Alumni Geoff Gross ’98 and Marc Simon ’98 share a dry wit, enduring 76ers fandom, and a special symbiosis that only lifelong friends can achieve. They met as children in a sandbox at the Jersey Shore and haven’t parted ways for long ever since. Both men founded and grew their companies from scratch, which they operate from the same Center City office building not far from the condominium complex in which they each own a home. Each has seen profound entrepreneurial success with Gross’ company, Medical Guardian, supporting over 100,000 medical alert subscribers and Simon’s law firm, Simon & Simon, representing tens of thousands of clients. And they both hold 76ers season tickets.
Among the duo’s hallmark achievements is the co-creation of the Shipley Football t-shirt in their senior year. In a fundraising effort to offset the prices of prom tickets, they capitalized on a running joke about Shipley’s (non-existent) football team and printed 200 t-shirts with “Shipley Football: Undefeated Since 1894”emblazoned across the front. As Gross recalls, “Our goal was to sell them to the Upper School, and we started selling them about a month or two before prom.” What they didn’t anticipate was wildfire demand. “People in the Middle and Lower schools, students and parents alike, wanted the t-shirt,” he says. They sold out, made more, and ultimately raised $5,000.
It wasn’t until a decade later that Gross realized the shirts had become a Shipley tradition. “I’m having pizza in Rosemont, and I see a young kid with the t-shirt on!” he says.
Now Gross and his team regularly issue company-wide t-shirts promoting new product launches and catchy taglines. Simon, too, has created company apparel but concedes, “I think more people in the office are wearing the Medical Guardian t-shirts from Geoff’s floor than the Simon & Simon gear.”
After some convincing by Gross, Simon transferred to Shipley in 1995 as a 10th grader. He says, “Everybody was so welcoming from day one. It didn’t matter whether you were a jock or into computers or into art, you were welcomed with open arms by your peers. When you’re a teen, that’s really the exception to the general rule of trying to find your place in the social strata. It was very disarming that I could walk into a place where I spent most of my day – most of my life – and feel welcome and included.”
That warm reception is what Gross and Simon have built their businesses upon. “The concept of creating an inclusive community where everybody feels they’re a part of something greater than themselves is something that I learned at Shipley,” Simon says. “One of the keys to both of our successes is creating an inclusive community where people feel comfortable inside of the company so that they can focus their time, attention, and effort on helping people outside of the company,” Simon says.
Gross agrees. “Business ‘culture’ is really about having a community where people feel comfortable and empowered, where they can grow and have a voice and an effect. I think you can really make a strong comparison between the cultures that we try to set forth in our businesses and the culture that we learned at Shipley.”
As they enter new chapters in their lives, Gross and Simon feel mutually grateful for each other, their families and role models, and their time at Shipley. And Simon can’t wait to see his first-grade niece, Sophie, sporting her own Shipley Football shirt. He says, “Hopefully she’ll carry on the undefeated record for years to come.”