Cover photo for Curtis Dale Gridley's Obituary
Curtis Dale Gridley Profile Photo

Curtis Dale Gridley

September 15, 1958 — March 16, 2024

Curtis Dale Gridley

Curt Gridley, 65, died Saturday March 16, 2024, after a brief struggle with pancreatic cancer, with his family by his side.


Curt is survived by his wife Tracy Hoover, his children Henry and Fiona, his mother Phyllis, brother Mike (Carla Cicero), nieces Kathryn Gridley and Mackenzie Hoover, and numerous cousins. He is preceded in death by his father Ron Gridley, and several aunts, uncles, and cousins.


Curt was born in Meade, KS to Ron and Phyllis Gridley. He grew up in Beloit, KS, and graduated from Wichita State University with a degree in mathematics and philosophy. He was an excellent student, graduating magna cum laude. He is still remembered as a student who spent many hours in the lounge of the Philosophy Department debating with peers on issues of the day. Curt was an active member of the Student Government Association and the University’s Honors Program. He was highly regarded as an amiable opponent on issues, always respectful of the views of others, an attitude that served him well throughout the remainder of his life. His achievements resulted in his selection as a Senior Honor Man, one of five outstanding men in the graduating class of 1980. 


Curt went on to earn a master’s degree in mathematics from Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH. He said on several occasions that his time at Dartmouth was the making of him, exposing him to the wider world and expanding his horizons for what he could achieve.


Curt started his career as a software engineer for Massachusetts Computer Corporation (Masscomp) in Westford, MA. He rewrote a significant piece of software for the company, having made a bet with the VP of Engineering that he could improve the performance of their software with his work. The prize was a bunch of stock options, which he used to buy a new car. That was one of the unique things about Curt - he had a high confidence in his abilities, but he was also willing to take bold risks, reasoning that if it didn’t work out, he would have learned a lot. 


During his time at Masscomp, Curt became interested in computer hardware, which led him to teach himself computer hardware design and engineering. Reasoning that no one would hire him for a hardware job without formal training, he founded his own startup company in 1994, Amber Wave Systems. There he developed a low cost ethernet switch at a time when the internet was just taking off and switches were very expensive. Curt holds a patent for his work on network switching technology. Amber Wave was purchased by US Robotics in early 1996.


The proceeds of the sale allowed Curt to be home with his two children throughout their lives. Curt was a loving and supportive father who taught his family the value of learning and experimenting in all facets of life; he instilled a sense of curiosity and creativity in them that will always be cherished. Curt and his family were lucky to go on many adventures together, such as spending several months in Europe, at Curt’s instigation and insistence, in order to expand his children’s horizons.


The sale of Amber Wave also allowed Curt and Tracy to establish the Gridley Family Foundation, through which they have given extensively, both locally and nationally. Their first major gift was to the WSU Fairmount College of Liberal Arts, the Curtis D. Gridley Professorship in the History and Philosophy of Science, and was the first fully endowed professorship in the history of the college. This gift was recognized by the Kansas Board of Regents as part of their Faculty of Distinction program in 2004.


It was only after the kids went off to college that Curt and Tracy, with their foundation funds, established Groover Labs, a non-profit entrepreneurial space in downtown Wichita, where Curt spearheaded early-stage product development assistance for local and regional startups. Curt was the Executive Director, but what he really excelled at and thrived on was solving engineering problems in practical and creative ways. Tracy referred to him as “my Mr. Better-Faster-Cheaper”, as one or more of those improvements was often the motivating factor in solving engineering problems. Curt and Tracy have been volunteering full time at Groover Labs since its inception.


Curt had so many gifts. He was brilliant, gentle, imaginative, hard-working, hilarious, contrary and had very high standards. He saw the world in a fundamentally different way than most people, which was certainly a gift, but one that he also struggled with. He always seemed to be the lone voice of an alternate solution or view point, and struggled to persuade others of the rightness of his views. But he could never back down if he thought he was right. And as an engineer who carefully considered all the angles, he was usually right. The family often joked that if the ship is sinking, you need someone else. But if you get to the desert island and big problems need to be solved, Curt is the one you want on your team.


Curt’s interests were many and varied, and included jazz guitar, woodworking, electronics, Maxwell’s equations, 19th century science, printmaking, aviation, boat building and bread baking. He was a skilled craftsman, and took particular pride in having failed shop class in high school, mainly because the teacher’s treatment of the students was mercurial and arbitrary, and Curt, who had a finely developed sense of fairness, refused to back down in the face of it.


Curt served on the WSU Foundation Board of Directors and its Investment Committee for several years, was on the board at MakeICT, and at the time of his death was on the board of the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City, MO.


Curt will be cremated. A memorial service will be held Saturday, March 23, at 2 pm, at Groover Labs, 334 N St Francis, Wichita, KS. All are welcome. The family requests that donations, if desired, be made to Groover Labs, or the Linda Hall Library, both 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations.

Past Services

Memorial Service

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Starts at 2:00 pm (Central time)

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