St. Olaf College | News

Robert Rossi ’68: Grateful for opportunities

Restricted scholarships encourage individual passions while helping Oles access the broad benefits of a St. Olaf education. The Robert A. Rossi Endowed Scholarship supports qualifying students majoring in mathematics.

St. Olaf alumnus Robert Rossi '68 in his office
Bob Rossi ’68 at his home in Vancouver, WA

Technologist Bob Rossi ’68 often realizes he’s been lucky. One morning nearly two years ago, he realized that this luck had a lot to do with the financial support and education he received at St. Olaf. In gratitude, Bob generously established an endowed scholarship for qualifying mathematics majors on the Hill.

The scholarship honors Otonas E. Stanaitis, a St. Olaf mathematics professor (1949-1972) who inspired Bob.

“I was always interested in math,” says Bob, “but Professor Stanaitis taught me how to think — his lectures were beautiful; they opened another world for me. Although my primary major was physics, I ended up adding mathematics simply because of Stanaitis and the other fabulous instructors at St. Olaf.”

Emily Schlieff ’17, a recipient of the Robert A. Rossi Endowed Scholarship, credits the aid she received as one of the most important factors in her ability to pursue her initial interest in math.

“Having the Rossi scholarship has definitely kept me on track in my math degree because I am reminded that someone wants me to be here working to get a higher education,” Schlieff says. “St. Olaf has given me a wonderful education, many lifelong friends, but most importantly four great years of memories.”

Growing up in Red Wing, Bob first came to the Hill for a grant-supported summer math and science course in high school. He worked alongside chemistry professor Allen Hanson who encouraged Bob to apply and helped him secure financial aid; Professor Hanson later became his advisor. “That $600 scholarship doesn’t seem much now, but it made the difference whether I could attend St. Olaf or not.”

Bob used his St. Olaf education throughout his fulfilling career in computer science — first running a large computer system as a naval officer, and then providing onsite support for a major computer company. This led to software development, including an intense project at the Kennedy Space Center for the Space Shuttle. Later Bob worked in management at Intel until he retired 18 years later. He still builds a computer every other year from scratch to keep up with new technology.

“I thought about all of this and realized I could afford to start paying it forward,” says Bob. “Maybe years from now, someone else will wake up some morning and realize how fortunate they have been.”