No one was surprised when Mary Massaron Ross left Marygrove to become a successful attorney known for her fine writing and strong arguments, least of all Dr. Barbara Johns, IHM, associate professor of English.
"When she was the student and we were the professors, she wrote better than any of us," Johns says. "Mary's extraordinary writing skills, were a factor in an award that she won in law school eight times, the American Jurisprudence Award for Highest Grade. I can only imagine the professors' pleasure when they encountered Mary's cogent, graceful prose fully capturing the finer points of the rules of evidence."
After graduating summa cum laude from Marygrove College in 1982, Ross attended law school at Wayne State University, graduating summa cum laude in 1990.
Currently a shareholder at Plunkett & Cooney, she is head of the firm's appellate practice group. She has won numerous victories before the Michigan Supreme Court, and she briefed and argued cases before the Michigan Court of Appeals, the California Court of Appeals and federal appellate courts. A former law clerk to Associate Judge Patricia J. Boyle of the Michigan Supreme Court, she has over 40 published opinions to her credit.
Ross has chaired the appellate practice section of the State Bar of Michigan and is a past chair of the Defense Research Institute's Appellate Advisory Committee. She co-chairs the Michigan Appellate Bench Bar Conference Foundation, an organization of Michigan appellate judges and lawyers. She also serves as a member of the American Bar Association (ABA) Standing Committee on Amicus Curiae Briefs, the five-member committee that oversees preparation of ABA briefs for filing in the United States Supreme Court and other courts.
Michigan Lawyers Weekly named Ross as one of its 2002 Lawyers of the Year. She received the Michigan Municipal League's Distinguished Achievement Award in 2003.
Ross is proud of having raised two bright, self-confident, happy children, and having contributed to raising two stepchildren. "My professional accomplishments are hugely satisfying," she said, "but at the end of the day, I value my family the most.
"The professors at Marygrove took a personal interest in their students, fostered their development, and treated their dreams and ambitions seriously," Ross says. "Marygrove gave me the confidence and courage to set my goals high and to believe that I could excel."
But those professors are reluctant to take credit for her talent and success. "Mary never believes me when I say she could have gone directly to law school from Immaculata High School, perhaps skipping Marygrove altogether," says Johns. "Of course, we would then not be able to take any credit for her intelligent, analytical, clear-thinking, metaphorical approach to every task she takes up. "From 1982 until I stopped teaching in 1999, I used Mary's final exams as models of clarity in every single class I taught," Johns continues. "I must have run hundreds of copies of her old bluebooks over the years."
"I believe that we are fortunate to live in a country under the rule of law, with a constitutional structure that was brilliantly conceived and has served us well," says Ross. "I have tried to continuously develop my own skills as an advocate and scholar of the law. I have also sought to improve the quality of appellate advocates and appellate judges by writing about the process, and serving on task forces and committees to try to improve the process.
"I believe that doing challenging work at the highest level of which you are capable can provide fulfillment and meaning," she continued. "Work can be a kind of salvation, if it is the right kind."