Noted author John F. Ross ’81 received the first annual Fort Ticonderoga Prize for Contributions to American History on March 4. After a national search and in a unanimous vote, the trustees selected Ross for his broad contributions to 18th-century military scholarship with his book War on the Run: The Epic Story of Robert Rogers and the Conquest of America’s First Frontier (Random House 2009), which explores the exploits Major Robert Rogers.
Speaking at the ceremony, Ross said, “When I started a book on the 18th century warrior hero Robert Rogers, I realized what I had been looking for all my life was lying right under my nose—narrating and interpreting the rich themes of our past. Robert Rogers was the greatest of ranger leaders and creator of special operations. Modern rangers still must master his amazingly concentrated 28 rules of woods fighting. His ground zero was Fort Ticonderoga, key to the geo-strategy of North America. Today our men slip off to Afghanistan and many unnamed places with Robert Rogers by their side.”
In his research for War on the Run, Ross walked and kayaked many parts of Rogers’ tracks, much of them around Fort Ticonderoga, giving him on-the-ground knowledge and insight with which to bring Rogers’ experiences to life.
In addition, Ross was also praised for making America’s history accessible through his work as the executive editor of American Heritage Magazine. In a Fort Ticonderoga press release Peter Paine, president of the Fort Ticonderoga Board of Directors, is quoted as saying, “John F. Ross is a scholar who understands the importance of bringing history, observation, and experience together when seeking to understand the past.”
Additionally, Ross is executive editor of Invention and Technology and was previously a senior editor for Smithsonian magazine. He has published more than 200 articles and spoken at the Explorers Club of New York, the Smithsonian Institution, and NASA’s Ames Research Center.
While on research assignments, he has chronicled adventure around the world: chasing scorpions in Baja, diving 3,000 feet underwater in a submersible off the Galapagos, dog sledding with the polar Inuit in Greenland, living with the Khanty reindeer herders in Siberia and launching the northernmost canoe trip ever in the Canadian Arctic.
At Wesleyan, Ross majored in history. He is also the author of The Polar Bear Strategy: Reflections on Risk in Modern Life (Basic Books, 1999).