Alumni & Friends

Recognition Awards

Outstanding Tiger Alumni Award


Gail Ross

Class of 1929

Gail RossGail Ross and Luther Parman, fixtures in Arkansas City for decades, are this year’s recipients of the Outstanding Tiger Alumni Award. They were honored during the 74th commencement exercises May 3.


Pictures of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren have a special place in Ross’ home. And during the first moments of conversation, it doesn’t take long to figure out what has pleased Ross the most during her 88 years.


It’s her family.


“My three kids,” Gail said of sons Steve and David Ross and daughter Janet English, all of Arkansas City. “I’m just as proud of them as can be. But they’re not just mine. They had a smart daddy, too.”


Gail Ross is pretty smart in her own right. She graduated from Arkansas City Junior College in 1929 and later became a pharmacist in Ark City. Her involvement in the community and her interest in Cowley helped earn her one of this year’s awards.


“I think the college is great,” said Gail, who was born in Riverside, Iowa, and moved to Ark City when she was 2. “I’m so impressed with the outreach they have. And I think (college president) Pat McAtee has done a fine job.”


Seventy years ago this fall, she enrolled at ACJC as Gail Fesler. She remembers Pauline Sleeth, an English teacher, being a major influence on her.


“She got me interested in writing,” Gail said. “Anything I saw I wrote about it. After I graduated I used to send her my writings.”


Gail also remembers Kurt Galle, economics instructor and dean of the college.

Despite those influences, Gail wasn’t interested in becoming a writer or an economist. She wanted to become a pharmacist. In those days a student could get credit for working in a drugstore, then take the state board exam. She didn’t want to do it that way.


Instead, Gail enrolled in Wuester School of Pharmacy in Wichita, then took her state exam in 1934, earning her license with one of the highest scores that year. She came back to Ark City to work for her brother, Walt Fesler, in the Dye and Fesler drugstore downtown. It was one of seven drugstores in Ark City at that time. “We worked every seventh Sunday,” she said.


Her community service includes four years on the Arkansas City School Board at a time when Frances Willard, Adams, and Pershing elementary schools were built. She also became an experienced fund raiser, volunteering for The American Red Cross and The Salvation Army when fund-raising was conducted the old-fashioned way: Door-to-door. She also served as co-chairman of The United Way one year.


She served on the Planning Commission two years and also was on the County Health Board.


Throughout her life, Gail has been very active at the First Presbyterian Church, where she’s held numerous positions that have influenced the lives of young and old. She has served as an elder and president of the Presbyterian Women.

Her involvement in civic organizations is second to none. She organized the PEO Chapter GH and was the group’s first president; she has served on The Salvation Army Advisory Board; was a member of the Order of Eastern Star; and was chairman of the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Committee seven years.

Her service to the community and commitment to her children Steve, Janet, and David, were just two reasons she was nominated for Kansas Mother of the Year in 1983, a year after Kenneth died. She was first runner-up.


If ever there was a family woven into the fabric of a community, it’s the Gail and Kenneth Ross family. Their philosophy was simple.


“The children were going to go to college because we told them they were,” Gail said. “They didn’t know any different. And we went to church with them every Sunday. They all have a deep, basic faith, and the grandchildren do, too. We’re a close family.”