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Madeline Ross ’78 Followed the Heartbeat of the Streets as an Atlantic City Police Officer

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Madeline Ross '78 (No. 24) played basketball during her Keuka College career. She was inducted into the Dr. Arthur F. Kirk, Jr. Athletics Hall of Fame in 2006.

EDITOR’S NOTE: To commemorate National Police Week (May 12-18), we’re sharing profiles of members of the College community who have dedicated themselves to fighting crime, helping people get a second chance, and keeping our neighborhoods safe.

Madeline Ross ’78 spent her career in the criminal justice system and was often required to appear in court. But her connection to Keuka College stems from a court of a different kind.

The first person from Keuka College that Madeline met was Harold Gray, who coached women’s basketball from 1973-82. 

“I happened to be in Philadelphia and decided to go to a college fair,” says Madeline, who hails from Atlantic City, N.J. “I saw Harold Gray was representing Keuka College. That is also where I learned he was a Jersey boy.” 

It was the first of many conversations between the two.

Madeline would go on to play basketball under Coach Gray—and play well! A four-year member of the women’s basketball team, Madeline was a team captain and All-American. She ended her career with 1,165 points, No. 5 on Keuka College’s all-time list at the time. She also grabbed 718 rebounds, No. 4 on Keuka College’s all-time list, and made 522 field goals, also No. 4. 

She even took part in one of the most memorable games in KC women’s basketball history: The then-Lakesiders’ 65-64 David-vs.-Goliath win over powerhouse Syracuse University in 1978.

She was inducted in the Dr. Arthur F. Kirk, Jr. Athletics Hall of Fame in 2006. (Coach Gray followed a year later.)

“I really enjoyed my time at Keuka College. It was one of the best experiences of my life,” says Madeline, who, through a student-initiated major, earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and political science. “Being at Keuka College was the greatest.”

FROM BASKETBALL TO A BADGE

After graduation, Madeline returned to Atlantic City, joined the police force, and kept tabs on the pulse of the city. During her more than two decades on the force, Madeline walked the beat, went undercover as a “lady of the evening” to ferret out drug dealers on the street, served on the mayor’s protective detail, and was involved in juvenile investigations.

In addition, she holds the distinction of becoming the first female K9 police officer on the East Coast in 1983.

“They thought I would be a good candidate for the K9 unit, and it gave me elite status with the police,” she says. “It was strenuous work for both the dog and the handler. We went through 21 weeks of training, completed regular in-service training, and had to be certified each year.I had two dogs during my time, Hans, who competed in the K9 trials, and Sir, who was a rescue from death row in a shelter in Pennsylvania.” 

In fact, Madeline says most K9 dogs were from shelters. She says they had to pass a compatibility test, and while Sir was a bit high-strung, he passed the tests with flying colors. 

Thanks to her Keuka College education, Madeline believes she was prepared for all areas of police work she covered.

“Thinking quickly is a very important part of being a police officer, and the greatest prep I received at the College was the ability to think on my feet,” says Madeline.

Looking back over her career, Madeline, who retired as a detective, has some advice when it comes to being a police officer.

“Criminal justice covers a whole lot,” she says. “In law enforcement, particularly in the world we live in, you have to do a lot of soul searching. The job is not lucrative, it’s dangerous at times, and you must be a people person—especially in these tough times with police officers often being in the news, and not in the best light.”

NEW CHAPTERS

It was serious business, she says, but she enjoyed her job most of the time.

“The best part of the job was that I really got to help somebody, and make a difference in their lives,” says Madeline. “That made the other parts worthwhile. Being a police officer meant I was a visible part of the government. I dealt with all kinds of people, good, bad, ugly, indifferent … and how I conducted myself was a reflection of the government.” 

It was also not without personal risk.

“Your day can go from zero-to-60 in a heartbeat,” she says. “I was injured on job, and suffered a debilitating hand and arm injury, which led to the end of my career. But I am fortunate to be alive. You can’t take the routine for granted, and it was a long road to recovery, but I’m still standing.” 

As part of her recovery, she went to occupational therapy, where she rolled coils of clay. This helped her regain strength and dexterity in her hands. After completing her therapy, she took it a step further, and is now an avid pottery maker.

Madeline is also an avid biker, and was part of the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club for seven years. The club is named for the historic African-American U.S. Army regiments known as Buffalo Soldiers. The majority of the club’s membership is African-American, and most are current or former service members or law enforcement veterans.It is one of the largest African-Americanmotorcycle clubs in the country, boasting more than 2,000 members nationwide.

“I’ve got three bikes,” she says, “and life is better on a motorcycle.”

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