Rutgers President, 1959 to 1971
Mason Welch Gross (1911–1977), the 16th president of Rutgers, was born in Hartford, Connecticut, spent his early years in the Hartford public school system, including two years at Hartford High School, and entered the Taft School, a preparatory school in Watertown, Connecticut, in 1925. During his second year at Taft, he became seriously ill following an inoculation shot for scarlet fever. He missed an entire year of school but spent a good part of the year at a ranch of his mother’s cousin in Arizona, where he read Shakespeare and 19th-century English and American novelists and essayists. He returned to Connecticut and graduated from Taft in 1929. Though most of his family had gone to Yale for their collegiate education, Mason Gross chose to go to Cambridge University to study classics. During 1929–30, however, he resided at the home of a professor in the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, where he was tutored in Latin and Greek before matriculating in Jesus College, Cambridge, earning his bachelor of arts degree in 1934 and his master of arts in 1937. Gross had decided to pursue graduate study in philosophy and returned to the United States to study under Alfred North Whitehead, the most famous of the Cambridge philosophers, who had moved to Harvard. He completed his doctorate in 1938 and began his teaching career as a philosophy instructor at Columbia University. While in New York he met Julia Kernan, a Vassar graduate, and they were married in 1940. They had four children, Ellen, Katherine, Charles, and Thomas.