James F. Ross, 78, Penn philosophy professor

James Francis Ross, 78, of University City, a professor of philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, died of complications from endocarditis Monday, July 12, at his summer home in Little Compton, R.I.

Dr. Ross had been on the Penn faculty since 1962 and was a former chairman of the philosophy department.

20100715_inq_o-pross15
James F. Ross

Though he published several books and more than 100 articles on medieval philosophy, metaphysics, the philosophy of religion, and the philosophy of law, he "lived for teaching" and had no plans to retire from the classroom, son Seamus said.

"For decades one could expect to find a line of students in the hallways outside Jim's office, waiting to speak with him. These conversations might go on for more than an hour," said Gary Hatfield, a philosophy professor at Penn. "He trained or helped train an impressive cadre of students who now hold academic appointments throughout the country."

Dr. Ross was a member of Penn's Faculty Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility and was dedicated to protecting faculty rights and responsibilities, Hatfield said.

A native of Providence, R.I., Dr. Ross earned a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in philosophy from Catholic University of America, a doctorate in philosophy from Brown University in 1958, and a law degree from Penn in 1974.

Initially he enrolled in the Theological College Seminary at Catholic University to study for the priesthood. He changed career plans but remained "passionate about conversation about God, being, and the world," his daughter Ellen said. "He was a philosopher in the true sense of the word, a seeker of wisdom who was endlessly curious and always learning."

Dr. Ross enjoyed home-improvement projects, his son said, and when he was in law school he had one of his daughters read cases to him while he painted walls. He was an avid vegetable gardener and sailor.

For 54 years, he was married to Kathleen Fallon Ross, a nurse. They grew up in the same neighborhood and renewed their friendship when he had a summer job in Providence while in college. She died May 23.

In addition to his son and daughter, Dr. Ross is survived by son Richard, daughter Therese, a sister, and seven grandchildren.

A Funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 17, at St. Sebastian Church, 67 Cole Ave., Providence, where friends may call after 9:30. A memorial service is being planned for the fall at Penn.

 


Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.