Charlie Gray Honored as Homecoming Grand Marshal
Charlie Gray may have retired from Alma College in 1993 after 28 years as a teacher, coach and athletic director, but his presence, influence and enthusiasm remain as strong as ever.
“He has a contagious enthusiasm for Alma College that is well-known by our alumni,” says Carol Hyble, vice president for advancement. “He cares about Alma so deeply. In many ways, he never really retired. In all his roles at Alma, his focus was always on excellence.”
Gray will serve as the grand marshal of the 2011 homecoming parade on Oct. 15. This year’s homecoming theme celebrates the College’s 125th anniversary.
Charlie Gray, center, with the 1967-68 MIAA All-Sports Trophy.
“Charlie was a great athletic director and is our link to the past — a walking archive,” says Athletic Director John Leister. “He reminds you of times past at Alma with a twinkle in his eye. When he is in town, we see him all the time. He’s a great advisor for the coaches. You can’t think of Alma Athletics without thinking of Charlie Gray.”
From 1965 through 1993, Gray served in various positions. He coached basketball, track and cross country and served as athletic director. He also helped reorganize the physical education department into the exercise and health science department and served as department chair.
As track and cross country coach, his teams won eight conference and two regional championships and produced six All-American athletes. He served two years as the national president of the NAIA Coaches Association, and he founded the Alma Athletics Hall of Fame in 1971 — the first college athletics hall of fame in Michigan. In 1994, Gray was inducted into the Alma Athletics Hall of Fame for meritorious service.
“There are many other people with deep roots to the college that are more deserving of this honor,” says Gray. “My relationships with the College have been great, even in retirement. I have enjoyed an absolutely seamless life; I have nothing to complain about.”
In addition to his coaching success, highlights of Gray’s career include the emergence of women’s athletics at Alma following the enactment of the Title IX Civil Rights amendment in 1972 and the establishment of the Exercise and Health Science department in 1985.
“I consider the transitioning of the physical education department to EHS as the pinnacle of my career,” says Gray. “I took a sabbatical in Winter 1981 and traveled across the country looking for trends in corporate fitness, recreation and physical education. That culminated in a document that identified 60 changes to the physical education department, transitioning it to EHS. We took the document to the faculty curriculum committee, where it was unanimously approved.”
Gray appreciates the recent changes in the athletics program at Alma, from the addition of lacrosse, wrestling and bowling as varsity sports to the construction of the Art Smith Arena and upgrades to the football and softball fields and Hogan Center.
“The current momentum reminds me of 1965 when I joined Bill Klenk and Denny Stolz as young coaches at Alma,” he says. “That same kind of energy and synergy is pervasive in Hogan today. I find it very exciting to see these advances.”
While he spends five months of the year in Florida, the rest of the time he is a familiar presence in Alma and on campus, counseling students and athletes who visit him at his house adjacent to the campus.
“Alma is a cohesive community, and its lifeblood is its alumni,” he says. “Our alumni show appreciation of what they have received and experienced at Alma. There is a sense of respect, a sense of love, from alumni in all disciplines — a special affection of what happens here and of the lifelong associations they gained.”
Posted: Mon, October 10th, 2011 at 7:47AM