Lynne Schafer Gross: extraordinary role model.

Author:Leebron, Elizabeth

Pioneer, role model, mentor, and friend are words that describe Lynne Schafer Gross, an educator, prolific writer, and media maker whose professional achievements are known to many. Gross describes her career as four pronged: producing, writing, teaching, and consulting. In an essay of this length, one cannot do justice to the career of such an esteemed academic colleague and diverse media writer and producer as Lynne Schafer Gross. This essay focuses on her educational background, scholarship, and professional contributions to the media industries. As a woman emerging during the 1970s as a professional and mother, Gross blazed the trail for others, with her intellect and expertise infusing the two worlds of academe and broadcasting at a time when women did not have much of a presence in either arena.


The path to discovering her love of teaching and television began when Lynne Schafer was a high school student in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, during the 1950s. She was a member of the band and says, "I got into the TV business because I played last chair clarinet poorly. The band director was always trying to find things for me to do that didn't involve playing the clarinet, and one of those things was going on a public affairs show on WQED to talk about the band" (L. Gross, personal communication, September 8, 2005). Everything was live so she had no idea how she appeared on camera, but people in the community stopped her to let her know they had seen her on television and thought she was good. While she was still in high school, one of her teachers handed her a scrap of paper with some notes on it about journalism and education, suggesting she combine the two in her future studies.

This stimulated her interest in the field and when it was time to choose a college she sought an institution that had a strong journalism department. She attended Northwestern University for 2 years and then transferred to the University of Pittsburgh. Enthused about journalism and inspired by her teachers, Gross completed her studies in just 3 years, studying both journalism and teaching. Her first job was as a teacher in a junior high school.

Career Beginnings

Schafer had initially moved back to Pittsburgh after 2 years at Northwestern to be with her junior high school sweetheart, Paul Gross, who was attending Carnegie Mellon. They married and shortly after he completed his master's degree they moved to California. Gross continued teaching junior high school and was encouraged by a peer to pursue working on television. They decided she should audition to host a history series for high school students. This did not prove to be a successful endeavor, as a graduate degree was required to appear on the program, so instead Gross did a series on children's literature that aired on a local Los Angeles station.

The lack of a graduate degree had cost Gross an early opportunity on television, but she was determined not to let that impact her future. She pursued a master's degree at California State University at Long Beach, completing the degree in 1962. The master's degree enabled her to teach in a community college. Gross took the most challenging assignment that came her way: teaching in downtown Los Angeles at Metropolitan College in 1962, developing a curriculum for disadvantaged students as the civil rights movement was emerging. The school was small, facilitating the possibility of teaching nearly everything in the curriculum from speech correction to political science. She also established the college newspaper and produced radio shows. In those days women who were pregnant were only permitted to teach during their first trimester. Gross, pregnant with her first child, lied about the due date so she could continue to teach until the end of the spring semester. But 1 month after the birth of her son in...

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