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In-house professors

Linden Ponds is home to a wide variety of subject experts and eager students

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March 23rd, 2016
Resident Paul Gross

Paul Gross, a retired biologist, professor, author, and former University of Virginia provost, is one of the talented and accomplished residents who teach continuous learning classes at Linden Ponds.

Many retirement communities offer continuous learning courses, but not many can boast that they have enough professors, artists, and other experts in residence that the on-site classes are actually taught by fellow neighbors rather than outside instructors. 

Impressively, Linden Ponds, an Erickson Living community in Hingham, Mass., is home to so many accomplished professionals that residents take turns teaching courses on a variety of subjects.

The best and brightest

Paul Gross, a former University of Virginia provost, is one of the residents who teach courses at Linden Ponds. Paul is a molecular biologist and was a biology professor at Brown, MIT, and University of Virginia. 

His latest Linden Ponds class was entitled “Medicine’s Six Greatest Discoveries.” He drew material from a book written by two Yale academics and focused his lectures on the biology behind significant medical events, like the discovery of bacteria and how it makes people sick. 

Just as he did when he was teaching in university classrooms, Paul begins his courses at Linden Ponds with a lecture. Then he engages attendees in a discussion and takes questions. He prepares slides to accompany his lectures and passes out reading materials for the next class. He says his students at Linden Ponds are among the brightest he’s encountered throughout his impressive academic career.

“I find it almost as much fun as teaching graduate courses at MIT—because everybody does the homework,” Paul says. “College students are quite certain they know about all of this stuff, but my neighbors here are a different set. Most can think well and want to stay in touch with the intellectual currents of our time.”

Paul is the coauthor of Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels With Science, in which he and Rutgers mathematician Norman Levitt explore the ways in which academics criticize science. 

“It got vast numbers of extremely hostile reviews and was quickly translated into many languages,” Paul says of the book. “It made a difference. It changed things.”

He also coauthored a book called Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design. His coauthor, Southeast Louisiana University Professor Barbara Forrest, was one of the expert witnesses in a controversial 2002 Pennsylvania legal battle over teaching the theory of evolution in schools.

Retired, not expired

While he’s technically retired, Paul continues to contribute to the field of education through his writing. He is the lead writer for the Fordham Institute in Washington D.C., which publishes reports about the state of K-12 education in America. The reports have broad readership, including members of Congress.

“The Secretary of Education of Massachusetts called me to ask if I would discuss the newest version of Massachusetts science standards,” Paul says.

In addition to his pursuits in science and education, Paul also has a keen interest in art and music. He has been drawing and painting since he was a young boy. During his high school years in Philadelphia, an art teacher took notice of his work and helped him get a scholarship to take classes at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

“He liked my stuff, and he liked that I was a cheeky kid,” Paul says.

Paul began his undergraduate studies at University of Pennsylvania planning to study art but was drawn to the field of science after taking a few classes. 

“I took physiology and found it engaging and mind-bending because the man who taught it was very good,” Paul says. “He was a remarkably honest fellow. He listened to questions and answered them honestly. I hadn’t known people like that; I had not encountered people who dealt with really hard questions.”

Those early science classes had such an impact on Paul that he indeed went on to build a career as a biologist and a professor. However, he always maintained his interest in art as well as literature. He is also a violinist and spends a lot of time playing chamber music.

Paul and his late wife Mona, who spent her career as a lawyer, were among the first residents to move to Linden Ponds when the community opened. They had previously lived in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood. Paul says he and Mona looked at several retirement communities in the Boston area, but none of them felt like a good fit until they visited Linden Ponds.

“This place was just being built, and we went to an early luncheon,” Paul recalls. “We met four or five academics at that lunch, and it turned out to be great fun. It’s rather remarkable—that initial group of residents was lively and truly independent.”

Just like Paul.

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