Mason Welch Gross

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Mason Welch Gross
Born June 11, 1911
Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.
Died October 11, 1977(1977-10-11) (aged 66)
Riverview Hospital
Red Bank, New Jersey, U.S.
Education Jesus College, Cambridge
Harvard University
Title President of Rutgers University
Term 1959–1971
Predecessor Lewis Webster Jones
Successor Edward Bloustein
Spouse(s) Julia Kernan
Children Ellen Clarissa Gross
Katharine Wood Gross
Charles Welles Gross
Thomas Welch Gross
Parent(s) Hilda Frances Welch (c1880-1962)
Charles Welles Gross (1877-1957)

Mason Welch Gross (June 11, 1911 – October 11, 1977) was an American television quiz show personality and academic who served as the sixteenth President of Rutgers University, serving from 1959 to 1971.


He was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1911 to Hilda Frances Welch (c. 1880-1962) and Charles Welles Gross (1877–1957). He had two siblings: Spencer Gross (1906–1982) and Cornelia Gross (1914-?). Charles Gross was an attorney.[1] Mason started in the Hartford public grade school system and two years at Hartford High School. He then entered the Taft School, a preparatory school in Watertown, Connecticut in 1925. In 1927 he became ill following his inoculation for scarlet fever. He missed a year of school and spent part of the year at a ranch belonging to his mother's cousin in Arizona.

Mason earned his Bachelor of Arts in 1934; and Master of Arts degree in classics in 1937, at Jesus College, University of Cambridge. While there he rowed under the legendary Steve Fairbairn.[2]

He returned to the United States and studied at Harvard University under Alfred North Whitehead, earning his PhD in 1938. He taught at Columbia University from 1938 to 1942, where he met Julia Kernan, a Vassar graduate, and they married on September 6, 1940. They had four children together: Ellen Clarissa Gross who married Frank A. Miles, Katharine Wood Gross who married Clayton H. Farnham, Charles Welles Gross, and Thomas Welch Gross.

He then served in World War II in the Army Intelligence Corps, and was assigned to a bomber group based in Italy. Gross earned the Bronze Star, and was later discharged as a Captain.

He then became Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Assistant to the Dean of Arts and Science at Rutgers University in 1946. In 1947 he was promoted to assistant dean and associate professor, and in 1949 was appointed to the newly created position of provost to take over the duties of the ailing Robert Clarkson Clothier who took a leave of absence. Clothier resigned his office in 1951 and Gross continued as provost under the newly appointed Lewis Webster Jones. He was then given the additional title of vice president in 1958. Jones resigned the presidency in August 1958, and in February 1959, Gross was chosen as president. On May 6, 1959, he became the sixteenth president of Rutgers University.

From 1949 to 1950 he was a panelist on the television quiz show, Think Fast. He was also a judge for the show, Two for the Money from 1952 to 1955. [1]

He oversaw large-scale development on all the University's campuses, including the development of Livingston College from the Army's former Camp Kilmer. Gross served during turbulent times with student protests over the Vietnam War which saw the Rutgers ROTC building burned, and race riots in nearby Newark, New Jersey in 1967.

During this time, Gross received recognition for refusing to dismiss Eugene Genovese, a professor who early during the Vietnam War publicly supported the Viet Cong and welcomed their victory in Southeast Asia. During his tenure Rutgers University acquired the Center of Alcohol Studies in 1962, formerly housed at Yale University since the 1920s, and established a medical school.

In 1971, after 25 years of service, 12 as the university president, he retired. He then became the director of the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and served until his death. At the time of his death, he was a resident of Rumson, New Jersey.

He died in Riverview Hospital in Red Bank, New Jersey, at age 66 in 1977.[3]


The School for the Creative and Performing Arts at Rutgers was renamed as the Mason Gross School of the Arts in 1979 in his honor.[4]

In 1980 Rutgers University Press published The Selected Speeches of Mason Welch Gross.



Board of directors[edit]


  • American Cancer Society
  • Mediation Board of New Jersey
  • National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges


  1. ^ Mason Gross; 1920 US Census; Hartford, Connecticut
  2. ^ p64 The Collected Speeches of Mason Welch Gross
  3. ^ Devlin, John C. (October 12, 1977). "Mason Welch Gross, Ex-Head of Rutgers. Led the University During a Time of Growth and Sharp Political Controversy Was 66.". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-09. Dr. Mason Welch Gross, president of Rutgers University from 1959 to 1971, died yesterday in Riverview Hospital, Red Bank, N.J., after a long illness. He was 66 years old and lived at 18 Monmouth Avenue, Rumson, N.J. 
  4. ^ History-Mason Gross School of the Arts, Retrieved 2010-11-28.
  • New York Times; August 8, 1954, Sunday; Dr. Mason Gross Judges Quiz Player's Answers. The quiet-spoken, scholarly gentleman seated adjacent to the Quizmaster on C. B. S. television's "Two for the Money" show is Dr. Mason Gross, Professor of Philosophy at Rutgers University, and a one-man television brain trust. ...
  • New York Times; February 28, 1959; Gross Named Rutgers President; Scholar Once a TV Personality; Arbiter of Quiz Show Joined Faculty in 1946. Taught Classes in Philosophy. Dr. Gross Named Head of Rutgers. Joint Announcement Noted as Speaker. New Brunswick, New Jersey, February 27, 1959; Dr. Mason W. Gross, a 47-year-old scholar, philosophy professor and former television personality, was named today as the sixteenth president of Rutgers University. ...
  • New York Times; May 7, 1959, Thursday; The new president of Rutgers University, Dr. Mason Welch Gross, is known on the campus at New Brunswick, New Jersey, as a man of unflagging ability. He has demonstrated it in many ways. ...

External links[edit]