Thanks to Mary Williams, SCARC student worker for this post on Dr. Pearl Spears Gray!
Pearl Spears Gray, born August 19, 1945 in Selma, Alabama, worked with OSU as an instructor for the Education Department for the Portland Urban Teach Education Program and the Affirmative Action Director from the years 1973 to 1987. Her time at the school allowed for great strides in the Affirmative Action program, and aided Oregon State in becoming a more diverse and inclusive campus.
Dr. Gray was born in Alabama but grew up and went to high school in Washington D.C. After graduating she attended Wilberforce University for her undergrad then Antioch Putney University, where she got her Master’s in Secondary Education with an emphasis on African American history. Dr. Gray then went on to teach government, history and sociology at different high schools in the Washington D.C. area from the years of 1968 to 1973. In 1969. She received a grant from Rockefeller Family fund to study at different African universities such as University College Cape Coast, along with Ghana and University of Ibadan. During this time she met her then husband, Eddie Gray, and had two children, Don and David Gray.
She came to work for Oregon State University as an instructor for the Portland Urban Teaching program in 1973. This program was a “cooperative effort between the OSU school of Education and the Portland public schools to train minority students in education for teach in urban schools”. After three years, Dr. Gray decided to move to Corvallis and take the position as Affirmative Action officer, where at the time there were 250 African American students. In an article from the Oregon Stater she states, “I view this office as a service to the university…we can broaden the awareness of the university population about what is discriminatory. We can be a source of information, a force of change, and in integral part of this university in terms of developing programs that speak to the needs of women and minorities.” Through her hard work and dedication she the Black Journal placed her on a list called “100 Most Influential Friends” in 1977. Around this same time, she began to create a report for Oregon State’s compliance with Title IX and found that there were some shortcomings in the athletic department, requiring that they change their department to be more inclusive.
During this time Dr. Gray was also working to complete her PhD. Between 1976-1979 she took multiple courses including Statistical Methods, Historiography, Anthropology of Africa, and Adv. Cultural Anthropology Reading & Conference. In 1985, she completed and presented her thesis African-American Folkloric Form and Function in Segregated One-Room Schools, earning her a PhD in Philosophy in Educational Foundations at Oregon State University.
In 1986, Dr. Gray was appointed as ACE Fellow, and was selected to spend most of her fellowship at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. Oregon State granted her a two year leave in order to fulfill her fellowship, but she ultimately decides to take position offered to her as Associate Provost for Policy and Assistant to the President at the University of Virginia in 1987.
Dr. Pearl Spears Grey was and extremely active advocate for diversity in academia. During her career she was a part of Delta Sigma Theta and “instrumental in beginning a new chapter…at OSU”, a part of African Heritage Studies Association, National Council for Social Science, Associate for the Study of Negro Life & History, Daughter of Isis, Order of the Eastern Star, Urban League of R.I. (board member), and served on the Governor’s Commission on Black Affairs. She pushed Oregon State University to open the doors to those who were not originally given the opportunity and allowed them to feel accepted on a predominately white campus.