Known for love of students, hockey, Gross dies at 68
Longtime biology professor Robert Gross, age 68, died suddenly from a heart attack on Sunday morning. He will be remembered for his giving nature, deep involvement in the Dartmouth community and successful academic career.

Working with undergraduates and graduate students in the molecular and cellular biology program, Gross taught at the College for 37 years, researching how genes are regulated. He was well known among students and colleagues for his love of ice hockey. Within 24 hours of moving to the Upper Valley in 1977, Gross bought season tickets to Dartmouth hockey games, recalled Bobbi Gross, his wife. “He loved it from the minute we got here,” she said. He developed a love of the sport at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He lacked a team to support at Johns Hopkins University, where he earned his doctorate, so Gross threw himself into hockey at Dartmouth. He became the first faculty advisor of the men’s hockey team. He showed up to every home game and post-game reception, said men’s hockey head coach Bob Gaudet ’81, who played on the team during Gross’s early years at the College. Gross developed and maintained a website for the Dartmouth men’s hockey team in the 1990s, before teams commonly had their own web presence, Gaudet said. Gross updated the site with team statistics and interviews with team members, even adding animated thrones on the web page when the team won two games in a weekend. “He was a great professor, a great person, a dear friend, who just gave so much of himself,” Gaudet said. Gross’s balance of time with the hockey team, his scientific work and his family life was exceptional, Gaudet said. “Even though he was a high-level professor, guys on our team got to know him on a personal basis as a good person, a good man,” Gaudet said. “This is a guy that would drop anything to support students at Dartmouth, not just student-athletes, not just hockey players.” Whether he taught non-majors in a class on genes and society or engaged with biology majors in his research on RNA splicing and computational biology, Gross loved working with students, his wife said. “He oftentimes came home and mentioned how special his students were and how much he learned from them, too,” she said. Gross was a dedicated professor, said Iris Yu ’14, another student of his. “He genuinely cared about his students, pushed us to challenge ourselves and was always available to help,” she said in an email. Gross was an avid outdoor photographer, documenting his trips to Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park and Acadia National Park. His favorite photographs were of the leaves changing in the fall, his wife said. In a meeting with Gross earlier this term, Yu said that she and another student saw his photos of Yellowstone and launched into a long conversation about the biology of the park’s hot springs and photographic encounters with moose. At Dartmouth, Gross directed the Center for Biological and Biomedical Computing, and his lab developed computer algorithms used to identify regulatory DNA sequences. With his wife, he co-founded Textco Biosoftware, a company that develops computer programs for processing molecular biology data. His coworkers remember his giving and jovial personality fondly. Biology professor Mark McPeek described how he and Gross bonded over their shared love of blues music. “Coming from the South, I loved the blues, and we had a some great conversations,” McPeek said. Biochemistry professor Constance Brinckerhoff recalled how Gross had helped her learn molecular biology when she came to Dartmouth as a young professor, saying he helped launch her career. Gross is survived by his wife, Bobbi, and their three grown children, all of whom were born with familial dysautonomia, a rare genetic condition that affects the development of the nervous system. He served on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Dysautonomia Foundation, which supports research, medical care and families of those with the disease. “We’ve been faced with lots of medical challenges over the years, and Bob has been so loving and supportive all the time,” his wife said. “The children adore him.” He met his wife at RPI, and the couple married in 1968. They celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary in September with a trip to Baltimore, where Gross earned his Ph.D. in biophysics at Johns Hopkins. Her husband’s death came as a total shock, his wife said. After undergoing pancreatic surgery on Thursday, Gross seemed to be recovering well on Friday and Saturday. He emailed his students saying he was on the mend and would be in class soon. His wife described their last moments together as a family on Saturday evening as typical of their life together. “What were we doing,” she said, “but listening to the final regular season game of men’s hockey on the radio.” A memorial for Gross will be held on March 10 at 12:30 p.m. in Rollins Chapel.
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