Paul Gray emeritus citation, 2019
Paul Gray, for fifty years (fifty!) you have been an outstanding professor of philosophy at Cornell College: an impassioned, dedicated teacher and advisor, an advocate for the liberal arts and critical thinking, an engaged community member, and a voice of integrity challenging students, faculty, and administrators—Diogenes searching for an honest person.
You successfully taught when Cornell operated under a semester system and Philosophy required tutorials of upper-level majors. You transitioned smoothly to the block plan, always receiving the highest praise from students.
As a professor, you profess: challenging students by your embrace of important ideas. Your explicit endorsement of atheism, for example, was an invitation for students to sharpen their own thinking by challenging yours. Students do not have to guess what you think. They admire your strident advocacy, lining up for “the Paul Gray experience”. They appreciate your commitment to rational thought and clarity, your deep knowledge, your thorough preparation for every class, and your demonstration that philosophy is not a dry intellectual endeavor, but something of central importance to our lives. Your courses in Existentialism and on Nietzsche, in particular, were always eagerly anticipated. You embraced the College’s requirement that faculty be aware of feminist scholarship in their fields and introduced feminist and female philosophers into almost all your courses. Your enthusiasm created dedicated Paul Gray disciples who sought out every course you taught and who remain passionate in their love for you. Because of the enthusiasm you generated, your courses had consistently high enrollments, attracting both majors and nonmajors to Philosophy.
You are also a long-serving contributor to the College and the Philosophy Department. You were a regular member of the Academic Programs Subcommittee and Academic Affairs Committee, overseeing important curricular work at Cornell and insisting on clarity and consistency with principle in all of your work. Faculty members didn’t have to guess where you stood on issues. The value of your work for the Philosophy Department is immeasurable. You provided many years of consistent and convivial leadership as chair (at one point maintaining a streak of twenty consecutive years). You pushed the College to increase the size of the Philosophy Department from two to three members. The Department hired Cornell’s first female philosopher under your administration.
For five decades you have been a valued teacher of students and an honest voice for faculty. You have been an immense presence at Cornell and will be sorely missed. The College and the Philosophy Department are grateful for all you’ve done and we wish you success as you confront the challenges that life presents.