Patricia Ross knows a thing or two about the casino business. She was just six months old when her parents moved the family to Las Vegas in pursuit of casino work, and she would later marry casino executive Thomas Ross.
But when her son David launched his career at the Barbary Coast in the 1980s, Patricia sensed the industry was changing. So much so that she recalls urging him to consider college: “I said, ‘Take a class… start somewhere.’”
David was understandably hesitant to commit to school full time given his quick rise through the ranks under mentor and casino mogul Michael Gaughan. “I was making good money as a pit boss/assistant shift supervisor,” he says. “Mr. Gaughan allowed me to participate in a management development/training program that would be the cornerstone of my practical experience.”
Ultimately, David followed his mothers’ advice and enrolled at UNLV while continuing to work. “I was able to bring a lot of work experience to my education, which was helpful,” he says.
Part of David’s inspiration came from his mother’s belated college run.
“I had an empty-nest feeling after the kids left,” Patricia says, “so I enrolled in one community college class, then two, and then I decided to transfer to UNLV.” The former stay-at-home mom went on to graduate from the UNLV College of Education, teach elementary school, and return to UNLV for her master’s at the age of 50. David followed with his master’s degree in 2005.
Now a third-generation Ross — David’s daughter, Rebecca — is carving out her own path at UNLV. “My dad is a genius when it comes to casinos,” says the hospitality management major, “but I want to focus on hotel operations.” Between studying, interning at the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa, and working at the J.W. Marriott, Rebecca is well on her way.
A proud father, David Ross says the family wouldn’t trade their collective UNLV experience for anything. “We believe in education,” says David Ross, who continued to climb the corporate ladder at several Coast properties before starting his own consulting company. ““It’s what you need to compete in a global economy.”
You can’t beat a mother’s advice.