By Erica Dunigan
His name may not be well known, but his face is one you will see often when you are in the library. Dr. Wallace Gray, professor at Southwestern from 1956 to 1996, spends his lunch hours writing articles and learning a variety of information on a day to day basis.
Before Gray made an impact on Southwestern’s campus, his journey began at Central Methodist College in Fayette, Mo. That is where Gray meet is wife, Ina, and graduated in 1948.
“I enjoyed the college, but Ina made the experience even better,”
said Gray. “She tolerates how I talk about Plato, Aristotle, and different languages. No woman was ever able to keep up with me, but she was able to.”
After graduating at CMC, Gray went on to earn his masters at Southern Methodist University in 1951. From there, he earned his PhD in comparative religion and philosophy at Vanderbilt University in 1953.
“I was one of the very first to graduate at Vanderbilt with a PhD,” said Gray. “My dissertation wasn’t going to be accepted at first because the professors told me I wasn’t meant to teach at the college level, but I did what I was supposed to and it got accepted.”
In the next couple years, Gray and his wife traveled to different countries expanding their knowledge on culture. It was on a trip to Europe that Gray received a phone call to teach philosophy and religion at Southwestern in 1956.
Gray said that it was an offer he could not turn down. “I was waiting on a phone call to teach for the longest time,” he said. “The president of Southwestern called me up and said it would be an honor to have me as a professor.”
During his years of teaching and mentoring students at Southwestern College, Gray was offered many memorable opportunities.
“There was one opportunity while I was teaching at the college that I could not give up,” said Gray. “It was in the first few years that I was given the opportunity to teach a bilingual curriculum at Kitakyushu University in Japan. The nice thing about that opportunity is my wife was offered to teach English as well.”
There was one more big opportunity that Gray received while teaching at the college. “At this time, I had been teaching for many years,” said Gray. “I got this offer to do a sabbatical at the University of Hawaii focusing on comparative religion and philosophy.” Gray spent a year in Hawaii and then returned back to SC to finish his teaching career. During the last years of his career, Gray taught logic courses on computers, wrote books and articles, and even helped sponsor the campus radio station, KSWC 100.3 The Jinx, in 1968.
“A group of students had started this radio station and at that time it was located under the gymnasium,” said Gray. “I helped sponsor the station and even started my own show called ‘Sound of Thought.’ It was great to help be a part of getting the station up and running.”
During the years Gray taught at Southwestern, Ina worked as a director of religious life for the college. Ina also served as Pi Gamma Mu’s associate executive secretary from 1976-77 and as executive director from 1977-96.
In 1996, after 40 years of teaching, Gray retired, but he never truly left the campus. Located on the second floor of the library is Gray’s office, but there is no doubt that the corner table in the front of the library has became is main area of study.
Elise Blas, reference/instruction librarian, said, “Dr. Gray’s table is where he is always doing research, working on translating Japanese and French, and he is always telling us about these books we should get for the library.”
Up in his office, Gray works on his own personal archive, along with the schools archive.
“He organizes all of his research and prepares it,” said Blas. “When the time comes, his family is going to go through it and get what they want and Southwestern College will get the rest.”
Gray spends several hours each week researching Japanese and French language and culture. “Some of my work has been published in Japanese. I work with old friends and colleagues who have also translated their work.”
Besides spending time researching in the library, Gray and his wife teach adult Sunday classes at First United Methodist Church in Winfield. Gray also works with an Alzheimer’s committee in Winfield. Ina works at the Historical Society on Manning Street and has written many articles.
“Me and my wife have spent many years together and have learned a lot not only from each other, but through teaching,” said Gray. “I have to say that my claim to fame is being a lifelong learner.”
Erica Dunigan is a senior majoring in convergent journalism. You may e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.