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Community mourns loss
of fine arts dean, Bob Gray
June 21, 1999
Robert H. Gray, dean of the University of Connecticut School of Fine Arts, died Tuesday, June 15, at Windham Community Memorial Hospital after suffering a stroke.
His death has shocked the University community.
"Bob Gray was not just an esteemed colleague but a close personal friend. In his eight years as dean, he brought the School of Fine Arts to a new level of excellence as a center of creative expression and as a center of instruction for undergraduate and graduate students," said Philip E. Austin, president of the University of Connecticut. "Bob's sense of artistic quality was matched by a true generosity of spirit," Austin said.
Throughout his career, Gray was an active studio painter and a serious scholar. A member of Connecticut's Commission on the Arts and State Motion Picture Film Commission, he was a trustee for the Stamford Center for the Arts and the Farmington Valley Arts Center. Gray also was a trustee and board member of numerous art museums, including the Bruce Museum of Greenwich, the Los Angeles Craft and Folk Art Museum, and was a founding member of the Board of Trustees for Robert Redford's Sundance Institute for Film.
Gray was honored for his cultural and artistic contributions by the government of France with the title and by the president of Mexico. In 1992 he received the title of Knight of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy for his work in promoting strong cultural ties between Italy and the United States.
"Gone is an artistic, creative, articulate, literate man who was a force for constructive change in the arts in Connecticut, in the nation, and abroad; in higher education, at the University, and in the School," said Mark A. Emmert, chancellor.
Gray, who earned BFA and MFA degrees at Yale University, became dean at UConn in 1991. He had also been chairman and professor of art at New York University, and dean and professor of art at the University of California at Los Angeles, the State University of New York at Purchase, and the Silvermine College of Art. He had also served as a professor of art and a department head at Pennsylvania State University, where in 1972 he was cited as Educator of the Year.
"The characteristic of Bob's administration that those of us who worked for him most cherished was his ability to challenge us to take risks while giving us support to do so without fear," said Mary Ellen Junda, associate dean of fine arts.
An active and well-loved member of the community, Gray was known for his commitment to diversity. "Bob had no peers when it came to commitment to diversifying faculty, staff, and students," said Ron Taylor, director of the African-American Studies Institute. "He was totally committed to achieving that on campus. He was always involved. We're going to miss him."
Gray, 67, who lived in Tolland, is survived by his wife Constance M. Gray and a son Richard B. Gray of Dallas, Texas. He is pre-deceased by a son, Charles Gray.
A memorial gathering was held Friday, in the Harriet Jorgensen Theatre. Donations in Gray's memory may be made to the Robert H. Gray Memorial Lecture in the Arts Fund and sent to: School of Fine Arts, University of Connecticut, 875 Coventry Road, Storrs, CT 06269-1128.