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Loren ’56 and Mary Ann Gross receive Benedictine Award

Loren ’56 and Mary Ann Gross are the 2022 Benedictine Award recipients from Saint John’s Preparatory School. The Benedictine Spirit Award is given in recognition of someone who has demonstrated long-term dedication to the mission of Saint John’s Prep. Their exceptional commitment continues to further our tradition of providing an exceptional Benedictine education as we prepare students for success in higher education and for a lifetime of learning, service, and leadership in a global society.  

Below are the comments shared about Loren and Mary Ann during the Head of School Appreciation Dinner on October 9, 2022.

Thankfully, DeLaSalle High School and Nazareth Hall, the Archdiocese of St. Paul’s minor seminary until 1968, were not good fits for Loren Gross, or we’d unlikely be here today to acknowledge more than four decades of support Loren and his wife Mary Ann have committed to Saint John’s Prep.

Loren And Mary Ann Gross For Web

As an intelligent, hard-working kid living in Richfield, Loren caught the eyes of his elementary and middle school teachers, particularly the nuns, who encouraged him to consider the priesthood.  Loren respected the nuns and priests who educated him, so he took their nudging seriously.  Loren decided to enroll as a freshman at DeLaSalle High School, which while having a south campus at the time, still required Loren to hitchhike to school every day.  Loren was not only one of the smallest kids, he was also the youngest.  High school was intimidating.  Loren was not a rough and tumble kind of kid and didn’t feel he fit the mold at DeLaSalle as he did a lot of things other kids didn’t.  He worked in his father’s filling station doing things you would expect of an adult – renting trailers, putting on hitches, and drawing up the leases for rentals, all at the tender age of 12.  Heck, he was pumping gas when he was six!  

Recognizing DeLaSalle wasn’t right for him, Loren enrolled at Nazareth Hall, joining a childhood friend, to begin his seminary studies.  He was happy and liked it there, made a lot of friends, played sports, did well in school, but by his account, “At Nazareth Hall, it was study, study, study… some more, go to class, and maybe play a few sports.  They also had a lot of rules that did not make a lot of sense. I kind of became anti-authoritarian. I got kicked out.”  Mary Ann quickly chimed in and said, “You didn’t officially get kicked out,” to which Loren quickly responded, “I was told I couldn’t come back! I think that counts as getting kicked out!”  It seems somewhat ironic that someone who didn’t like rules went it law! Or perhaps that’s why he pursued law to ensure that laws are fair, and people are treated fairly.

So, after two years at Nazareth Hall, it was off to Saint John’s Prep.  According to Loren, attending Prep was like getting out of prison.  Saint John’s was a good fit for him.  He was welcomed by classmates and the monks of Saint John’s Abbey while continuing his pursuit of the priesthood as a student in the pre-seminary program.  One of the biggest differences Loren noted was how the monks of St. John’s Abbey were welcoming and of the people, not over the people. 

Upon graduating from Prep in 1956, Loren transitioned to Anselm Hall, which was the residence for pre-seminary students while they attended Saint John’s University.  After one year, Loren decided he was not called to pursue the priesthood.  Instead, Loren graduated from Saint John’s University in 1960 with degrees in English and Philosophy. 

Loren always felt he had a responsibility to provide for himself, so while he had taken the law school entrance exam and scored higher than anyone at Saint John’s had previously scored, Loren decided he needed to make some money to pay his way through law school.  He took a job at Dayton’s working in what he referred to as the basement and the precursor to Target stating, “We were the high-volume discount part of the operation.”  After just three months, Loren became the assistant manager of the department and ran the department for the next six months.  However, with the draft nipping at his tail, Loren decided it was time to enroll in law school, so he accepted his admission to the University of Minnesota Law School, graduating in 1964. 

It was during law school that Loren and Mary Ann were married.  Mary Ann, like Loren was a hard-working kid from Minneapolis where her father owned a bakery.  Working in the bakery, Mary Ann was able to pay for her education at St. Katherine’s, where she earned a degree in history and education with a minor in library science.  While Loren studied, Mary Ann worked as a teacher and librarian in Hastings for several years before moving to Richfield High School.  Loren proudly offered, “She was the breadwinner!  We were not encouraged to work during law school, so Mary Ann supported the family with her work.”  Upon the birth of their first child, two years into her career at Richfield High School, Mary Ann chose to stay home and raise the five children Loren and Mary Ann would bring into the world. 

Upon graduation, Loren accepted a clerkship with Chief Justice Robert Sheran of the Minnesota Supreme court.  Loren stated, “I felt I should be paying them for this job as I was going to get great experience and training, yet they were going to pay me $560 a month!  That was real money back then.”  His work at the Minnesota Supreme Court caught the attention of Minnesota State Senator Jerome Blatz, a fellow Richfield native and attorney, who offered Loren a job in his law office.  That job ultimately launched Loren’s professional law career as he has practiced law in the Richfield area for more than 55 years!  That’s right, Loren, who celebrated his 84th birthday this past week, still works!  However, he often jokes, “I don’t work that much anymore, I usually only go in 5 days a week.” 

Loren and Mary Ann are humble and will be the first to tell you that they have been blessed.  They consider themselves fortunate to be able to give back to places that shaped their lives and to organizations that help others who find themselves facing difficult times.  Loren and Mary Ann deeply care about others and giving to make others’ lives even a little bit more manageable brings them joy.  Loren described his dad as being “tight” with money while being generous with charities.  Similarly, his mother was frugal but was generous with her time and talents, belonging to what seemed like every social organization where she would lead the charge on their fundraising and community building efforts. Taking the lead from his parents, Loren has always been one to look out for others, whether that was standing up to some kids in school who were picking on a classmate or serving as the Executive Director of Legal Aid at the University of Minnesota during his senior year of law school.  Mary Ann was quick to point out, “Loren has always routed for the underdog or those less fortunate. He’s always operated from the position that if you have an opportunity to share your good fortune with others you should.” 

Loren and Mary Ann have made giving back a priority and it is something they enjoy doing together.  For more than 40 years, Loren and Mary Ann have supported Prep in a very quiet and private manner. However, it should be known that their generosity has been transformative.  Loren and Mary Ann live by a simple motto — Those to whom much has been given, from them much is expected.  With his quick wit and wonderful sense of humor, Loren joked, “I truly live by it and as it turns out there is still plenty for me.” 

It is truly and honor and a privilege to present this year’s Benedictine Spirit Award to Loren and Mary Ann Gross.  This award is given in recognition of those who have demonstrated long-term dedication to the mission of Saint John’s Prep. Loren and Mary Ann’s exceptional commitment continues to further our tradition of providing an exceptional Benedictine education as we prepare students for success in higher education and for a lifetime of learning, service, and leadership in a global society.