M. Grant Gross Jr., a retired oceanographer and former director of the Chesapeake Bay Institute, died Dec. 17 at the Heron Point retirement community in Chestertown of heart disease.
The former longtime resident of the city’s Tuscany-Canterbury neighborhood was 84.
“Grant was a steady hand at the helm when it came to ocean science,” said Dr. Michael J. Roman of Easton, a professor and director of the Horn Point Laboratory in Cambridge, part of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.
He said Mr. Gross was “instrumental in advancing ocean science in the U.S. He was cutting edge, and a fixture at the times. He also worked hard at getting minorities into oceanography. He was all about inclusiveness.”
The son of Meredith Grant Gross Sr., an insurance salesman and Linotype operator, and Mary Stevens Gross, a secretary, Meredith Grant Gross Jr. was born in Childress, Texas, and raised in Amarillo. He graduated from Amarillo High School.
A1954 graduate of Princeton University, he studied for a year at the Delft University of Technology in Holland on a Fulbright Fellowship. After serving in the Army, he obtained both a master’s degree in 1958 and doctorate in marine geology in 1961 from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
It was while teaching at the University of Washington that Dr. Gross backed into the field of oceanography.
“At Princeton, he had written a paper on the limestone of Bermuda, and when he went to the University of Washington, they told him he was teaching a new course on oceanography. That’s what got him going,” said his wife of 26 years, the former Dr. Elizabeth R. “Liz” Bulleid, an oceanographer and former director of the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research.
Dr. Gross’ expertise was in the fields of marine geochemistry, sedimentary processes in coastal waters and waste disposal from urban areas.
From 1961 to 1968, he was associate professor of oceanography at the University of Washington in Seattle, and from 1966 to 1968 was associate curator of sedimentology at the Smithsonian Institute.
In 1968, he joined the faculty of the State University of New York at Stony Brook as professor of oceanography. He left in 1972 to join the staff of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He was head of the oceanographic section of the National Science Foundation from 1973 to 1974, then became director of the Chesapeake Bay Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
He was later director of the Division of Ocean Sciences at the National Science Foundation, from 1980 until retiring in 1994.
“He was very well liked and he always liked to get your opinion. He was very egalitarian, fair and good at getting a consensus,” Dr. Roman said. “Grant was a very quiet and not a domineering person. He was self-assured and was a confident person. He brought out the best in people.”
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After retiring, he served as executive director of the Chesapeake Research Consortium from 1994 to 2001, and was a lecturer in oceanography at Washington College from 1999 until 2001. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, and the founding director of the Center for the Environment and Society at Washington College.
He was author of a college-level textbook, “Principles of Oceanography” and co-author of another with his wife, “Oceanography: A View of the Earth.” He also wrote several others books, including “The Ocean World,” “Waste Disposal,” and “Ocean Dumping and Marine Pollution: Geological Aspects of Waste Disposal.”
Dr. Gross was a Chestertown resident since 1999. His hobby was the weather.
“He was a longtime weather geek,” his wife said. “He enjoyed tracking the weather and if family and friends were planning an outdoor event, they’d call Grant to find if there were any storms were coming, and if there were, when were they going to hit.”
Dr. Gross was a member of Shrewsbury Parish Episcopal Church in Kennedyville, where plans for a memorial service in March are incomplete.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, Jeffrey G. Gross of Magnolia, Texas; two daughters, E. Anne Hamel of Arnold and Alison Gilbert of Portland, Ore.; a sister, Marianna Ekelund of Claremont, Calif.; 10 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.