FAYETTEVILLE – Amassing an impressively versatile career spanning athletics at the University of Arkansas, academics as President of Arkansas State University and public service under Republican President Dwight Eisenhower and Democrat President John F. Kennedy, Ross Pritchard died at 95 on July 8 in Fayetteville.
A native of Paterson, N.J., Pritchard came to Arkansas via Navy Officers Training School in Iowa.
George Cole, the 1942 Arkansas head football coach and one of four serving as the Razorbacks football coach during World War II, coached Pritchard in football and track on the Navy base teams.
Pritchard had not played football until his Navy tenure.
A former Razorbacks star and noted eye for talent who would return to the UA in a variety of coaching and administrative capacities including eventually athletic director, Cole was so impressed with Pritchard’s speed that with the war over and Pritchard’s enlistment up he convinced Pritchard to come to the UA and play football under new Athletic Director-Coach John Barnhill and run track.
Irene Pritchard, Ross’ daughter living in Fayetteville, said her father told her the Navy and especially Arkansas changed his life.
“He always said playing at the University and for Barnhill put him on the right path for what he wanted to do,” Irene Pritchard said. “And if he hadn’t had that experience who knows what would have happened?”
Ross Pritchard blossomed physically and academically. He grew from the 17-year-old, 5-6, 130 Navy enlistee to 5-11, 170 to letter as a Razorbacks wingback from 1946-48. Pritchard was the backup to Razorbacks legend Clyde Scott on Barnhill’s 1946 Southwest Conference champions and lettered for Otis Douglas’ 1950 Razorbacks after missing the 1949 season with a broken leg. Pritchard also earned four UA track letters as a sprinter.
The Washington Redskins drafted Pritchard for his speed but Pritchard quickly realized the increasing size that increased his collegiate football value wasn’t going to translate in the NFL.
“He said,” Irene Pritchard said her father told her, “I saw those player and I realized this would not be an option. I would be dead.”
A 1951 political science UA graduate, Pritchard pursued his masters and doctorate in international economics at the distinguished Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Medford, Mass.
As a teacher and football and track coach, Pritchard joined the faculty at Southwestern (now Rhodes) College in Memphis and established its department of international studies.
After an unsuccessful campaign for Congress in 1962 in Tennessee, Pritchard, who had served as co-chairman of the Regional Export Expansion Committee from 1958-60 under Eisenhower and from 1961-62 under Kennedy and on Kennedy’s National Executive Committee on Foreign Aid from in 1961-62, Pritchard became a Special Assistant to the Director of the Peace Corps. Pritchard later was appointed Peace Corps Director in Turkey, then Regional Peace Corps Director in East Asia and in 1968 joined the Development and Resource Corporation as Resident Manager in Iran.
Pritchard returned to the U.S in 1972 as President of Hood College in Frederick, Md. then served as President of Arkansas State University from 1975-1978 and finally as Chancellor of the University of Denver from 1978-84.
At Arkansas State, “Pritchard made great strides in recruiting minority students and faculty,” it is noted on ASU’s History and Heritage website.
While ASU’s president, Pritchard in 1976 was NCAA honored with its Silver Anniversary Award. Each year the NCAA honors six on their 25th anniversary of graduation for a combination of athletic, academic, professional and civic and charitable achievements and contributions.