Award of Honor
Stephen Gross has graduated twice from East Tennessee State University, with his bachelor's degree in 1969 and a master of business administration degree in 1994. Gross grew up in Melbourne, Florida and his high school English teacher (an ETSU graduate) told him he should consider the university as a choice for his higher education. That one conversation led to a lifetime commitment to ETSU and the Johnson City area.
Upon graduation, Gross spent the years from 1972 to 1985 employed by Burlington Industries in locations in North Carolina and Tennessee. At that time, the company was the largest textile producer in the United States. After completing the corporate administrative training program and holding several positions, he was promoted to Assistant Administrative Manager of the Johnson City plant.
In 1985, Gross was hired as plant controller of the Piney Flats plant of Microporous Products, Inc. By 1989, Gross and his partners bought the local plant, and, as an owner and Chief Financial Officer, Gross helped the company grow from a small supplier of battery separators to a major multimillion dollar company with branches in the United States and Europe. In 1995, Microporous was named one of the "Tennessee Businesses of the Year." The company was eventually sold to another large manufacturer.
During his tenure at Microporous, Gross was instrumental in the creation of numerous scholarships funded by the company for ETSU students.
Gross joined with a group of area businessmen in 1996 to create State of Franklin Savings Bank, the first such savings bank in the state, with locations in Bristol, Johnson City and Kingsport. He continues to serve the bank as a member of their community board of directors.
In 1998, Gross purchased controlling interest of Southeast Recycling Technologies, Inc., a small business which he and his partner have nurtured from a single operation to five locations throughout Tennessee and Georgia. The company processes and recycles mercury fluorescent lamps, batteries, ballasts and electronics. Southeast takes pride in recycling all materials, with a "no-landfill" policy. Already serving large companies such as Fed Ex and Eastman Chemical, the business is contracted to handle recycling for the states of Tennessee and North Carolina.
Recently, Gross helped write and spearhead the passage of a bill in the Tennessee Legislature to outlaw the inclusion of any mercury-laden devices into the landfills of Tennessee. The passage of this law is a major step toward eliminating mercury in the lakes, rivers and waterways of our state. Tennessee is the first southern state to pass such a law.
Gross has served the community through governance of First United Methodist Church, the Johnson City Symphony and the Johnson City Medical Center, among other venues.
A supporter of ETSU, Gross is a member of the ETSU Foundation, past president of the ETSU Pirate Club supporting the Buccaneers, and past president of the University School Foundation and PTA.
In October of 2011 The College of Business and Technology awarded Gross a Lifetime Achievement Award which is given to alumni who have recorded significant accomplishments in business or public service, and demonstrated exemplary service to the community and a commitment to the college and university.
Gross resides in Gray and is married to ETSU alumna Novice Hendrix Gross (B.S. 1969, M.A. 1971), a former University School teacher. They are the parents of adult children Taylor and Mollie, who both spent 12 years and graduated from University School. Taylor is a founding partner of a political issues firm in Washington, DC. He and his wife, Amy, have three children, Taylor Jr.(Tate), Hendrix (Henry) and Lilly Elaine.
Mollie is a fourth year medical student at the University Of Tennessee College Of Medicine. 4/12