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In Memoriam: Dr. William A. Gross

March 3, 2011

william-grossFormer UNM School of Engineering Dean Dr. William A. Gross passed away on Sunday, February 20, 2011 in Albuquerque, NM. Gross served as dean from 1974 – 1980 and as professor and dean emeritus from 1982 – 1999. Among his many achievements as dean were doubling enrollment, adding the Department of Computer Science, doubling research funding, and developing innovative programs to increase the number of Native American, Hispanic, and women engineers in the School of Engineering. “Bill was a great friend of the school,” says School of Engineering Interim Dean Arup Maji. “We will miss his guidance and wisdom.” 

While dean, Gross initiated and developed the political support to obtain a five year, multi-million legislature commitment for science and engineering equipment. He also obtained $4,300,000 in legislative support for the construction of a new Mechanical Engineering building. Under his leadership, NAPCOE (Native American Program in the College of Engineering), HEP (Hispanic Engineering Program), and the Engineering Program for Women were established, funded, and became part of national programs.

From 1980-1982, he took a leave of absence to work with Volunteers in Technical Assistance to advance the use of renewable energy in developing countries. Upon his return to UNM, he continued his support for renewable energy and education through creating a joint UNM-University of Khartoum graduate program and serving on solar energy boards in New Mexico.

Albuquerque entrepreneur Bill Miera says, “Dr. Gross had the wisdom to recognize the value of diversity to an organization. This includes the diversity of interdisciplinary collaborations. We worked collectively on the Da Vinci corner, which brought together colleges to highlight projects demonstrating the marriage of Engineering and Art”.

Gross was also instrumental in creating curricula beyond the traditional engineering disciplines, including an Entrepreneurial Engineering class for engineering students, working engineers, and scientists. “Taking Dr. Gross’ Entrepreneurial Engineering class at UNM not only opened my eyes to the possibilities of helping society through technology but also inspired me to start my own business,” says Miera. “I am thankful for knowing him and will remember him always.” Miera went on to establish Fiore Industries, now a $7.5 Million engineering and technology company.

Gross developed interdisciplinary courses with other UNM faculty, including “Technology and Culture” and “Technology and Social Change.” From 1982-1986, he was co-director of the New Mexico Technology Innovation Program at UNM, a combined College of Engineering and UNM School of Management program. “Bill’s personal breadth and diversity was evident in his contributions to UNM and to the community,” says Lem Hunter, another former student and local serial entrepreneur. “Not only was he an inspirational engineering professor, but he could tackle the intangibles of entrepreneurialism and business. I learned how integrity and technological advances can work together to make a profit and improve the condition of mankind.”

Prior to UNM, Gross spent two decades in industry, half as a corporate officer, and contributed to significant technological innovations. At Ampex, he managed a team of engineers that developed the fundamentals that made videotape recording feasible and affordable. At IBM, he worked with three others to develop the breakthrough technologies that made computer disk memories possible.

Gross has been recognized with many awards honoring his leadership as an innovator and educator. These include membership in the National Academy of Engineering (1996), Distinguished Alumnus College of Engineering University of California Berkeley and US Coast Guard Academy (1995 and 1997 respectively), Engineer of the Year, New Mexico Society of Professional Engineers (1991), Chief Manuelito Award of the Navajo Tribe (1982), Fellow ASME, IEEE, ASEE, and AAAS, Honorary Mention for the Paul Bartlett Re Peace Prize (2007) and New Mexico Solar Energy Association Lifetime Achievement Award (1998).

He is survived by his wife Sharon P. Gross, children Connie Jackson, Ellen Philo, Mark Gross and David Gross, thirteen grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

In lieu of flowers, gifts may be made to the UNM Foundation/William A. Gross Fund for Entrepreneurial Engineering. Checks should be mailed to the University of New Mexico School of Engineering Development Office c/o Susan Georgia-Centennial Engineering Center, MSCO1 1140, 1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque NM 87131-0001.

A memorial service will be held under the care of the Albuquerque Friends Meeting on Sunday, April 3, 2011 at 2:00 pm at the Monte Vista Christian Church, 3501 Campus Dr. NE, Albuquerque. Memories may be shared by going to and clicking on the Obituaries tab.