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Obituary
James R. Gray

09 November 2005


James Gray
James Gray, a senior lecturer emeritus of education and founder of the Bay Area and National Writing Projects, died Nov. 1 at the age of 78.

After earning his B.A. and M.A. in comparative literature from the University of Wisconsin, Gray moved to California, where he taught English at San Leandro High School and Diablo Valley College. In 1961 he became a supervisor of English Education at Berkeley, teaching courses and supervising beginning English teachers. He founded the Bay Area Writing Project in 1973, and three years later, with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Carnegie Corporation, founded the National Writing Project (NWP), based on the Bay Area model. Under his leadership, the NWP grew to more than 189 sites nationwide.

"The National Writing Project is the country's most successful and enduring professional-development organization for teachers of writing," said Bay Area Writing Project Director Carol Tateishi, "and it evolved from Jim's simple and profound idea that successful teachers make the best teachers of other teachers."

Gray retired from UC Berkeley in 1991 and as executive director of the National Writing Project in 1994. Though he spent 31 years at Berkeley, Gray considered himself a classroom teacher first and foremost. He received many honors for his work in education, including the National Teachers of English Distinguished Service Award. He also authored several publications, including Teachers at the Center, a memoir of the early years of the Writing Project.

"His belief in teachers and their knowledge, commitment, and creativity never wavered," said Richard Sterling, executive director of the NWP. "We are all the beneficiaries of his vision and his tireless work on behalf of the writing project network."

Gray is survived by his wife, Stephanie, to whom he was married for 48 years; his daughter, Laura Zagaroli; his grandchildren, Vanessa and Nicholas Zagaroli; and his son-in-law, Nicholas Zagaroli. A memorial is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 17, from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m. in the Lipman Room on the top floor of Barrows Hall on the UC Berkeley campus. If you wish to attend, please RSVP to jgraymemorial@writingproject.org.

In Jim's memory, donations may be made to the American Cancer Society by calling 1-800-ACS-2345 or by visiting www.cancer.org/docroot/DON/don_0.asp

- Steve Cohen