Donald Gross, Early ORIE Ph.D. Graduate, Reminisces About Cornell and His Career
In an article in the June 2008 edition of ORMS Today, Donald Gross ORIE MS '59, Ph.D. '62 looks back on the role of chance in his career, and on meeting the late professors Robert E. Bechhofer, Andrew Schultz Jr., and Lionel Weiss as a graduate student beginning in 1956.
Gross retired from George Washington University in 1995, after serving as professor, department chair, and associate vice president for research and graduate studies. He recently retired again, this time from the School of Information Technology and Engineering at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. He is the co-author, with the late Carl Harris, of three editions of Fundamentals of Queuing Theory (Wiley, 1998).
| Don Gross, studying in his Ithaca Collegetown room.
In his ORMS article, called Reflections on Life, Love and Chance," Gross recalls taking a Cornell course, called introduction to operations research, "where we spent most of the time trying to define O.R. (not much has changed in the ensuing 50 years, has it?)", he writes. By chance, he took a course in undergraduate statistics from Robert E. Bechhofer, who later became the chair of ORIE's predecessor department. He remembers Bechhofer as "one of the most nurturing and caring individuals I have ever met."
Gross's 1962 Ph.D. thesis is called An Investigation of Centralized Inventory Control in Multi-Location Supply Systems, a topic which is still of considerable great theoretical, computational and applied interest today. He writes that after "spending many evenings in the computer room where the IBM 650 was housed - debugging programs by looking at the array of lights on its console - I decided that there was no way I was going to do a thesis that depended on computing". He notes that he came upon his thesis topic by chance, since Professor Lionel Weiss was able to support his work through a grant on stochastic inventory control.
Having begun his career shortly after the founding of the organizations that led -- in part through Gross's efforts --to today's Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS, the publisher of ORMS Today), Gross looks back on the "marvelous" industrial and academic career that resulted from these and other chance encounters. Athough he earned his credentials for acceptance into Cornell's graduate school at Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon), Gross writes that "it was the OR profs in ORIE in the late 50's who gave me the background for a lucrative and fun-filled 50 year career. Thanks guys!"
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