Washburn Tech Male Student of the Year

July 1, 2018

Topeka, Kan. – When Richard Ross graduated high school 25 years ago, he had a plan. He would join the Army for a couple of years and then be mature enough to enroll in college. In addition to serving his country, he would be paid while on a break from learning and then become “a responsible grown-up and get back to school.”

His plan worked, except a two-year and 16-week enlistment stretched into 20 years and 28 days of service. Being true to his word, however, a college education was his top priority and in 2015 Ross received a bachelor of science in business administration degree, cum laude, at the University of Upper Iowa.

 “I wanted to fulfill that promise as well as be a good role model for my children,” he said. “My goal was to take everything I learned through life and the military and own my own business.”

By this time, Ross knew he had a passion for working with his hands and building products from wood. His next “enlistment,” he decided, would be the cabinet and millwork program at Washburn University Institute of Technology, not realizing at the time he would be eventually be honored as the 2018 Outstanding Male Student.

Washburn Tech has, he said, “provided not only me but every student a basis to be a successful employee and/or employer.”

“I feel as though I have been armed to be successful,” Ross said. “This is due to every one of the staff members. I truly believe that the staff cares what happens to the students.”

Success outside the classroom is a perk for Washburn Tech students, he noted, citing SkillsUSA activities as good opportunities for growth. Ross is also pleased with the chance to help others by raising funds for the Care Closet and to support local veterans and their families.

Ross has decided his new career path may not be a smooth road. He is applying knowledge gained at Washburn Tech to enhance his employment with a home remodeling company.

“It’s a means of building onto the foundation of what Washburn Tech has taught me in order to get more hands-on experience before venturing out on my own. I do not want to rush to failure by not being fully ready to own my own business in the field,” he said, adding that in the next five years he will have completed a business plan to support his new business.

He also plans to be an ambassador for Washburn Tech and hinted at a desire to teach, which might be an incentive for his own children who also attend the school.

“Just being nominated for this award is truly an honor for myself and my family,” he said.