He was a religious minority, born in one of the scariest times and places for any human being to be alive. To hide the fact that he was Jewish in Nazi-occupied Hungary, he and his mother would assume false identities and hide among friends. His father wasn't so lucky, and was sent to a Forced Labor Camp.
András István Gróf would survive Nazi occupation and be reunited with his father after the war. However, he would ultimately flee war-torn Hungary during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Gróf, the refugee, would arrive in the United States in 1957, having survived fascism, Nazis, Hitler's Final Solution, communism, and a citizen-led uprising and subsequent government collapse.
In New York, Gróf would change his name to Andrew S. Grove, get work as a busboy, learn to speak English, and enroll in the City College of New York. Known as the "Poor Man's Harvard", City College was free and was an educational haven for minorities and immigrants, including future General and Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Grove excelled academically, earning a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering degree, and a PhD in the same subject three years later from the University of California, Berkeley. From there he would work at Fairchild Semiconductor before joining Intel as its third employee.
At Intel Andy Grove would grow the company from a few thousand dollars in his first year to more than $20 billion in revenue during his last year as CEO. Even more important, Intel was one of the primary reasons for the growth of Silicon Valley and the age of the computer. Steve Jobs--the biological son of a Syrian immigrant--considered Grove one of his personal idols, and in 1997 Grove was named Time magazine's Person of the Year.
In addition to his career as a corporate executive, Grove was also a philanthropist, supporting higher education and serving on the board of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), an organization founded by another highly talented refugee who made the world a better place--Albert Einstein.
Having lived through the most traumatic events of the 20th century, in 2000 Grove wrote the following:
"It is a very important truism that immigrants and immigration are what made America what it is. We must be vigilant as a nation to have tolerance for differences, tolerance for new people."
Regardless of how you feel about the things that are happening right now, there is a good chance you are consuming information on and expressing opinions about those events on devices made possible by at least one refugee, or, in the case of Steve Jobs, the son of a Syrian refugee.
In fact, if nothing else, you could say that the story of Andy Grove--a busboy who fled a life lived under Fascists, Nazis, and Communists to get an education at an institution free to all, including refugees, then taking that knowledge and using it to help invent an entire industry--illustrates exactly what makes America great.
This week it's a story worth remembering.