A Hummingbird Leads to Friendship and a New Board Member
Jane Ross’s journey to becoming a Safina Center board member began with a hummingbird on a migration gone awry. It was a Rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) to be exact, wearing the green and brownish-red feathers of the female of the species. The bird had drifted off-course during her migration from Alaska to Baja California and Mexico, and spent the winter in East Hampton, New York.
Ross, an advanced amateur birder, explains, “We found her outside our home and enlisted a group of people who helped to keep her well fed during the snowstorms of December and January when she stayed with us.”
She adds, “I also invited a group from the American Bird Conservancy to visit and see ‘Georgie Girl,’ the name we gave her after finding her on Georgica Road in East Hampton. Carl was among this group of birders and scientists. He later called to thank me and gave me a copy of ‘Lazy Point.’ My husband and I loved ‘Lazy Point’ and then we were hooked. We promptly read his other books and we’ve been friends with Carl ever since.”
Ross is vice-president and principal program officer of the Alfred and Jane Ross Foundation. She describes her philanthropic philosophy as “providing support where it can make a real difference.” That’s why, she says, she supports the Safina Center.
She explains, “We’re a small family foundation and we try to support work that can have a significant impact. For this reason, we take great pleasure in supporting the Safina Center and the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SOMAS), both at Stony Brook University. Carl is pretty unique in what he brings to the table. There’s so much noise out there and he writes so beautifully about the natural world, to communicate and educate with real science. Without the science, we can’t sustain and preserve the natural world.”
Ross is also a member of the Dean’s Council at SOMAS and for Stony Brook’s Southampton Campus. In addition to her love of science and the natural world, she also has a passion for languages and music.
Complementing her love of music and education, Ross is a longtime member of the board of directors for the Interschool Orchestras of New York, the Young Concert Artists and Pianofest, all of which provide high-level training and performance opportunities for young musicians.
Ross’s love of languages became her career and a philanthropic focus. She taught at Lycée Français de New York for 30 years. When she “retired,” she developed a program for French-speaking immigrants, called the French Heritage Language Program, for which she serves as president. Created in 2005, it provides students with free French classes in public schools and community centers. It currently serves students in Boston, Maine, Miami and New York City.
“Most of the students in the program hail from West Africa and Haiti, and live in areas where no other French language programs, whether dual language or private, are available or affordable to them,” says Ross. “In other words, without our classes, these students would simply not have the possibility to continue learning French in the United States. The program also helps them translate their language skills into college and career skills.”
In addition to her work on the Safina Center board of directors, Ross has served as a trustee at the American University of Paris since 2010. This arts and sciences university serves approximately 1200 undergraduate and graduate students. As a member of its board of trustees, Ross currently co-chairs the Committee on Academic Affairs and serves on the Trustee Matters Committee.
Her philanthropic efforts in languages, music and science often unite in creative ways. For example, the Alfred and Jane Ross Foundation provided support for an exchange program for marine research students between the American University of Paris and SOMAS. And she’s currently looking for ways to connect the Safina Center with an environmental program at the American University of Paris — stay tuned!