Professor bequeaths estate to funding council

A researcher renowned for her philanthropy and community service passed away last October at the age of 93, leaving behind a legacy of scholarship and generosity that will benefit Canadian social science for years to come.

Dr. Aileen Ross, emeritus professor in sociology at McGill, in her last will and testament bequeathed her entire estate to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Her gift, valued at approximately $175,000, is to be used for research on poverty issues.

"This is an extraordinarily generous act by a devoted teacher and researcher," said SSHRC President Lynn Penrod. "Our Council will do its utmost to fulfill the wishes of Dr. Ross, whose dedication to sociological research will continue to benefit Canada for many years."

This is not the first time Dr. Ross has made a substantial gift to SSHRC. In 1985 she donated $50,000 to establish two special postdoctoral fellowships for research on urban poverty in Canada. The fellowships were awarded in 1986 following a national competition held by the Council.

Eschewing publicity, she asked that SSHRC, in its call for applications and in the announcement of the competition winners, simply refer to her as an "anonymous donor." In keeping with her wishes, the Council has not revealed until now that Dr. Ross was the person responsible for funding the two special fellowships.

A pioneering woman, Aileen Dansken Ross was born on June 3, 1902, into a Montreal family that encouraged education at a time when education for women was not generally considered important. She completed her MA (1941) and PhD (1950) at the University of Chicago after earning a BSc at the London School of Economics in1939. She joined the faculty of McGill University's Department of Sociology in 1946, where she taught for more than two decades.

Dr. Ross served on a number of international and national governing bodies, including the Canadian Human Rights Foundation, of which she was a founding member. She is the author of several scholarly works which earned her an international reputation.

Her books include The Hindu Family in an Urban Setting, which she wrote after spending several years in India, The Lost and the Lonely, a study of prostitution and battered women, Student Unrest, which describes the turbulent sixties, and Some Social Implications of Multilingualism, on the sociology of language.

Dr. Ross is remembered as a talented scholar whose devotion and concern for society stimulated important policy discussions addressing poverty as well as the status of women and youth. In the coming months, the Council will determine how best to use her endowment for the purposes she intended.