With great sadness, we note the passing of Donald Ross, who was one of the original Nader’s Raiders, and who led the organizing efforts in Vermont more than 50 years ago to establish the group that became VPIRG. In fact, Donald was considered to be the “father” of the Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) because of his visionary work on college campuses across the country in the early 1970s, engaging students in the establishment of PIRG chapters.
In late 1971, while speaking with students on the campus at UVM, Donald noted that “The really crucial problem facing America today is the massive non-involvement of Americans in their government.” But he went on to encourage them to launch VPIRG by adding, “You’ve got the chance of creating the most powerful and effective public agency in the state – it can be a very, very powerful organization if it’s done right.”
Every day, we strive to fulfill the promise of Donald’s inspiring words. He went on to become the first executive director of NYPIRG, and had a career full of accomplishments that made the world a better place. (Please see the excellent tribute written by our friend, Blair Horner of NYPIRG.) Donald maintained his interest in Vermont and VPIRG too and was pleased recently to hear of our plans to celebrate our 50th anniversary this fall.
We join organizers and advocates across the country in mourning Donald’s passing, and in pledging to continue the important work that he started.