University honors leadership, service, and friendship of Capt. Ross A. Reynolds ’17

May 21, 2024
By: Deborah Alvarez O'Neil

The sun shone brightly on the morning of May 11 as family, friends, classmates, faculty, fellow service members, and community leaders gathered at Worcester State University to celebrate the life of U.S. Marine Corps. Captain Ross A. Reynolds ’17.

The event marked the dedication of the university’s new Capt. Ross A. Reynolds Memorial Fountain and the awarding of the first Captain Ross A. Reynolds ’17 Memorial Presidential Leadership Award. A beloved alumnus, Reynolds was a magna cum laude graduate, Presidential Student Ambassador (PSA), NROTC member, and recipient of multiple student leadership awards during his years at Worcester State.

The plaza, with a two-tiered kettle fountain, was designed to serve as a meditative space and an inspiration for future generations. Engraved around the fountain are the qualities that Reynolds embodied and brought out in others: Leadership, Inspiration, Teamwork, Ambition, Bravery, Community, Excellence, Honor, Service, and Dedication.

Captain Ross A. Reynolds ’17

The ceremony began with a Presentation of Colors by the Holy Cross NROTC’s Battalion Color Guard and was followed by speakers who shared warm and sometimes humorous memories, reflections on Reynolds’s hard work and dedication, and a tribute to his service to his country. Guests of honor in the audience of 200 included Reynolds’s parents Scott and Catherine Reynolds, his sister Nicole Bilotta and her family, and his wife Lana Reynolds.

“We are humbled to have this opportunity to honor our friend and alumnus, Captain Ross Reynolds, and we join together today to celebrate Ross’s indelible impact as a friend and leader,” said Thomas McNamara ’94, the vice president of University Advancement. “Ross was clearly one of those exceptional individuals who is impossible to forget. While a student here, he exemplified the art of giving back through daily interactions of kindness and enthusiasm, always the first to step in and help, no matter the task. He continued nurturing enduring bonds with friends, faculty, and staff long after graduation.”

President Barry Maloney also got to know Reynolds well, both through the Presidential Student Ambassador program in his office and through a new university travel program to Ireland. Reynolds, he said, became a skilled ambassador for the university, dining and speaking with people in power with ease. Maloney recalled how it was Reynolds who helped to define the role students would play during these trips.

“We had no template for the role the students would play–and, it turned out, because of Ross, it wasn’t necessary. He simply filled in the gaps,” Maloney said. “If he wasn’t sure, he’d ask. That displayed an uncommon confidence in someone so young.”

Reynolds, Maloney said, had a gracious and easy way of moving through the world. “While he often made it to the front of the line, he never elbowed his way there.”

Just weeks before Reynolds, an Osprey pilot, tragically died in 2022 in a training exercise in Norway, he stopped by the President’s Office and chatted with the office staff with obvious excitement about all that was happening in his life. Maloney was away that day, but he said the visit was an example of how Reynolds prioritized personal connection. “I was pleased that those of us he came to know through the PSA program remained important to him,” Maloney said. “Ross will always hold a place in my heart.”

Fellow PSA member Madison Barron Welch ’17 first met Reynolds in their first-year seminar, and they both lived in Dowden Hall. “Together, we navigated the whirlwind of events, both on and off campus,” she said. “Ross’s humor and positivity were like beacons of light amidst the chaos of college life. But it wasn’t all work; we knew how to have fun too! Ross was always up for an adventure, ensuring everyone felt included and uplifted.”

The PSA program, she said, brought them together, but Reynolds took it a step further. “He had a gift for keeping connections alive, reaching out with a helping hand or a heartfelt check-in, long after graduation. That’s what made our friendship so special – it endured, effortlessly picking up where it left off, a testament to Ross’s loyalty and warmth.”

Capt. Kory Fitzpatrick ’16, a Marine Officer Instructor at the College of the Holy Cross, shared his memories of Reynolds’s development as a military officer and his service to the country. Fitzpatrick was Captain Reynolds’s Commissioning Officer in 2017 and was the officer who promoted Ross to captain. They met during Reynolds’s freshman year when he was a new midshipman in the crusader battalion. Fitzpatrick says he pushed Reynolds, “because we all felt like we needed to be the best, and he was next in line to hold the legacy that comes with being a Woo State Marine.”

Over the years, they built a friendship, initially with Fitzpatrick as his mentor. “He was always trying to prove that he had what it takes, and I was always there to let him know it might take a little more, but if I am being completely honest, it was Ross that kept pushing me to do more,” Fitzpatrick said. “See, that was how Ross was, he somehow had an infectious work ethic that would get everyone to give just a little bit more of themselves every day.”

Reynolds, he said, went on to become a member of an elite group of Marine Corps pilots selected to fly Osprey. “Ross had made it; he had accomplished his childhood dream of becoming a pilot in the United States Marine Corps,” Fitzpatrick said.

The new memorial fountain, Fitzpatrick said, “is a perfect tribute to him. Every kid that throws in a coin and makes a wish or a dream can know that, if you believe in yourself like Ross did, you can truly achieve all of your dreams and aspirations just like he did.”

In 2022, a group of staff members at Worcester State who knew Reynolds established a leadership award in his name. Since then, hundreds of individuals have donated to the award, and the Leominster Credit Union recently gave a gift that fully endows the award in perpetuity. With Reynolds’s parents, his wife and sister, President Maloney presented the inaugural Captain Ross A. Reynolds ’17 Memorial Presidential Leadership Award at the dedication event to Honors student and Presidential Student Ambassador Jessica Rancourt, a senior majoring in psychology with a concentration in mental health services and a minor in human development. After graduation, she is attending Merrimack College to earn a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling. “Like Ross, Jessica draws others in and is a natural leader,” Maloney said. “It seems any group she is involved with, she rises to the top.”

To close the celebration, Reynolds’s mother, Catherine Reynolds, offered words of gratitude. “We can clearly see, and feel the love the WSU community has for him,” she said. “We hope this fountain brings not only a place for peace and reflection but also inspires each and every person to be the best they can be.”

Dedication photos by Matt Wright ’10.

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