About 7,500 students will graduate from The University of Texas at Austin at the 128th spring commencement this Saturday, May 21. Each graduate has a unique story. To celebrate the Class of 2011, we're highlighting 10 stories, profiling students who have overcome obstacles, discovered new dimensions and doggedly pursued their academic goals.
If words like smack down, hiplock, mule kick, lateral toss, arm chop and front head shuck have been part of your profession's vocabulary, it's safe to say deciding to become a nurse is going in a different direction. Needing a nurse, not that big a stretch.
But Jay Ross, a member of the former World Championship Wrestling (WCW) organization who went by "Blitzkrieg" or "Fabulous Blitzkrieg," sees no problems in the transition ahead.
Ross, 34, is graduating from the School of Nursing in May.
On his road to becoming a nurse, Ross also was an acrobat, a massage therapist, a yoga instructor, a roofer and a journeyman building reservoirs and excavating dams in Southern California. He advocated for several causes, including "Food Not Bombs" and "Homes Not Jails. " For several months, Ross participated in a Mojave Desert sit-in that eventually stopped a proposal to make part of the area a nuclear waste dump.
If Ross had stayed with the WCW, he would have probably been a millionaire by age 30.
His injuries, however, were numerous one of the reasons he stopped. He remembers, for example, doing a "skytwisting spring board moonsault" (a back flip off the ropes onto his opponent) at a show in Japan. Instead of his opponent properly catching him Ross landed head first onto concrete and ended up in the hospital with a concussion.
Raised a Catholic, Ross became a Buddhist after immersing himself in the readings of Siddhartha Gautama.
"In Buddhism, we refer to people who compassionately act on others' behalf as bodhisattvas," Ross said. "I see nursing as true bodhisattva work."
Eight years ago, Ross began raising a toddler when a friend was no longer able to care for him. The boy will be 10 in June.
The real value to society, he said, "is in its countless, nameless men and women in various health services and teaching professions. I prefer to be in the company of health care professionals at this point in my life."
As a nursing student, Ross says he has seen people at their most vulnerable.
"It is a very privileged position to be in," he said. "You can really demonstrate unique human behavior by showing compassion and sincere caring. I believe this kind of behavior can be contagious."
For his senior year internship, Ross is working at Dell Children's Medical Center. He loves pediatrics and will probably go back and earn an advanced practice nursing degree perhaps become an anesthesia nurse, pediatric nurse practitioner or some type of family nurse practitioner.
"People trust that nurses are competently and sincerely advocating for them," said Ross. "I can't say that about anything else I've done."
Entertainment like professional wrestling can be good medicine, he said, because it "de-stresses people, but nursing provides well being, which is beyond comparison.
"The biggest difference in the two fields is that on stage you have to do big things to get a reaction. But, with a patient, something as small as offering a towel can have a big impact."
Watch a WCW video of Jay Ross as "Blitzkrieg." (The video opens in a new window on YouTube.)