Bross Gift Continues Legacy of Helping RMC
John R. and Helen Hamilton Bross, both taught at Rocky Mountain College, never forgetting what was important in educating students for successful and satisfying lives. They lived modestly, saving and investing wisely, to fulfill future dreams of helping others, according to Obert Undem, RMC director of planned giving. Their legacy is now realized through a gift of nearly $500,000, with about $350,000 endowing student scholarships and about $140,000 for the Bross Peace Seminar, a program of The Institute for Peace Studies at Rocky.
"This legacy will profoundly impact career choices of many students and greatly strengthen this institution's future," Undem said. "The Bross gift establishes a major family legacy at Rocky that was long planned by these generous friends and is a gift of which they and their family are all justifiably proud."
About $140,000 will permanently endow the Institute for Peace Studies at Rocky with income ranging from $5,600 to $7,000. This will continue the John and Helen Bross Peace Seminar, a one semester, one credit course which was initiated largely in response to their lifelong interest with the struggle to establish higher levels of peace and respect for cultural differences, not just internationally, but within the ever more culturally diverse citizenship of the United States also, and at every level whether statewide, regional, national or even in smaller urban locations like those of Montana's towns and cities.
The balance, about $350,000, will be added to the John and Helen Bross Scholarship Endowment, to produce between $14,000 and $17,500 annually. This fund was established over the years by the couple with gifts qualifying for the 40% Montana tax credit incentive to build such endowment resources to provide permanent funding sources for nonprofit entities like Rocky. Its goal has always been to provide scholarships to students selected by Rocky who would without this support probably not be able to receive college educations.
"This will be a tremendous advantage in Rocky's student recruitment and retention efforts, and will affect many very promising young lives," Undem said.
Helen Bross died peacefully at her home in Moses Lake, Wash. last July. She grew up in Philadelphia, where she graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1939. She was a physics major who then earned a Ph.D in philosophy from Yale. Subsequently she earned a master's degree in mathematics from Columbia University. She knew the importance of college education as a core belief and committed her life to the effort of providing its benefits to others.
She met her husband, John Bross, at Yale. They were married 59 years. John died in January 2001.
Both taught at Talladega College, a black private college in Alabama, until moving to Montana in 1964 where they were professors at Rocky. John taught psychology, religion and philosophy; Helen taught physics, philosophy and math. A Quaker since college, Helen also enjoyed affiliation with the Congregational Church, as did John, who was an ordained Congregational (UCC) minister extremely involved in the Montana - Northern Wyoming Conference of the United Church of Christ, as well as many other human service and religious organizations. They were much involved in the early formative years of the Institute for Peace Studies at Rocky Mountain College. John was a member of Mayflower Congregational Church (UCC) where he was occasionally in either the pulpit or playing the organ during services.
They were advocates for education and peacemaking. Civil and human rights issues were a motivating focus as well. They belonged to the Friendship Force, which was a grassroots peace effort of President Jimmy Carter, enabling citizens of all countries to make exchange visits. John and Helen traveled widely internationally in support of that effort.
The couple loved music. Helen played the violin and viola, and performed with the Billings Symphony for 30 years. In the evenings, she and John would play duets: she played the viola; he played the piano. They are survived by three children: Carol A Patterson, John H. Bross, and Georgia K. Ruebsamen who attended Billings public schools before their college studies.
At death their bodies were donated to the University of Washington Medical School for anatomical study pursuant to their request. Furthering the evidence of their belief in education.
"We are immensely grateful for their caring generosity. They would want their example to motivate others in emulating the principles learned by living through the Great Depression of the 1930s and the worldwide devastation of World War II," Undem noted. "After witnessing the depravation and angst of that time, they were committed to doing what they could to prepare young people to take on the challenge of making a better, more peaceful and humane world for future humankind."