After earning his accounting degree from Temple University’s business school, Irwin L. Gross lasted only three weeks at an accounting job: “I knew I was not cut out for that,” he says. He went to law school and enjoyed a successful law career before becoming a full-time entrepreneur. “That’s what I’ve done for 40 years,” he says. “I’ve done deals. Some unsuccessful. Some very successful.” He gave retirement a try in 2004: “I did that for a couple of months, then I decided I had enough.” Today, as chairman of ARC Devices USA, Inc., a medical device company, Mr. Gross says, “I’m working harder than I ever did.” Mr. Gross’s leap to entrepreneurship was sparked by a chance encounter in 1974. “I had a crazy guy come into my office who had a strange idea, that what the world needed was a handheld wireless telephone,” he says. Mr. Gross went on to become the second-largest stockholder in International Mobile Machines (now InterDigital Corporation), which retains thousands of valuable mobile technology patents. In the company’s early days, however, Mr. Gross had a hard time raising money among his investment partners: “They were scared to invest because the idea seemed too far-fetched.” Contributions from Mr. Gross, a major donor and longtime supporter of the Fox School, funded the Irwin L. Gross Capital Markets Room in Alter Hall. Mr. Gross returns to campus about once a year to talk with entrepreneurship students. “I usually have about 150 to 200 kids in a class,” he says, “and we discuss what’s happening out in the world of business and technology because it changes every year.” He marvels at how shared workspaces have greatly reduced the cost of starting a business. “It’s an amazing environment, it’s so creative,” he says. “The world is just a garden of opportunities. If I were starting over again, I’d have a lot more fun.”
Temple University Degree
Bachelor of Science ’65, Fox School of Business (Accounting)
Temple University Awards & Affiliatons
- Acres of Diamond Circle
- Chairman’s Circle
- Commencement Speaker, Fox School of Business
- Dean’s Council, Fox School of Business
- Temple University Alumni Association Certificate of Honor Award, 2000
What I wanted to be when I was 20 years old
When I was 20 years old and senior at Temple I had no clue about what I wanted to be. I thought perhaps an accountant. I think I really felt that if I could get into law school, I would want to be a lawyer. In the back of my mind, I always wanted to have a successful businessman and entrepreneur.
Best piece of advice anyone ever gave me
You can be anything you like; the world is full of ever changing, new opportunities. Follow your dream. If you fail, so what? Pick yourself up and start again. You learn more from your mistakes than from your successes.