Warren Ross ’95 doesn’t go easy on himself when he talks about his days as an MIT mechanical engineering (Course 2) student. “I struggled to get through my degree, which was self-inflicted more than anything,” he admits. “I believe I missed many opportunities while I was at MIT. I’ve always regretted that.”
Today, “missed opportunities” is not a phrase easily associated with Warren. He is the president and chairman of Ross Group, a development, engineering, and construction company headquartered in Tulsa, and in recent years has played a major role in revitalizing Tulsa’s downtown core. But for this alumnus, who also holds an MBA from the University of Tulsa (TU), that memory of the MIT road not taken has been a motivating force in his life. “Long ago I issued a challenge to myself,” he says, “to live up to the degree I didn’t deserve to get.”
With that challenge in mind, Warren and his wife, Teresa—a chemical engineer with a degree from Colorado School of Mines, fellow TU MBA graduate (they met on a class project), and process engineering manager at the Ross Group—are concentrating their philanthropic efforts almost entirely on education.
At MIT, the couple have contributed meaningfully to the Institute’s unrestricted fund, which provides crucial resources for student financial aid, among other essential needs, and gives MIT the freedom to invest in high-risk research. “I hope this gift helps MIT leadership to take a swing at opportunities they think may be game changing,” Warren says. Warren readily acknowledges that his and Teresa’s unrestricted support is an expression of faith in MIT: “I’ve always had great confidence in the leadership of the Institute, and I’m willing to invest in that,” he says.
Warren’s enduring confidence in MIT manifests itself, too, inside the laboratory of Alexander Slocum ’82, SM ’83, PhD ’85, the Pappalardo Professor of Mechanical Engineering, whom the couple also support with discretionary funds. As a Course 2 student, Warren worked for Slocum through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, and he refers fondly to his former professor, whose work runs the gamut from smart toothbrushes to large-scale energy storage solutions, as a “mad genius.”
“I may not have taken up all the opportunities he gave me, but the time I got to spend with him I really appreciated,” Warren says. “He’s so passionate about everything. Teresa and I wanted to invest in his lab so he can continue to be the amazing engineer that he is. He has the potential to impact so many people.” The Rosses visit Slocum whenever they are in Cambridge, and Teresa comments that the professor “is an incredibly positive and fun person.”
For Warren and Teresa, Slocum embodies the MIT values of hard work and persistence that Warren has been striving to live up to since his days as an undergraduate. It’s the idea that “no problem should go unsolved,” he says. “Sometimes you need a combination of intelligence, research, and persistence, but the answer is out there—you just have to find it. That’s what MIT is all about.”
This story was originally published in November 2017.