grossman and widergren

Board Chair Jim Widergren Passes the Torch to Ross Grossman at Keck Graduate Institute

Ross Grossman was recently announced as the new Board Chairman for Keck Graduate Institute (KGI)’s Board of Trustees. He succeeds Jim Widergren Grossman and Widergren are alumni of the Claremont Colleges and have a long history of involvement with KGI.

KGI Trustees are leaders in business, industry, and education who direct KGI’s activities and oversee its operations, including annual operating plans, budgets, financial performance, and audits. Additionally, Trustees advise KGI on strategic planning, significant institutional and academic issues, actions, transactions, and legal matters.

“We extend our deepest appreciation to Jim for his remarkable commitment and outstanding contributions as the chair of our esteemed Board of Trustees. His unwavering dedication and visionary leadership have greatly influenced KGI’s growth and success. We are fortunate that Jim will continue to serve on the board, ensuring his invaluable expertise and guidance remain within our community,” said Sheldon Schuster, president of KGI.

“As we welcome Ross as the incoming chair, we anticipate a bright future filled with new possibilities. With his exceptional skills and passion for our institution, we are confident in Ross’s ability to lead our board and propel us toward even greater achievements. Together, we look forward to advancing our mission and shaping a promising future for KGI.” Continued Schuster.

Widergren—a life science industry consultant and the former CEO of Corgenix and ORGENTEC—has been involved with KGI for over 15 years in various capacities. He started on the Advisory Board before moving to the Board of Trustees and has served as Chairman for four years. He will remain on the Board and help Grossman transition into the role. 

“I’m handing over the Chair role because I think it’s good to have new approaches and new ideas,” Widergren said. “I’m excited that Ross is going to be the next chair. He has an incredible background. And we have different skill sets – I have been more focused on finance, while he has been more focused on human resources.”

Grossman—the former Chief Human Resources Officer at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals—has been involved with KGI for over 20 years, serving on the Advisory Committee before joining the Board in 2014. He and Widergren have witnessed significant growth over this time, as KGI went from having one main program and under 200 students to 18 Master’s, Doctorate, and Certificate programs and over 600 students.

“My expertise is in helping companies grow—in a way where they don’t lose their soul,” Grossman said. “I see KGI’s progression as very similar to Regeneron’s, where we went from very small and entrepreneurial to much bigger and more successful while maintaining our entrepreneurial culture.  It’s critical that we remain the creative, innovative educational institution that is President Schuster’s legacy.”

Now that KGI is 25 years old, his main goal is to help the institute transition from the startup into the growth phase.

“The things that got us to where we are today are largely entrepreneurial skill sets,” Grossman said. “We don’t want to lose that as we grow and necessarily add structure. Also, we want to ensure we continue being financially responsible as we grow. I am really happy we’ll still have Jim to help with that.”

Widergren believes that one key to managing this transition is maintaining a balance between introducing new programs and strengthening existing ones. He sees KGI’s commitment to applied knowledge as the unifying factor.

“We’re still very focused on the application of what we teach, whether it be working in industry to develop new drugs and medical devices, supporting those efforts through educating our students about quality, regulation, and manufacturing, or working directly with patients in healthcare, ” Widergren said. “And we must ensure that we help our students apply the emerging knowledge in medical care so that they can give back to both the scientific community and the patient community in the future.” He believes that the ultimate goal is to instill a love of lifelong learning in students.

“In healthcare and the life sciences, technology is developing so rapidly that many ‘facts’ or techniques that you learn as a student quickly become obsolete,” Widergren said. 

One of the best strategies for helping students navigate this landscape while managing information overload long-term is teaching them how to work effectively in teams.

“No one can learn or do it all,” Widergren said. “This is true not only in the university but also in the real world. The effectiveness of any individual is based upon the effectiveness of the teams they build.”

Today, KGI is known for connecting teams of students with leading companies in the healthcare industry, offering students invaluable real-world experience while helping these companies. Grossman has witnessed the evolution of these KGI and industry relationships, particularly with Regeneron—an East Coast company.

“In my time at Regeneron, we went from no internships and no hiring of KGI students to being one of the major employers of KGI students,” Grossman said. “When I first became involved with KGI, we were unsure whether students in California would come to New York for internships, let alone move there and become employees.”

In the early 2000s, they decided to give it a shot. Five KGI alumni went to Regeneron for internships. They had a good experience and spread the word.

“Since then, dozens of KGI students have had internships at Regeneron, and 25 went on to become employees,” Grossman said. “I know several KGI people who are still at Regeneron and have been there for over ten years.”

For Widergren, some of KGI’s recent significant successes have been in infrastructure – remodeling several facilities for new programs such as the Occupational Therapy and Physician Assistant programs and building the new Oasis student housing complex.  “Oasis changed the nature of the school,” Widergren said. “Before Oasis, KGI was a commuter school. Today, it is a stronger community because a much larger group of students live on campus within walking distance of their classes.”

One quality about KGI that Grossman particularly values is its commitment to building a diverse student body and providing opportunities for first-generation, non-traditional students. 

“KGI is helping to change the trajectory of lives on a generational level, and everyone benefits,” Grossman said. “The industry is crying out for a broader pool of talented young people. And we have droves of them coming out the door. I, myself, am a first-generation college student. Going to college in the first place—let alone The Claremont Colleges—seemed unattainable. To end up 50 years later as the Board Chair of one of the Claremont Colleges is very exciting. I hope I can model the possibilities for the next generation.”