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Enthusiastic benefactor combines passion for UB with concern for the region
Story by Ilene Fleischmann; photo by Douglas Levere, BA ’89
Went to law school because his father thought his legal bills were too high. Married to Gretchen for 30 years. Served seven years as SUNY Trustee. On search committee that brought John B. Simpson to Buffalo—now on UB Foundation Investment Committee. Rode bicycle across U.S. to raise funds for the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo. Climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. No. 1 fundraiser for the Ride for Roswell. Newest challenge: helping to launch Read to Succeed Buffalo initiative.
Gordon Gross , JD ’55, makes things happen—in his own life, his career, the University at Buffalo and the wider Western New York community. For his many outstanding achievements and contributions, he will receive the 2010 Samuel P. Capen Award, the UB Alumni Association’s highest honor, in April.
“My mother often called me a cockeyed optimist,” laughs Gross, 78, who is semiretired as a senior partner in the Buffalo law firm Gross Shuman Brizdle & Gilfillan P.C. “But if you’re not an optimist, how do you see where success could be? I also see myself as a risk-taker and a salesman, because these ingredients are essential in successful ventures. For me, the cup is not just half–full, it’s usually overflowing.”
Early on, Gross says, “I realized I could sell things. When I started getting involved in community organizations, I was able to be creative in helping them raise money. I felt challenged by the opportunity to make a difference.” And he always challenged himself to give first before asking others to follow his lead.
The result has been an extraordinary record of philanthropy especially to UB and its Law School–and of catalyzing community support for important quality–of–life efforts in Western New York. It’s his deep concern for the health of this region that spurs Gross’ involvement in UB.
Gross and his wife, Gretchen, have long been among the university’s most generous benefactors. They made a $1 million gift to help fund the first endowed professorship in the university’s newly established Institute of Jewish Thought and Heritage. They are major donors to the Law School, and an O’Brian Hall classroom is named in their honor. Gross also gave a significant gift to the School of Dental Medicine, creating a dental student fund in memory of his brother, Alan Gross, PhD ’96, MS ’83 & BS ’52.
His support of UB, he says, is rooted in its economic potential. “The university is the No. 1 economic engine in Western New York,” he says passionately. “Not only is it an important employer, but it spawns new businesses and attracts people to the region. I’ve seen for quite some time that the university is the future of this community, and the most important thing we can do for the growth of the community is to help grow the university. It’s just that simple.”
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