December 12, 2006

SIUC to award Ross posthumous degree

by Sun Min

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Throughout her life, Mona E. Ross pursued excellence. Described as a "perfectionist" by her family, Ross enjoyed a stellar reputation during her 17 years as secretary to the director of Southern Illinois University Press.

That, however, was not enough for the mother of two. Even when she was not at "work," she was at work, pursuing a bachelor's degree in university studies at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Sadly, that pursuit ended in August when Ross died of cancer at the age of 52. SIUC will recognize Ross's achievements during the College of Liberal Arts commencement ceremonies on Dec. 16. Ross's 10-year-old granddaughter, Breanna Wilson, will accept a posthumous degree on her behalf.

SIUC awards degrees posthumously if, before the student's death, work for the degree had substantially been completed. Ross was only a few credits shy of completing her studies and she was a star student, attaining cum laude status.

"Even when she was in the hospital, she was doing her homework and concerned about keeping up with her classes," said Jerome L. Wilson, Breanna's father and Ross's son. Jerome, Breanna and 15 other members of Ross's family will attend the Dec. 16 ceremony.

"I'm grateful to SIUC for honoring my mother," said Wilson. "She was really smart and very intelligent without a formal degree but she still wanted that degree."

Ross's intelligence also served her well in her professional life. Lain Adkins, director of SIU Press said, "Mona was always reliable and very friendly. Not only do the people in our office miss her but everyone from the outside who worked with her misses her. We're all truly saddened by the loss."

The loss is particularly hard on Ross's grandchildren. "They were close," Jerome said of the relationship between Ross and Breanna. "She's going to miss Mona because she was always teaching her things. She admired that Mona was a strong and loving woman."

Serving others is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.