jerry talking

Ross recalls life in Crown Point, persisting through obstacles

Life isn’t going to be a straight line. Things aren’t going to happen very easily, you’re going to be rejected from certain opportunities, and you’re going to not do so well on some tests in school. But you’re going to continue to do everything you can to pursue those dreams if that’s what you really want to do. – Jerry Ross, retired NASA Astronaut

Dreams can come true. It’s what all of the fairytales say. However, it isn’t everyday that a young boy’s dream turns into a gravity-defying career. Colonel Jerry Ross, a 1966 graduate of Crown Point High School, started out with simple beginnings, playing outside with his numerous cousins.

“I grew up out in the country between Crown Point and Leroy, and so I was totally out in the country. I really enjoyed that,” Ross said. “I had 30 first cousins, and a fairly large number of them lived close, we could go out and ride bikes together, play baseball and football. We had a lot of fun together.”

With the support of his parents, Ross gained interest in space as a young child. The timeline of his childhood paralleled the beginnings of an American space program.

“I started making scrapbooks about launching satellites and rockets into space when I was in about the first or second grade, so I was really fascinated by that from the very beginning,” Ross said. “I was in the fourth grade when the first satellites were launched into space, and I decided then and there in the fourth grade that I was going to go to Purdue, I was going to become an engineer, and I wanted to become involved in our country’s space program.”

However, Ross couldn’t fathom the dream of becoming an astronaut from the beginning, as the first astronauts weren’t chosen until a few years later. He recalls viewing the first moon landing on television, citing it a time he could never forget.

“I was at home at my folk’s house, I was between my junior and senior year in college at Purdue and I was working at US Steel in the summer. I remember sitting there with the whole family wrapped around the black and white TV screen and watching Neil Armstrong descend from the lunar module and walk on the surface of the moon. It was an exciting and historic time,” Ross said. “Now, I’ve been able to meet each of the men who have walked on the moon.”

The race to space was initially not a successful one for Ross. He was denied admittance into the space program the first time he applied.

“During the first round, I got very close. It was hard. I had a lot of friends that got in, so it was difficult to see them move on,” Ross said. “I didn’t stop, and I applied a second time. That’s when I got in.”

Ross recalls the feeling of leaving Earth as being beyond what words can describe.

Seven NASA Space Shuttle missions later, the joint world record holder for most spaceflights is travelling the world seeing sights and giving motivational speeches.

“It is so great to come to Jerry Ross Elementary, and it has been a wonderful experience travelling around to each of our states. My wife and I recently got back from trips to Egypt and Jordan,” Ross said.

Jerry Ross Elementary School principal Jennifer Stolarz notes Ross as being an inspiration to not only the students, but community members as well. His presence in the lives of Crown Point residents has greatly impacted her career.

“I have the opportunity to meet with the person who our school is named after, which none of the other Crown Point principals can say. It’s really a part of my job here to instill the values he has into our school and students,” Stolarz said. “The whole school gets very excited to see him visit. His visits are something I would drop anything for in the schedule.”

Similarly to Stolarz, former Jerry Ross Elementary School student senior Michael Blachut can remember hearing Ross speak at his school, and recalls feeling motivated to achieve.

“I had the opportunity to hear Ross speak once during my time as a student at Jerry Ross Elementary School. I remember him discussing the importance of finding the thing that motivates you as a person,” Blachut said. “Years later, I’ve realized that my interest in science, and the medical field in particular, motivates me to work hard in school so I can later achieve my goal of becoming a doctor.”

Even through his setbacks, Ross has continued to keep his mind set on success. His new task is to instill those same values into those he speaks to.

“Life isn’t going to be a straight line. Things aren’t going to happen very easily, you’re going to be rejected from certain opportunities, and you’re going to not do so well on some tests in school. But you’re going to continue to do everything you can to pursue those dreams if that’s what you really want to do,” Ross said. “That’s part of life and it’s kind of hard to learn it upfront, you have to learn it as you go. But you have to understand that as you’re going so you don’t give up too easily. You can work hard to achieve your goals.”

Even though he has led a life outside of NASA and its space program, his work in space still impacts his life today. During his space missions, Ross helped build the International Space Station.

“There are some clear nights when I can see it fly past in the sky,” Ross said. “I have to smile at that, because I can say that I helped build it. It is a great feeling.”

Audrey Gacsy
Audrey Gacsy is a senior at Crown Point High School. She has been involved in the journalism program for four years. As a sophomore, Audrey was inducted into Quill and Scroll, and has been a member since. During her time on staff, Audrey has enjoyed writing stories, selling ads, and editing pages. This year as a Co-editor-in-chief, Audrey is looking forward to helping other staffers grow as journalists and is excited to improve upon her own skills. Outside of journalism, Audrey enjoys being a Scholarship Director for National Honor Society and member of Best Buddies International. She plans to go to college for Accounting and International Finance. Eventually, Audrey aims to practice financial law.

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