Spotlight on Jim Gross: OLLI Member, UM Alum, and Army Vet

Spotlight on Jim Gross: OLLI Member, UM Alum, and Army Vet

By DCIE News

Spotlight on Jim Gross: OLLI Member, UM Alum, and Army Vet

By DCIE News
Jim Gross is an active OLLI member and UM alumnus who served as a computer programmer for the United States Army during the Vietnam War. Get to know Jim and why his experience in OLLI is a valuable part of his social and intellectual life.

When someone in a doctor’s office told Jim Gross about the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Miami, he thought, “Why do I want to go [meet] a bunch of old folks and listen to these classes?”

But after a summer painting class in 2012, Jim was hooked. He witnessed how OLLI creates the ideal combination of education and social opportunities, which allows members to flourish, even as they learn online in the pandemic.

“That’s what impresses me most about the OLLI membership,” Jim said. “They’re inquisitive, they want to learn, and quite frankly, with people my age, this is a novelty… If you want to learn and you have an interest in a wide range of subjects from music to arts to science to philosophy, this is the place for you.”

Jim was drafted into the United States Army as a PhD student at UM’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science in 1966. Since he had already completed a master’s degree, the Army stationed him in Fort Bliss, Texas as a computer programmer for the Air Defense Board. After completing his time in the military, Jim returned to UM and completed his PhD. He has a lifelong connection to the ‘Canes community.

“I came back after my service in the Army because the University gave me a leave of absence,” he said. “I’ve been hanging around the University since 1967. Haven’t lived further than five miles away from it.”

Now nearly a decade into his membership with OLLI, Jim is enjoying classes this fall on Latin America, the evolution of religion, and how war defines American generations. He has taken on a leadership role as a member and former head of the Curriculum Committee, where he introduced classes on gender and orientation to the OLLI Community.

He is active in the Miami-Dade community through his volunteer work at the YES Institute, which provides education for leaders around preventing suicide, violence, and discrimination in the LGBTQ youth community.

His advocacy work has even taken him back in front of the United States Army, where he is able to shed light on LGBTQ issues in the military, such as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“Being gay and being in the military, I had an opportunity to talk about that experience at the [United States] Southern Command, one of the places where the YES Institute does our work.”

Jim’s military service shapes his perspective on civic engagement and our responsibility not only to our country but to each other. In his view, all Americans would benefit from “doing something for the country in some way, shape, or form” for two important purposes: providing service to the country at a national level and mixing with people from all walks of life.

“For me, [the point of] Veterans Day is to honor the people who have served the country,” he says. “It’s all about service. These are all men and women who have served the country, in most cases in very dangerous ways. Being in the military, your life is on the line, and I have great respect for [all those] contributing, especially now, with a volunteer military.”

When asked if he does anything special to commemorate Veterans Day each year, Jim said with a smile, “Nope. I just have a beer.”