April 5, 2017
The Faculty of Education is deeply saddened to share the news of the passing of one of our former colleagues, Dr. James Underwood Gray, on March 18, 2017. Professor Gray was born on November 8, 1927.
In 1950, Dr. Gray graduated from the Vancouver School of Art and Design with Honours in Drawing and Painting and from Vancouver Provincial Normal School (1951). He then taught in four Vancouver elementary schools and as an art specialist at Gladstone Secondary. From 1959-1967, he was Supervisor of Art for the VSB. After completing his PhD at the University of Washington he joined the Department of Visual and Performing Arts in Education (VPAE) at The University of British Columbia.
Dr. Gray was a mentor and an adviser to undergraduate and graduate students including Professor Rita Irwin, previously a Department Head of Curriculum Studies, Associate Dean for Teacher Education and now a UBC Distinguished Scholar. Jim provided counsel that was always thoughtful, considered, and practical. He had that rare quality, prized by senators in republican Rome, called ‘gravitas’ – imperturbable, not swayed by trends or superficial posturing. Jim was the kind of person you could try out ideas on, and be sure of a reasoned response, even if it wasn’t the one you were looking for. He was responsible for the creation of Quarterly Quorum, a lecture series that ran for years, drawing upon visiting Canadian and American art educators and helping raise UBC’s profile to an international level. He was very active both in the Canadian Society for Education through Art, and in the National Art Education Association (USA).
Dr. Gray taught a wide range of studio courses and graduate degree program courses in curriculum and instruction. His central belief, contained in the phrase “To hire a teacher is to hire a curriculum,” was that teachers stitch together programs for their students out of their own enthusiasms, experiences, and areas of expertise. This was in direct contrast to the widely held belief among some in higher education that a well written textbook provided all that a novice art teacher needs to conduct a successful program.
Dr. Gray retired from UBC in 1992 as a Professor Emeritus. A celebration of his life and times will be held on Sunday, April 30, 2017, 1:30 p.m. at the Royal Canadian Legion, 301 – 11th Avenue, Campbell River, V9W 4G2.