Amy Ross was born in La Crescenta, California on April 28, 1953, and grew up in nearby Glendale. Semi-rural and idyllic in its own way, Amy’s hometown was very limited for someone with a keen mind and a strong penchant for improving the world.
Amy also grew up in with a Jewish father – a fact she didn’t discover until she was 60 years old. Her father had changed his last name to hide his Jewish heritage. In spite of her parent’s conservative politics, Amy was radicalized as a teenager, joining protests against the Vietnam War. She was also a voracious reader – and Glendale was simply too small. Her first attempt at escape came via marriage to a man at 21. That didn’t work. Within four years, Amy was out on her own, ready to define her sexuality, her work, and her life.
Amy’s activism went from a spark to a blaze with the 1978 Briggs Initiative, which aimed to ban gay men and lesbians from working in California public schools. Thanks to the fervent efforts of queer men and women and their allies up and down the state, the Briggs Initiative was rejected by California voters. The Golden State would never be the same, and neither would Amy. After earning her BA from Cal State Fresno in 1980, she earned her Ph.D. in experimental pathology from USC in 1986. For more than 30 years, she worked primarily in the field of cancer diagnostics. She also used her scientific training to help develop early treatments against HIV/AIDS. Amy holds three patents in the United States, and she has contributed as author and co-author to over 75 scientific publications.
Amy has also worked tirelessly to advance the visibility and inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in the STEM professions. To this end, she and a group of colleagues formed the LA Gay Scientists, which evolved to become the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP). Amy also helped found the USC Lambda LGBT Alumni Association in 1992, the first of its kind in the university. In 2000, she endowed the Amy Ross Scholarship in LGBT Health Studies. In 2008, she was elected to the USC Alumni Association’s Board of Governors, and in 2015, she became the first out LGBTQ+ person elected to the USC Board of Trustees.
Amy’s partner of more than 30 years is UCLA distinguished psychology professor Connie Hammen. Although Connie is an internationally recognized researcher in the psychopathology of mood disorders, Amy jokes that her greatest ability is putting up with Amy herself.
Amy Ross has humor, warmth, and a steely determination to get things done for the good of humanity. When Covid-19 struck in March 2020, OUTWORDS had to figure out how to conduct virtual interviews. Ever the rational, objective scientist, Amy agreed to be our guinea pig. We are forever grateful for this, and for her decades of vigorous activism on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community.
Amy Ross, her great grandmother, her maternal grandmother, and her mother at Amy’s first birthday celebration, April 1954. She credits them as “very strong influences in [her] life.”Amy Ross, teaching her middle sister how to play baseball. She shares, “I was still a tomboy. My dad gave me my first Dodgers jersey when I was 10.”Amy Ross, age 3, with her first pair of boxing gloves. She shares, “Even at a young age, I was quite the tomboy. My dad called me his “boy-girl.”Amy Ross with her “two dearest friends” friends Christopher and his partner Stephen at their first 10K race, 1985. Amy shares, “Christopher and I dated in high school. He passed away from AIDS in 1987. Stephen also passed away three years later.”Amy Ross running in the first Los Angeles Marathon, 1986, Los Angeles, CA. She shares, “I started running marathons in 1983 when I turned 30 in the hopes that it would keep me young! Over the years I have run the LA Marathon four times, the New York City Marathon three times, and the San Francisco Marathon twice.”Amy Ross running in the first “Run for Gay Pride”, 1983, Los Angeles, CA. She shares, “I joined the Los Angeles Frontrunners in 1983. Frontrunners is a collection of LGBTQ running clubs worldwide. We derived our name from the Patricia Nell Warren novel The Frontrunner. Over the years, I served on the Frontrunners Board and as Vice President and President.”A graduation portrait of Amy Ross from the USC [University of Southern California] School of Medicine, where she earned her Ph.D. in Experimental
Pathology, 1986, Los Angeles, CA.Amy Ross lecturing at Peking Union Medical College, 1990, Dongcheng, Beijing, China. She shares, “During my Ph.D. studies, I developed an immunocytochemical method to identify viral proteins from opportunistic infections in the brains of people who succumbed to AIDS. As a result of that work, I was invited to join a group of U.S. and European pathologists who would travel to China to teach them our research methods.“Amy Ross with her friends and festival supporters George Takei and Mark Hamill at the USC Lambda/Don Thompson Film Festival, 2014, Los Angeles, CA. Amy shares, “In 1992, I joined fellow USC LGBTQ alumni to establish the USC Lambda Alumni Association. It was one of the first queer alumni groups at a major university. I was especially proud to establish the USC Lambda/Don Thompson Film Festival which features the films of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts student group “Queer Cut.” Over the years, we have raised a significant amount of money for scholarships for LGBTQ and ally students.”Amy Ross, partner Connie Hammen, and President Bill Clinton after his speech at USC, 2014, Los Angeles, CA.Amy Ross hosting the USC Alumni Association Awards Gala, 2015, Los Angeles, CA. She shares, “As President of the USC Alumni Association Board of Governors from 2014-2015, I was honored to host the Awards Gala. This annual event honors our very accomplished alumni.”Amy Ross and Dr. Carol L. Fol on the day of Dr. Folt’s inauguration as the 12th President of USC, September 2019, Los Angeles, CA. Amy shares, “As a University Trustee, our highest honor is selecting a President. I have served as a USC Trustee since 2015.” Amy Ross with her Mom at Amy’s 60th birthday celebration at their favorite bistro in Paris. Amy shares, “Travel has always been a very important part of my life. To celebrate my 60th birthday, I lived in Paris for a month. Mom continues to be my best friend and we travel the world together. She will be 92 in July 2020, and is still going strong. She inspires me everyday.”Amy Ross and her Dad.Amy Ross and her partner Connie Hammen. Amy shares, “Connie is a world-renowned professor of psychology at UCLA. We will celebrate 30 years together in July, 2020.”
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