Ronald Gross

Ronald Gross

Hall of Fame Class of 2013

Ronald Gross has devoted his life and career to advancing lifelong learning through his teaching, publishing, consulting, grant-funded programs and projects, professional speaking, activism, innovation, and research. 

Gross was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education to write the American Bicentennial Essay on Lifelong Learning, published in the official volume A Nation of Learners (1975), an early indication of his national impact. He has strongly influenced the field through his many publications: three of the best known are The Lifelong Learner (1977), Peak Learning (1991, 2008), and The Independent Scholar’s Handbook (1982). The impact of the latter, combined with his other work for the College Board’s Office of Adult Learning Services on independent scholarship, was described by the late Buckminster Fuller, “If humanity is to pass safely through its present crisis on earth, it will be because a majority of individuals are now doing their own thinking. Ronald Gross has pioneered in improving the climate for such thinking in the United States.” 
Long-time co-chair of the Columbia University Seminar on Innovation in Education, he has advanced lifelong learning by initiating programs and funding innovative projects while serving at The Ford Foundation, the Fund for the Advancement of Education, and the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies, and has himself received grants and awards from numerous agencies. His most recent recognition was the Malcolm Knowles Memorial Award for significant lifelong contributions to self-directed learning.

As a scholar, he conceptualized, articulated, refined, tested, published, and revised many innovative books advocating and supporting lifelong learning. Moreover, he enlisted distinguished fellow scholars and scientists through his Columbia Seminar in exploring and refining the proposed learning modalities over the past 16 years. 

As a policy-advocate, Gross helped propel public programs toward innovative adult and continuing education in two key positions. As the associate director of the presidentially-appointed National Commission on Instructional Technology, he edited and had a major influence on the content of the report Future Directions for Open Learning (National Institute of Education, 1979). Secondly, as Senior Consultant in 1981-83 for The College Board’s Office of Adult Learning Services, he organized the first national conference on independent scholarship, which led to the formation of the National Association of Independent Scholars. 

As a practitioner, he has worked with public libraries to create and offer Lively Minds, an innovative and award-winning adult education program, which he developed under grants from the federal Library Services and Construction Act.

As an advocate, Gross has brought his vision of independent, individualized, relevant, and powerful lifelong learning to major associations, corporations, and government agencies through more than 200 keynote speeches and featured workshops for organizations such as the American Academy of Family Physicians, IBM, and Xerox. He has applied the principles of achieving peak performance and maximizing human potential in diverse fields and the major professions through more than 30 major publications.