At age 75, Klein College alumnus Bertram W. Gross Jr., Ph.D., a retired professor and former chair of the Department of Communication Studies at Marshall University, died Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, in Huntington, West Virginia, of mantle cell lymphoma.
He was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Bertram Walter and Isabel Francis Gross, and grew up just four hours away in Bethlehem. He remained there, earning a bachelor's degree in political science from Lehigh University.
Gross earned his master's and Ph.D. in communication studies at Klein College in 1976. His specialty was public speaking and debate. At Lehigh he was a member of the debate team, and at Temple he served as the team's graduate advisor. During his time at Temple, he met his wife of 50 years, Kathleen. In 1978, Gross began working at Marshall University, coaching forensics and teaching speech and communication.
He took a great deal of pleasure in teaching, working with freshmen Yeager scholars and in his role as thesis advisor to graduate students. Gross was also the president of the Marshall Faculty Senate and a member of the University System of West Virginia's Board of Trustees. By the time he retired in 1997, he had achieved the position of chair of the Department of Communication Studies and, in 2004, received the Marshall University Distinguished Service Award.
But his passion expanded beyond academia into travel, music and sports. Gross was both a classical and barbershop singer, the president of the Kanawha Kordsmen chorus in Charleston and sang with the Main Attraction and Harmony Lane quartets. The Kordsmen named him Barbershopper of the Year in 2007.
He was also a sports fan and athlete, participating in local tennis tournaments, golfing and rooting for the Marshall, Lehigh and Temple's sports teams as well as the Phillies, the Eagles and the Flyers.
His life after retirement focused on volunteering for the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association to help children in abusive situations. He also spent that time traveling to 48 states, every continent and more than 30 countries, including Egypt, Norway and Australia.
He is survived by his wife, Kathleen Strange Gross; his children, David and Elizabeth Gross; and by his brothers and sister and their spouses, William and Anne Gross; Gary and Bonnie Gross; and Barbara and Bob Tommasone.