Donald Ross, 1943-2022

Congressional Record

The Senate remembers Donald Ross.

Washington Post

Donald K. Ross, one of consumer advocate Ralph Nader’s early associates who was an architect of the country’s first student-run public interest groups, and who later directed the Rockefeller Family Fund and led efforts to reform the juvenile justice system, died May 14 at a nursing facility in Salisbury, Conn. He was 78.

NY Times

Donald K. Ross, who as an innovative and pragmatic public interest lawyer and philanthropist galvanized a generation of jaded students into doing good, died on Saturday at a nursing home in Salisbury, Conn. He was 78.

Times Union

Donald K. Ross, a partner in the Malkin & Ross lobbying firm and a co-founder and former leader of NYPIRG and its many national affiliates, passed away last weekend after a brief illness.


This week marked the passing of a great American, Donald K. Ross. Donald was a life-long activist, a former Nader’s Raider who helped develop the network of Public Interest Research groups (PIRGs) and was a pioneering philanthropist. He directed fundraising to help spawn a host of citizen groups dedicated to government accountability, justice reform, and environmentalism – one of which was PEER.

Tri Corner News

LAKEVILLE — Donald Kemp Ross, 78, of Lakeville, died on Saturday, May 14, 2022, at Noble Horizons after several weeks in hospitals to diagnose a rare form of lymphoma.

It was a marathon day of thirty-minute interviews in 1970. Little did I think we were selecting recent law school graduates who would become, over a lifetime, civic leaders of historical significance in producing major changes for a more just and safe society.


Donald Ross, NYPIRG’s first executive director, passed away on May 14, 2022. One of the original “Nader’s Raiders,” Donald was the “father” of the Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs). It was Donald’s genius to see that a better world could be created by harnessing the energy, idealism, and smarts of college students. Not only could public policies be improved, but the experience of civic engagement would make these younger adults better citizens. Donald’s book, “Action for a Change” offered a blueprint for college student activism, with a formula that focused on accomplishments, bite-sized policy victories that could cascade into fundamental changes in governance. His book soon led to the establishment of dozens of PIRGs in states across the country.

The Rockefeller Family Fund

The Rockefeller Family Fund mourns the passing of Donald K. Ross, who served as director of RFF from 1985 to 1999. Donald was RFF’s second director, and was the first public interest advocate hired to run a national foundation. As RFF’s director, his enthusiasm for advocacy and accountability led him to transform RFF from a private foundation to a public charity, enabling the organization to support and conduct more innovative advocacy work.


Once an institution exists, it’s easy to take it for granted and forget that there was a time when it didn’t exist – somebody created and built it.

In 1970, with the support of Ralph Nader, Donald Ross imagined and created something new and different for its time: state organizations of college students dedicated to practical idealism and a bite-sized approach to community problems. On campuses across the country in the grips of debate over who had the right analysis of the root causes of all the problems in the world, students answered Ross’s and Nader's simple call for “action for a change.” He named the organizations he started Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), and by 1973, there were PIRGs on dozens of campuses in 20 states.

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Donald K. Ross Links

The New York Times