The month marks the end of an era for Ross School as beloved Assistant Dean of Students Greg Drossel retires after 21 years of service to our community. Though education was the last field in which Greg expected to find himself, a series of chance encounters ultimately led him to Ross, a place that engaged many of his greatest interests.
As one of six children, Greg developed a love of nature during his family’s immersive camping trips, as well as excursions hunting and fishing with his father, grandfather, and uncles. Though he developed a keen interest in animals, Greg chose to pursue a liberal arts degree in hoping of building a career as a commercial artist. After stints in retail merchandising, entrepreneurship, and trucking, he connected with someone in leadership at Manorville’s Long Island Game Farm. He was offered a job based on his business acumen and mechanical experience, and before long, he was a key member of the game farm’s team.
Over the 18 years Greg worked at the game farm, he took part in a number of wild animal confiscations, working with law enforcement at the local, state, and federal levels to recover animals being illegally kept as pets. Among his finds were a pair of Egyptian monkeys loosed in an international airport and a mountain lion stashed in an apartment. He also raised upwards of 15 to 20 bear cubs, supporting them until they were strong enough to subsist only on solid food. Perhaps the most exciting part of his job was the opportunity to bring animals onto television news shows, as well as to handle them on film and television sets and in films.
A chance meeting with Ross School Founder Courtney Sale Ross, also an animal lover, brought Greg to the Ross campus in 1997. He first came to East Hampton as the school’s naturalist, spending five years in the role before being asked to become the Dean of Students. “I have to thank Mrs. Ross,” Greg said. “I did not have a formal education background, and she gave me this opportunity and I ran with it. I never had any idea that I’d spend 21 years in this field.”
No matter which role he is filling at Ross (and there have been several), Greg has found ways to introduce students to nature. He became a certified kayak instructor, took students on nature walks, leads the Young Naturalist program at Summer Camp @Ross, taught archery classes, and so much more. As a Senior Project mentor, he has guided students through cataloging the flora and fauna native to an East End park, helped a student learn how to train a falcon, and aided a student in building a beehive.
“People often ask me if there’s a difference between working with children and animals,” Greg said. “I can’t use control handles and dart guns on children, but then again, I’ve never been bitten by a student.”
With his retirement looming, Greg said he looks forward to spending more time with his family: his wife of nearly 43 years, Cathy; his two adult daughters Shannon, a fifth grade teacher at Ross, and Kelly, an executive producer at News 12; and his five young grandchildren, who are already well on their way to becoming young naturalists themselves. He also hopes to spend more time traveling, so he’s in no hurry to commit to any plans just yet.
“When I drive out of here, it’ll be the start of a new chapter,” Greg said. “I look forward to whatever is down the road—no pun intended.”