Posted January 30, 2018 – The endorsements on Gail Gross’ website give a window into the high-impact, high-profile life of the Houston psychologist and educator.
Author Arianna Huffington praises Gross’ ability to make complicated subjects accessible. Former U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige applauds her advocacy for children. And nationally known physician Dean Ornish calls her “a genius of the heart and soul as well as the brain.”
Gross, 72, launched her academic journey at the University of Houston College of Education, where she earned a bachelor’s in elementary education with a minor in psychology and later an Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction.
A year young for college, a hesitant Gross came to Houston from New Jersey at her parents’ urging; they wanted her close to relatives here. She came to embrace UH and the city.
“By the time I was in school, I loved it and I loved my friends,” Gross said. “Now I’m a full-fledged Houstonian and proud of it.”
Gross also has a master’s in education with a specialties in psychology and advanced English from the University of St. Thomas and a Ph.D. in psychology with a specialty in Jungian studies from Saybrook University.
With her combined experiences in education and psychology, Gross widely shares her expertise on parenting, relationships and more. National media call for insights, and she blogs for Huffington Post; empowerHER.com, a women’s health website; and Thrive Global, Huffington’s new venture focused on reducing stress and improving well-being.
Her diverse research interests and relatable tone combine to produce practical pieces. On dealing with sibling rivalry, for example: “Reward your toddler for being the big brother by extending his bedtime ten minutes,” Gross wrote. On hiring a nanny: “Hold preliminary interviews outside of your home.” On talking to teens about sex: “Remember: parents are entitled to parent.”
Gross’ second book, “The Only Way Out is Through: A Ten-Step Journey from Grief to Wholeness,” is set for release on Feb. 8. It evolved from Gross losing her 24-year-old daughter after a misdiagnosed heart virus.
“I wrote this book to help other people not only cope with death but also any other transition,” said Gross, who also has a son. “Every ending signals a beginning, and part of every ending is grief.”
Her third book, “How to Build Your Baby’s Brain,” is due out in September.
Gross believes strongly in the power of meditation and counts the Dalai Lama among her friends. She heard him speak at a conference in India in the late 1980s and then braved armed soldiers to try and meet him.
“I ran across the huge auditorium, and I reached between the soldiers, rifles and bayonets,” Gross recalled. “I closed my eyes and grabbed his robe. Then one of the soldiers back-handed me and I fell. The Dalai Lama turned around and lifted me from the floor. I burst into tears.”
Gross has hosted the Dalai Lama three times in Houston – the first time in 1991, on the one-year anniversary of her daughter’s death.
“It was profound,” Gross said. “He walked through my garden with me, talking about life and death and how the loss of his own brother affected his life. He said in particular that he knew there was no death but that he missed his brother the person.”
With a roster of celebrity connections – including interviewing actress Goldie Hawn and producer Quincy Jones on her former national PBS talk show, “Let’s Talk with Dr. Gail Gross” – Gross often is asked about the person who influenced her most.
“I always answer without hesitation that my husband was and is my greatest teacher,” Gross said. “He really is the kind of person that we all strive to be.”
Gross and her husband, Jenard, a prominent real estate developer, have been married for 45 years after meeting on a blind date.
In the 1990s, the Grosses channeled their philanthropic spirit to start an elementary school in the Cuney Homes public housing development in Third Ward. Gross had a passion for advocating for at-risk youngsters, and with her husband, then a regent on the Texas Southern University board, the school came to fruition as a partnership with TSU. (The school is now a charter in Houston ISD.)
The Grosses remain committed to education. HISD’s Gross Elementary was named for Jenard in 2001 and more recently Gail Gross was honored by KIPP Houston.
“The first part of my life was growing up and learning how to walk in the world,” Gross said. “The second part was dedicated to my family – my husband and children. And this, the third part, I see as service, including being an active and present grandmother.
“That’s how you really put back into your community and into the world by raising good children who become good people.”
–By Ericka Mellon
–Photo courtesy of Gail Gross