Elizabeth McCracken “Boo" Ross, a past Johns Hopkins Hospital Women’s Board president who was an ambassador to its medical campus, died of dementia Jan. 30 at her home at the Roland Park Place Retirement Community. She was 93.
Born in Pittsfield, Mass., she was the daughter of Robert Wylie McCracken, a bank executive, and Elizabeth Chesney, a homemaker. She was a 1943 graduate of the Shipley School and earned a chemistry degree at Vassar College.
She moved to Baltimore and joined the research staff of Hopkins Hospital’s chemistry lab. While working, she met her future husband, Dr. Richard Starr Ross, who was then on the hospital’s Osler House staff. They married in 1950 and raised three children, first at a home on McElderry Street near the hospital. They later lived in Guilford.
Mrs. Ross was an organizer and co-founder of a social group, the Supper Club, in 1952. The group of physicians and their spouses met once a month until 2005.
“There were nine couples, all on the Osler staff, and all were from out of town,” said her daughter, Deborah Ross Chambliss. “They had no money and young families — and no babysitters — and got together for a well-orchestrated pot-luck dinner. My mother used a large 16-column accountant’s workpaper for years to record who brought what and where the dinner was held. She was always a good treasurer.”
After her husband was named dean of the Hopkins School of Medicine, she helped him at social events.
“My mother stood at his elbow and whispered guests’, their spouses’ and children’s names to my father as he greeted guests,” said her daughter, a Baltimore resident. “She was his wing-woman, at his side. She was a consummate hostess.”
Mrs. Ross, who never sought a title at the Hopkins medical campus, filled a role as an unofficial social ambassador and welcomer to Baltimore.
“She was a huge asset to my father as he recruited staff for the medical school and university,” said her daughter. “She was not from Baltimore, so was able to take spouses to various neighborhoods and schools and understood what moving a family to a new city meant.”
Dr. Paul R. McHugh, a university distinguished professor of psychiatry, recalled how Mrs. Ross welcomed him and his wife, Jean, to Baltimore. “She very much helped us, in every respect. She was the perfect dean’s wife. She knew Baltimore so well — she knew the concerns of young mothers. She made our acculturation here very much easier.”
She suggested having the freshman medical school class to her home for dinner at the beginning of the school year.
“It would be an opportunity to meet their classmates early in a small social setting,” her daughter said. “It took three or four nights to get them all there, but it was a huge hit.”
She also entertained international visitors at Johns Hopkins for exchange professorships and other posts. She also invited those who did not have family in Baltimore to her Thanksgiving table.
She and her husband lived with their family for an exchange professorship in Lima, Peru, and London.
Mrs. Ross was a longtime volunteer at Hopkins Hospital and a member of its Women’s Board beginning in 1971, and was its president from 1984 to 1987. She was treasurer or chair of the board’s fundraising projects, including Christmas sales and antiques shows, a dress sale, the Carry-On Shop and the hospital gift shop.
“She made it very clear — she was as she said she was, ‘not a housewife.’ She was a professional volunteer,” said another daughter, Margaret Casad Ross of Oak Park, Ill. “She was extraordinarily competent. Everything she did, she did correctly. She paid attention to every detail to anything she addressed. She had a gift of welcoming people and getting them to be comfortable with her. Everybody called her Boo, while my father was Dr. Ross or Dean Ross.”
Mrs. Ross was a longtime communicant of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, where she volunteered and taught Sunday School. She served on the vestry and chaired several search committees for new rectors and organists. She also volunteered on the altar guild and handbell choir. She also completed multiple needlepoint kneelers for the church herself and finished many that others didn’t finish.
Mrs. Ross was a Bryn Mawr School parents’ association president, volunteer and board member. She also belonged to the Guilford Garden Club and served on the Guilford Association Board.
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. March 1 at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 5603 Charles St.
Her Husband of 65 years died in 2015.