BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State University alumnus John Thomas Roos ’84 is a recipient of the university’s 2022 Outstanding Service Award, which recognizes individuals for their exceptional service to App State.
Born in Saugerties, New York, and raised in Cary, Roos received his degree in advertising from App State in 1984. During his 22-year career with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, Roos began giving back to his alma mater by serving on multiple advisory boards and through student mentorship.
Watch this video to learn more about Roos and why he received App State’s Outstanding Service Award.
John Roos: How did I come to choose Appalachian? Well, the story begins at birth, really. I was born in New York. There was the Catskill Mountains … a town with Saugerties, New York, a very small town. The Catskills are in the same mountain range as the Blue Ridge Mountains. And so, I grew up in an area that looked and felt a lot like Boone.
JR: So my journey to Boone continues. In 1976, my dad moved the family to Cary, North Carolina. He worked for IBM, which, as many people have heard is “I’ve been moved.” So we moved to Cary. In our junior year, I met my future wife, Tracy. So, yes, we are high school sweethearts.
JR: So fast-forward to the following year, we decide it’s time to go to college. And back then, you didn’t really visit colleges, you just had a college catalog. And I saw one from Appalachian and pulled it off the shelf. Looking through it, I decided, hey, this has got a lot of what I’m interested in. It’s got mountains. It’s got skiing as an actual class, which sounded amazing. It was meant to be. So that’s how I applied at Appalachian. My wife also went to Appalachian. And as she tells the story, she had decided to go to App long before she ever met me. As I tell the story, no, in fact, she followed me. So we both were accepted to Appalachian … Tracy by a mile, me by probably just above the cut line.
JR: So I decided to major in communications. I always wanted to go into advertising, major in advertising, and that’s how I ended up being a communications major. Picked up a marketing minor and an English minor while I was at it. And after a dismal freshman academic year, I somehow rebounded, things clicked and I actually learned a heck of a lot about business and marketing and advertising. We both graduated in May 1984, and we were married that December. So yes, Appalachian is a big part of why I succeeded in business. But the real reason is my wife, Tracy. She was always there with her love, her support. I kiddingly call her “my focus group of one” because she gives me feedback and also sets me straight when I need it.
JR: And then upon graduation, I got out and went to the want ads. This is back when we had newspapers. And I saw this ad for sales and “earn cash” and got a job, a position selling long discount, long distance. This was right when the Bell System broke up. From that, that parlayed into a few other jobs. I ended up with a startup health insurance company in North Carolina. Eventually in 1998, I got my position at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. I had responsibility for sales and for marketing and communications … sound familiar to my training from Appalachian? I had a great run. We grew the company and I had a great partnership with colleges and universities across North Carolina, but in particular Appalachian.
JR: So I got actively involved with Appalachian in a service role right after I got to Blue Cross in 1998, so, you know, 20-plus years. I started out in the Insurance Advisory Board, which makes sense since we were an insurance company. From there, I moved to the College of Business Advisory Board, and in 2010 Appalachian formed the College of Health Sciences and I was honored to be asked to be on that advisory board. So we’ve come a long way since 2010. Amazing Levine building for the College of Health Sciences. A world-class dean, Marie Huff. Our faculty is outstanding. What’s awesome about the College of Health Sciences is each and every semester we’re graduating more health professionals to serve North Carolinians across our great state.
JR: So after 22 years I retired in December of 2020 and now my full-time job is papa … eight grandchildren, one on the way. We all live close to each other in Cary, and we consider that an incredible blessing. So in addition to full-time papa, my other passion would be golf. Many years at it, I’m still lousy. In fact, years ago, I made the pilgrimage to the Old Course, to Scotland, and there’s a photo I have, which my college roommate, Bill Cosell and I are both sporting black and gold tartans on the bridge at St Andrew’s.
JR: So the idea of giving back to the communities in which you live, for me, started at a very, very young age. My dad was a volunteer at church, a lector. My mom was always volunteering at school and at church. So at a young age, the idea of giving back took hold, and so I like to think that that’s what propelled me throughout my life to do the same.
JR: You know, receiving this award is just incredibly humbling and I’m just so honored by it, to be selected. You know, having the opportunity to be a part of the Appalachian Family and to have the opportunity over the past many years to give back to the university that gave so much to me, it just means everything. You know, I like to think that through the work we’ve done over the years that just Appalachian’s in an even better place to serve the needs of today’s students and those in the future.
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About the College of Fine and Applied Arts
Appalachian State University’s College of Fine and Applied Arts is a dynamic and innovative group of seven academic departments, bringing together a variety of perspectives, experiences and real-world education to provide unique opportunities for student success. The college has more than 3,000 undergraduate and graduate majors. Its departments are Applied Design, Art, Communication, Military Science and Leadership, Sustainable Development, Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment, and Theatre and Dance. Learn more at https://faa.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the Southeast, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls nearly 21,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.