Sister Kathleen Ross

Sister Kathleen Ross blesses the Dawson family home with holy water during a dedication ceremony for the Yakima Valley Partners Habitat for Humanity additions to the house Wednesday, June 16, 2021 in Zillah, Wash.

Dr. Kathleen Ross, a co-founder and the first president of Heritage University, is the 2022 recipient of the Ted Robertson Community Service Award, the Greater Yakima Chamber of Commerce announced Friday.

Ross’ career started by teaching high school in Spokane, but she soon moved to higher education, focusing on cross-cultural communication. Her career in higher education spans more than four decades.

In the 1970s she served as provost of Fort Wright College of the Holy Names in Spokane, where she oversaw the creation of outreach programs in Toppenish and Omak, that extended the opportunity for four-year college degrees to rural, minority and low-income populations typically not served by higher education institutions.

When the sponsoring institution closed, she worked with two Yakama Nation women to found Heritage University and became its first president in 1982. She oversaw its growth from 85 students to more than 1,200, stepping down in 2010.

Ross continues to live in Toppenish, is an active member of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, and in 2021 completed a seven-year term as a half-time member on the order’s international leadership team, based in Longueuil, Quebec, Canada.

The Ted Robertson Award was established in 1989 by the Greater Yakima Chamber of Commerce Past Presidents/Board Chairs to honor individuals each year who have made significant contributions to the betterment of the greater Yakima area.

Ted Robertson, former publisher of the Yakima-Herald Republic, held a strong belief that good fortune earned in a community should be shared with that community.

The honorees are selected by the past board presidents/chairs of the Chamber for their inspiring leadership, achievements and commitment to the improvement of our community as businesspeople and citizens of the Yakima Valley.

Ross will be honored Nov. 3 during the annual Chamber and Ted Robertson Community Service Awards celebration at the Yakima Convention Center.

Contact Joel Donofrio at

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