Fordham's VP for student affairs encourages with tough loveKatelynn Gray '12 in Lincoln Square News, December 17, 2010
In high school, Jeffrey Gray was a three-sport athlete. Sports were his first true love. Academics were not his priority. With basketball, track, and football all year round, Gray would occasionally fall behind in school. Luckily, Gray had a few high school football coaches that helped him overcome the challenges of juggling school with sports and a personal life. These coaches always helped him through by holding him accountable for every mistake he made. This tough love philosophy would stick with Gray for the remainder of his life.
Gray still looks as though he could pick up a football and dominate the field. He’s tall and tanned with the body of an athlete. At first glance, Gray looks easy going and relaxed. However, anyone that has spoken to Gray immediately knows that he means business.
Jeff Gray is the vice president for student affairs at Fordham University. He handles roughly 15 departments that provide services and programs to all three of Fordham’s campuses. His division is responsible for distribution of services, including emergency services. Gray controls more than 350 full time, part time, and hourly staff members. These figures exclude the undergraduate staff members, which include more than 200 Ram Van drivers and 100 resident assistants.
According to Fordham’s Media Guide, under Gray’s direction and leadership several programmatic enhancements have been advanced in support of intercollegiate athletics including multiple capital renewal projects, expanded athletic scholarship initiatives and the addition of several key personnel in the administrative and coaching ranks.
With his athletic background, Gray never envisioned that he’d play such an important role in the academics of such a prestigious university. “In high school I was certainly not studious. My kids are way better students than I was. I became more studious in college, but I still didn’t prioritize my academics. I learned a lot about myself in college and grew up faster.”
Gray attended the State University of New York at Plattsburg where he majored in psychology with concentrations in business sociology and philosophy. Gray went on to receive his master’s from Syracuse University and a second from Western Connecticut State University. Gray was a varsity basketball couch for three years and coached track and football while he attended Syracuse. Perhaps that is part of the reason that Gray enjoys working with the Fordham Athletics Department now.
“I enjoy the athletic part. It can be very challenging. It’s probably 50 percent of my divisions in terms of staff, size, and finances. My favorite part of my job is when I get the opportunity to spend time with athletes and students on a day to day basis.”
With four children of his own, Gray has spent plenty of quality time with athletes. All four children are not surprisingly athletic. His oldest daughter, Kate is a retired swimmer. She played lacrosse and soccer as a child, but gave up land sports fairly quickly. “ She became really klutzy, she’s just not good at land sports!” Gray said with a laugh.
Gray’s son Brendan is currently a senior at Scranton University, where he plays varsity lacrosse. He was captain of his team in High School.
Gray has two younger daughters who both swim and play lacrosse.
“My kids hobbies have become my own,” he said. “I spend all of my free time at their events.” Gray even got certified to become a USA Swimming official. “I officiated most of the meets my kids were and do swim in. It’s pretty cool.”
Katelynn Gray, a 22-year-old student at Fordham Law, weighs in on her father’s interest in sports: “He likes to live through us. He loved sports. He also loves academics. That is why he is so interested in them. He wants to see everyone do well, not just his kids.” Katelynn received her undergraduate degree from Fordham University in 2010.
“I was thrilled when Kate chose to come to Fordham, but its always challenging when you go to a school on the campus where your dad works. And vice versa,” Gray said. Although Gray says he had no reservations about his daughter going to Fordham, he admits that they did stumble into several challenging moments.
“Everyone watched her and held her to a certain standard. Some people were always looking to take a shot at her, “ Gray said.
“There were moments on campus when she would get into something and all the staff would let me know. It was difficult for her at first but, she figured it out,” Gray said, while stifling a laugh.
Gray uses the “tough love” approach not only with his own children, but with his students as well. Gray truly believes in succeeding through honesty, hard work, and learning from past mistakes.
In a blog post published on http://lifeatthebottom.wordpress.com, Gray summed up his beliefs very simply, “We are committed to success … But if there’s something that has to give (to achieve that success), if the things that have to give have to do with our own core values and our integrity then they probably won’t give.”
Gray says he gives his students the same advice he gives his children. “Make sure your priorities are lined up — academics followed by athletics. If you don’t have them then there’s going to be other co-curricular, and then social life. That has to be part of it but it has to be the third priority in the list of three.”