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Ross Gordon Memorial Speaker Series

Ross Gordon Memorial Speaker Series

Ross Gordon was a vibrant member of the Town Class of 2009 who lived his life to the fullest, having adventures in travel, pursuing knowledge and human connections at every opportunity--and making a positive impact through his personal relationships and professional achievements. The Ross Gordon Memorial Speaker Series honors his legacy of living with gusto, his strong sense of curiosity and his commitment to helping others. The Fund sponsors "Live Speakers" to enrich and expand the minds and hearts of current and future Town boys. These events will reflect Ross’ mighty way in the world by bringing challenging, global perspectives to Town, perspectives designed to promote curious and empathetic leaders. If you have questions or would like to know more about the Ross Gordon Memorial Speaker Series, contact Maurine Halperin, Director of Advancement. 

Ross' Life

Ross Gordon loved Town School. He graduated in the outstanding Class of 2009, having made lifelong friends along the way.

Ross was a native San Franciscan who went on to attend Deerfield Academy and the University of Pennsylvania, graduating with honors in Economics before returning to live in San Francisco and work in Real Estate Private Equity, first with Eastdil Secured and then with Sixth Street Partners.

Upon his passing, Eastdil Secured and Sixth Street Partners, Ross’ first two employers in his 3 year working life, decided to provide seed-money to fund an on-going program of “Live Speakers” coming to campus, speakers whose themes would correspond to and address what Ross cared most about in life: intellectual discovery, challenging adventures, studying and living in foreign cultures, service to others, showing care, compassion and respect to all, and above all, being deeply curious about the world around him.

Ross’ life was full, if a bit unusual. By 26, he spoke fluent French and Italian having attended second grade in Paris at an all-French school and having joined his parents in Rome for a post-high school gap year. Studying, living and working abroad changed his life forever. 

It started in Africa.

At 8, in 2002, he visited Dakar, Senegal and met kids with no pencils, paper or books. He asked his parents, “How can we help?”

At 12, in 2006, Ross and his parents, Bob and Clare, visited the small village of Mbidieum Lebou, about 150 miles from Dakar, to meet the village Imam and elders. He and his parents asked if they could fund the construction of a modern new school building. (The former school had a sand floor, thatched walls and plastic sheets for a roof.)  

At 14, in 2008, Ross and his parents returned to Mbidieum to celebrate the opening of the new school structure, complete with a plaque and remarks from local government officials—and a representative of the U.S. Ambassador in Dakar (whom Ross, himself, had asked to attend).

At 17, in 2011, Ross returned to live with the Imam for part of the summer. He brought HP computers to the school and started teaching English, in French, to villagers of all ages. (Since it was during Ramadan, classes had to be held after sunset and after dinner, at around 11:00 pm.) The new school made a real difference to village youth: college acceptance rates doubled.

As an addendum to his Senegal experience, Ross’s two village mentors, the Imam and the lead teacher—both having never been in a plane before—were invited to the US, to Deerfield, for a brief teaching session. They saw snow for the first time.

As a high school sophomore, Ross became deeply interested in China. At 17, he spent late summer in Guangzhou, China, working in a shoe factory. His job: checking every 20th shoebox on the assembly line to make sure the interior the contents were perfect in every way.  He worked alongside young factory personnel who lived in the dorms.

At 18, after graduation from Deerfield, Ross took a gap year in Rome to learn Italian. As a result, at 19 he got a summer internship in Rome at IFAD, a United Nations Food resource agency. 

It was not all service, study or work. Ross loved Town’s outdoor education trips to Yosemite and Pinnacles National. These trips helped instill an appreciation of adventure, the outdoors and nature’s beauty.  He also loved lacrosse and played attack for Town’s team. His proudest lax accomplishment was helping to win a Bay Area lacrosse championship with his 8th grade classmates.

Ross took ample time out for fun or reflection, whether “journaling about his day,” having a lazy read, “pick up lacrosse” on an African dirt airstrip, balloon wars on the water, rolling in sand dunes, or just a lazy snooze on a sofa or three wheeler.

In later life Ross enjoyed cycling, skiing and water sports, as well as sunny days at Lake Tahoe.  

Summary:

The supporters of the Memorial Speaker Series will remember Ross as a kind-hearted, curious, striving, generous and very happy young man who lived with zest, gratitude and a sense of adventure and optimism for all that life might offer.  

It is our hope that his curiosity, dedication to others, ambitious work ethic and sense of humor—and adventure--will inspire Town students to explore the world and live life to its fullest, for themselves and for others. 

2020 New Years' Smiles

2020 New Years' Smiles

Postscript: At 21, Ross was diagnosed with epilepsy. He nevertheless continued to work hard, stay happy and live with love for his family, friends and the city of San Francisco. Tragically, at 26, on June 4, 2021—although seemingly in perfect health—he had a seizure he could not survive. He passed on painlessly.

Ross flies the Town flag at Cape Town, South Africa