Remembering Gary Gray ‘83: A Champion for Students with Disabilities
A Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month retrospective on Gary Gray ‘83 and how in championing for students with disabilities, he changed Texas A&M forever.
By Amber Francis ‘22
Since 1987, March has been known as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, a month that seeks to raise awareness about the inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in all facets of community life, as well as awareness of barriers that people with disabilities can still face in connecting to the communities they inhabit. But even prior to the national recognition of developmental disabilities, Aggies like Gary Gray ‘83 strove to raise awareness for students with disabilities right here at the heart of Texas A&M University.
An English major with muscular dystrophy, Gray consistently challenged Texas A&M to accommodate the needs of individuals with disabilities to insure every student could have an equal Aggie experience.
Gray took monumental efforts to increase disability awareness throughout Aggieliand, forming the first Disability Services Student Group, as well as locating and designing curb cuts and access ramps around campus. to increase wheelchair mobility. Actively involved in reshaping the community, Gray was also a member of the design team for the first student disability section at Kyle Field and G. Rollie White Coliseum.
The impact Gray had on student life wasn’t limited to just policy and campus accessibility, but had tangible effects on student organizations and sports teams, with Gray even organizing and coaching the university’s first wheelchair basketball team. He was also the first disabled member of the Region 20 chess team, where he served as captain.
Sadly, Gray was unable to complete his final year at Texas A&M, passing away in 1982. But Gray has left a legacy that extends far beyond his years at school, a legacy that affects his fellow Aggies even to this day. It’s thanks in large part to his calls for accessibility that Texas A&M is considered the 13th most wheelchair-friendly campus in the nation. Now, newer buildings like the Student Services Building intentionally include accessibility in the design in order to be welcoming and inclusive of disabled students, faculty, staff and visitors.
As of 2018, Gray’s parents have graciously donated his papers to Cushing Memorial Library and Archives as a way of documenting his life, legacy, and activism helping Aggies with disabilities as he pushed the university to provide better services and access around campus.
Gray is also the namesake for The Gary Gray Memorial Student Recognition Award, an award sponsored by the Department of Disability Services and given out at the annual Accountability, Climate, and Equity (ACE) Awards. The award, established in Gray’s honor in 1994, recognizes students who promote an inclusive environment at the university by removing barriers for students with disabilities and can be achieved through education or inclusive activities.
Though he may have left us too soon, Gray’s impact on Aggieland is indisputable and something not easily forgotten, reaching far and wide across different facets of the Aggie community. Even now his advocacy on behalf of students with disabilities acts as a light, guiding Texas A&M into the future.