The Giveback

Robert Gross ’77

By Stefan Slater ’10
Photo by Robert Macaisa ’14

Gross understands that he was fortunate that his parents saw the value of his going to college. That’s why he has set up a scholarship at LMU for mechanical engineering students who are the first in their families to pursue a college degree.

 

First-generation students in LMU’s ACCESS program examine burrows of amphipods at El Segundo Beach in August 2015. Gross’ support helps students such as these who are the first in their families, as he was, to attend college.
About Robert Gross ’77
As this issue of LMU Magazine was to go to press, we learned of the unexpected passing of Bob Gross on Nov. 10, 2015, at his home in Walnut Creek, California. Bob was the first in his family to go to college. To help others enjoy the same opportunity, he and his wife, Cheryl, donated a scholarship fund for mechanical engineering students who are the first in their families to attend college. While editing this story, I called Bob to ask who mentored him at LMU. With no hesitation, he answered: James Foxworthy, Joe Callinan and Robert Ritter, names familiar to countless alumni who benefitted from them as he did. Bob’s obituary in the Contra Costa Times pointed out that he enjoyed developing future leaders. His legacy at LMU is testimony to that truth.—The Editor

Growing up in Avenal, California — a small town in California’s farming heartland that straddles the 5 Freeway midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco — Robert Gross ’77 started working at age 11.

Gross’ first jobs were in the fields around him where cows grazed and lettuce and tomatoes were raised. Amid crops, cattle and almond trees, Gross says, he learned the importance of a keen work ethic at a young age. “Through hard work, you can afford to do the things you want to do,” he says, adding that he used his well-earned money for his first big purchases before turning 15: a stereo, two motorcycles and pilot’s lessons.

He also learned another crucial lesson: “Working on the farms convinced me that I wanted to do something other than that,” he says. Gross’ plan for the future was simple. He wanted to become an engineer and work at the same company, Pacific Gas and Electric, that his father and grandfather had worked at for years. But in order to become an engineer, he needed to go to college — and he would be the first in his family to do so.

“I had my life planned out. And [going to college] was something that I knew that I needed to do,” he says. His parents were supportive, and they took out loans to help secure funding.

Gross enrolled at LMU. He had earned a pilot’s license in high school and spent a year in LMU’s AFROTC program. His eyesight, however, wasn’t good enough for the Air Force. But Gross stayed on. The university’s proximity to stellar music venues and its size — about as big as his hometown — earned points in his book. He also worked as an R.A. to help cover additional costs. Two weeks after graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering, he began working at PG&E. He spent the next 28 years with the company. Today, Gross is co-owner and executive vice president of Gas Transmission Systems and works on pipeline safety standards with gas utilities and pipeline operators. He lives in Walnut Creek, California.

Gross understands that he was fortunate that his parents saw the value of his going to college. That’s why he has set up a scholarship at LMU for mechanical engineering students who are the first in their families to pursue a college degree.

Throughout his life, Gross has believed that, with discipline and hard work, a person can achieve anything he or she wants — and he has Avenal to thank for that wisdom.

“You work hard and do the right things, and things will work out,” says Gross.

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