, and went on to teach and serve as Assistant Dean at Columbia College.
In college and during a year abroad at Leeds University in England, Michael was a leader in civil rights activities, helping to integrate a barbershop in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and to desegregate public accommodations in both countries. While studying and teaching, he also participated in community programs at a drug rehabilitation program for young adults in New York City.
Michael transitioned to working as an administrator for several psychiatric hospitals in New York and New Jersey. He was the Acting Chief Executive Officer of Ancora Psychiatric Hospital and the CEO of both Greystone and Marlboro Hospitals in New Jersey, from 1981 to 1994.
In 1990, Michael converted to Catholicism and returned to school to enrich his education and capacity for religious service. He was ordained as a Deacon in the Church on May 14, 1994, and served diaconal ministry at St. Paul’s Church, Princeton, N.J. (1994 to 2003). In 2003, he earned a second Ph.D., in theology from the Catholic University of America.
In 2003, Deacon Mike moved to Columbus, Ohio, to become a systematic theology professor at the Pontifical College Josephinum. He was later appointed Josephinum’s Academic Dean and then its Provost. While in Columbus, he served at St. Mary Parish, Columbus (2003–2007) and St. Joan of Arc Parish, Powell (2007 to 2014). After retirement from the college, he remained active with the Josephinum Distance Learning Program, which he had founded in 2008.
Deacon Mike and his wife, Betty, moved to Kona, Hawaii, in 2014, where he served as the Coordinator of Spiritual Formation for the Deacon Program of the Diocese of Honolulu, and an instructor and advisor for the Office of Permanent Deacon Formation. During this time, he also served as the President of the Board of Directors of West Hawaii Habitat for Humanity. He was actively serving in ministry at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Kona at the time of his death.
Deacon Mike is survived by his wife of over 45 years, Betty David Ross; his beloved son, Damon Ross; his first wife and Damon’s birth mother, Jean Ross; and Jean’s husband, John Womack; his daughter-in-law, Cylin; his grandson, August; his sister, Randy Ross; his nieces, Tara and Shivani Ganguly; his grand-nephew, Sidney Roth-Ganguly; and his godchildren, Yvette Minear, her husband, Josh, and Michael “Mowgli” Bunce. His energy, kindness and wit, and his example of scholarship, service, and love of family and community, continue to live on in those who survive him, and inspire those who have been privileged to know him. We will never forget him.
Funeral services will be held on Saturday, March 30, 2019, at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. Visitation at 9 AM, Mass at 10 AM, and reception at 11 AM.
In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the following organizations that Michael was deeply involved in:
- The local chapter of Habitat for Humanity in Kailua Kona:
- Habitat for Humanity, PO Box 4619, Kailua Kona, HI 96745
- The St. Michael’s Catholic Church, 75-5769 Ali’I Dr., Kailua Kona, HI 96740
- In memo: Debt reduction