Paul Gray’s Legacy Spans Generations

by Nancy DuVergne Smith on September 19, 2017 · 0 comments

in Alumni Life, Campus, Public Service

When Paul Gray ’54, SM ’55, ScD ’60 died Sept. 18, the MIT community lost a legendary member and leader who was deeply embedded in the life of the Institute from his student days through serving as its president and beyond. He was 85.

Paul and Priscilla Gray in 2011.

Paul and Priscilla Gray in 2011. Photo: Justin Knight

“It is with profound sadness that I share the news that Paul Gray, MIT’s 14th president—and one of the finest men I have ever known—passed away this morning, surrounded by family, after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s disease,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif wrote Sept. 18.

“Paul’s legacy at MIT spans generations—from his brilliance as a member of MIT’s faculty starting in 1960, to his leadership as dean of the School of Engineering, chancellor, president, and chairman of the MIT Corporation. He was a sage and trusted advisor to so many of us, including the two MIT presidents who preceded him and all three who have followed.”

As an academic leader, Gray led an effort to recruit and support more women and underrepresented minorities, according to an MIT News obituary:

One of the first members of the Black Students Union was Shirley Ann Jackson ’68, PhD ’73, who is now the president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a life member of the MIT Corporation. “For me, Paul was foremost a great friend, advisor, supporter, and confidante. I always turned to him at critical junctures in my career. He never failed me—his advice and guidance were always spot on,” Jackson says.

Gray worked to bring innovation to the teaching of his field, electrical engineering, and was a pivotal figure in the effort that resulted in the landmark study, Made in America: Regaining the Productive Edge. He was also instrumental in the founding of the Leaders for Manufacturing program and the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at MIT and in the success of the Institute’s five-year Campaign for the Future, which raised $710 million.

“In the whole history of MIT, very few people have ever rivaled Paul Gray’s legacy of stewardship and service—as a faculty member, an administrator, an alumnus, a trustee, and a leader,” says Robert Millard ’73, chair of the MIT Corporation. Read more about Gray’s remarkable life.

Gray is survived by his wife, Priscilla King Gray, and their four children. The Grays remained active on campus long after their official posts were completed. Gray continued to advise students as a professor emeritus until recently. Mrs. Gray’s many volunteer efforts on behalf of MIT and its students were recognized in 2015 when the MIT Public Service Center, which she co-founded, was renamed the Priscilla King Gray Public Service Center.

Paul Gray’s life will be celebrated at a memorial service on Thursday, Nov. 30, 3:00 p.m. in Kresge Auditorium. To share your memories with his family, you may write to rememberingpaul@mit.edu. Gifts in Gray’s memory may be made to MIT’s Aging Brain Initiative to support research on Alzheimer’s disease.

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