Mani Thangadurai, Contributing Writer
Dr. Lawrence E. ‘Larry’ Ross has taught at Florida Southern College for well over 20 years and has served as the Anne and Bill France Distinguished Professor of Business in the Barney Barnett School of Business and Free Enterprise, in addition to being Coordinator of the Graduate Program in Business.
Ross has a special connection to me personally as he was one of the professors who led our Strengths Development Inventory during our Orientation for the MBA Program, and his extensive expertise in strategic planning along with marketing and hospitality has seen him carve a special niche as the longtime Professor of the MBA Capstone seminar.
Ross’s experience in the hospitality sector can be traced back to as long as 35 years ago, where he has been an owner of a dozen restaurants and a sought-after consultant in the areas of marketing and operations. As president of Food & Beverage Associates, Inc., an organization that designs strategies and facilitates strategic planning efforts in the areas of marketing, operations, and governance, Ross was frequently invited to give presentations and seminars from cost control to the role of internal marketing in hospitality operations.
According to Ross, the secret to success in the hospitality sector is having a passion for serving others. “Hospitality demands that you give of yourself in pursuit of the guest’s happiness and satisfaction. You are serving people when they are seeking respite from the day-to-day and often this means you sacrifice nights, weekends and holidays. If you don’t love it…you will hate it. You must pay attention to the smallest of details both in terms of the service environment and in terms of the financial dimension associated with providing the service.”
However, Ross has always been a true academician at heart, highlighted by the fact that he sold two of his prize restaurants in Key West and Lakeland in order to focus on his teaching career. This former Florida State University graduate earned his Bachelors’ Degree in Business and Hospitality Management from the Seminoles, and then went on to enjoy a storied association with the Panthers of Georgia State where he earned his MBA and his Ph.D. in Marketing and also served as a faculty member of the Cecil B. Day School of Hospitality for 12 years. Ross has been recognized, and received awards, for his engaging approach and successful results as an innovative teacher. He has also authored a textbook on the challenges of strategic management, a practical manual for conducting club membership surveys, and individual chapters on marketing and family restaurants in select textbooks, in addition to 16 articles in refereed publications, numerous articles in trade journals, and conducted more than 300 seminars and workshops for the food service and club industry.
So what attracted Ross to the Moccasins, and how does he compare the experience of teaching here with his other teaching experiences? It was during an unpaid absence from Georgia State for family reasons that he was looking for an adjunct teaching role in order to stay professionally active.
“[Then] President Bob Davis made me an offer to come on board full-time and I took it. So you could say it was security that attracted me, but it was the small school culture that kept me here and motivated me to excel.”
Ross’s fondest memories of his 23+ years at Florida Southern College are, in his own words, seeing [his] students succeed in life, in their careers, in their graduate education endeavors, [and] in their relationships. He also claims to have learned a great deal from his students over the years.
According to Ross, “My students have kept me young and vibrant. It would be easy to follow my peers into my twilight years without concern for the changing technological, socio-cultural, and environmental developments. However, interacting with young adults does not allow for such a passive lifestyle. I have learned to embrace change, focus on the positives that the future brings, and above all hold others to high standards.”
When asked what sort of legacy he believes he has left on the Barnett School of Business, Ross doesn’t pinpoint any particular one but looks back fondly on several accomplishments for which he has played an influential role.
“[The] First and foremost is the capstone legacy of case studies and applied/engaged learning. Second is the revised and successful MBA program. Third is the Center for Free Enterprise and the new majors that are associated with the Center. And fourth is [the] first year experience course in business, Business and Society. I was instrumental in the planning, development and implementation of all these programs. Many others have built these into successful and sustainable academic programs and without my colleagues they would not be a legacy. I am also very proud of the service to the community and the improved quality of life that my involvement and the involvement of my students has produced.”