How can a teacher ensure that her students learn skills to build a more peaceful world? For New Bedford educator Lillian Ross (1904?-2003), the answer was to develop active global citizens through educational and cross-cultural exchanges of the American Field Service (AFS). Lillian established AFS at New Bedford High School in 1953 and was its first faculty advisor.
How can a teacher ensure that her students learn skills to build a more peaceful world? For New Bedford educator Lillian Ross (1904?-2003), the answer was to develop active global citizens through educational and cross-cultural exchanges of the American Field Service (AFS). Lillian established AFS at New Bedford High School and was its first faculty advisor.
Of French Canadian descent, Lillian was the youngest of seven girls born to Ferdinand and Anna (Valcourt) Ross. Born in Fall River, Lillian spent most of her life in New Bedford and graduated from New Bedford High School. She attended Bridgewater State Teachers College and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Boston University. She then began a career as a French teacher at New Bedford High School until her retirement in the early 1960s.
At New Bedford High School, Lillian launched the AFS program with Annette Begin DeMello in 1953. As the first AFS faculty advisor at the high school, Lillian inspired many students to travel abroad and enabled many local families to host students from other countries. Lucy Bly, one of her students who studied in Germany in 1963, became the AFS faculty advisor at Dartmouth High School. An AFS pioneer, Lillian facilitated life-changing intercultural learning opportunities, where exchange students became global citizens and host families became more culturally aware. AFS volunteer Cynthia Yoken recalled, “Miss Ross certainly played a most important role in making the world a more friendly place and in establishing international friendships at her comfortable home on Sawyer Street with her sister Alphonsine. Both loved hosting their annual Christmas celebration, and students looked forward to going to her home, always so meticulously decorated for the holidays.”
Lillian was a communicant of St. Anthony of Padua Church in New Bedford. She was a member and officer of the Catholic Women’s Club and the Diocesan Council on Catholic Women. Lillian was also past president of the Sacred Heart Home Dame Patroness.
Lillian died at age 99 on May 22, 2003, at Sacred Heart Home in New Bedford. Through her work, local students experienced the world and local families welcomed the world into their homes.
- “Lillian B. Ross, 99.” SouthCoast Today, 24 May 2003, https://www.southcoasttoday.com/article/20030524/NEWS03/305249998.
- Yoken, Cynthia. “My Last Visit with Miss Lillian Ross, an AFS Pioneer.” SouthCoast Today, 29 May 2003, https://www.southcoasttoday.com/article/20030529/opinion/305299936.