Alumnus Of The Year: J. Cary Gray

October 5, 2010

Cary Gray, BBA '79, BA '80, JD '83, doesn't have any memories of life apart from the Baylor family. His parents, Lanella Spinks Gray, BA '54, and the late Tom Gray, BBA '54, met at Baylor, and his mother hosts Baylor Line Camp freshmen each year at Independence, the site of Baylor's original campus. In many ways, the Grays are about as "Baylor" as a family can be.

"I never imagined going to college anywhere else, and Baylor's always been part of my life," says Gray. "Baylor's a great place, and in my mind, it's done nothing but get greater. I made lifelong friends at Baylor, my best friends in the world, and I got a great education."

This might be an understatement. Gray is a rare holder of three degrees from Baylor, in business, accounting and law.

"I learned as much outside the classroom at Baylor as I learned inside the classroom," says Gray. "There's a reason why Baylor produces so many leaders. Some schools talk a lot about leadership, but the only real way to learn leadership and achieve leadership is to live it. That's what happens at Baylor, and I think that's the reason you see such a disproportionate number of people from Baylor end up on the Texas Supreme Court, as state leaders, doctors, lawyers, accountants, business leaders, et cetera."

While a student at Baylor, Gray was president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon and a member of Baylor's 1983 National Quarterfinalist Mock Trial Competition team. He has taken the leadership skills he honed at Baylor to become president and managing director of the commercial law firm Looper, Reed & McGraw P.C. in Houston, where he and his wife, Amber, have three children. Gray has secured favorable verdicts and judgments throughout the world in a wide variety of complex commercial litigation cases. Texas Monthly and Law & Politics magazines have named him a "Texas Super Lawyer."

Throughout the years, Gray has remained actively involved with Baylor as a member of the Old Main Society and Athletic Director's Club and by serving on the board of directors of the Baylor Bear Foundation and the Friends of Baylor Steering Committee.

An avid sports fan, Gray has supported capital projects, excellence funds and student-athlete scholarships relating to baseball, football, men's golf and men's basketball. He has generously supported Hankamer School of Business, Baylor's Student Foundation and the Houston Women's Association Scholarship. Additionally, he has contributed to the law school's faculty fund, alumni endowment and building renovation.

As a prominent citizen of Houston, Gray has been instrumental in advancing the presence and reputation of Baylor University in his native city. Cary's leadership on behalf of the university with the issues attendant to the Baylor College of Medicine were critical to Baylor's interests. Because his alma mater means so much to him, Gray is one of Baylor's most loyal advocates.

"What motivates me now more than anything else is I deeply believe that Baylor -- because of its commitment to the Christian principles that are part of Baylor's mission -- has the opportunity no other university has to play a unique role in the future of our society across the state, the nation and the world," Gray says. "I really believe there is no other university with a mainstream Protestant commitment that has a chance to be a truly great university.

"I think so many of the worst problems of this world are tied to a lack of understanding about religion and its role in people's lives," he continues. "And it seems to me like most of the great universities in the country have largely abandoned that. Somebody's got to teach kids who want to be great scientists how to integrate the faith they've learned and lived all their lives with great science. Regardless of discipline, the same is true. Most schools can't do that. Baylor can. We have the opportunity to touch people's lives in a way that few other universities are attempting to do, and that's a profound opportunity, and a challenge. That's what motivates me to support Baylor now more than ever."

As part of this conviction, Gray wants people to realize Baylor's long history in the sciences, especially in medical education. As a Houston resident, Gray is reminded of Baylor's heritage every day.

"In the last generation, far too many people have forgotten or not realized how important a role Baylor played in medical education in this country," says Gray. "Baylor's medical school started in 1900, and it was easily the largest and most successful medical school in Texas."

In 1943, Baylor moved its medical school to Houston, and it opened what became the very first building in the Texas Medical Center, which now has 93,500 employees and 160,000 visitors every single day.

"Michael DeBakey, probably the most famous surgeon that ever lived, was on Baylor University's payroll for 20 years, and over the past few years, rediscovering that story in a way I'd never known it before was an amazing series of revelations to me.

"You can't walk anywhere in the Texas Medical Center without seeing the name Baylor, so it kind of gives that backdrop that the Baylor brand is inextricably intertwined with medical education and healthcare, and it's an important part of our heritage that we all need to embrace. It's very important to Baylor University, in my judgment, that the Baylor College of Medicine continue to be one of the top medical schools in the country. Even now, we have to keep in mind that it's an important part of our reputation."

In February 2009, there was some public discussion about the possibility of Baylor College of Medicine merging with Rice University. Because Baylor University remains connected with the Baylor College of Medicine, the university needed to stay informed about the College of Medicine's potential partnership, and Gray was asked to help lead those efforts.

"Over the course of the past year and a half, I hope what has resulted is the reconnection of the two institutions in ways that largely had been forgotten. That's certainly been the objective.

"Baylor University continues to have, as part of the organization of the Baylor College of Medicine in 1969, certain rights with regard to approval of actions of the Baylor College of Medicine board. Baylor University organized this entity and literally gave all the assets of the medical school, including the buildings at the Texas Medical Center, to the Baylor College of Medicine. And the organizational documents of the Baylor College of Medicine set out Baylor University's role and it's rights with respect to the college, and so that's really what we've been working on for the last year or so.

"Ultimately what our message has been from the beginning is that Baylor University has always supported and will always support the Baylor College of Medicine and help do what is in its best interest. And so, to a large extent, that was what the discussion was, and still is, about. Baylor University's heritage in medical education and in the development of the Texas Medical Center is incredible, and that's something that we Baylor people need to be really proud of."

The entire Baylor family certainly should be proud of Baylor University's Alumnus of the Year, Cary Gray, and all he has done for Baylor.

Read the Profiles:

Alumnus of the Year: J. Cary Gray
Young Alumna of the Year: Katie Wilhoit Kilpatrick
Pro Ecclesia, Medal Of Service: Dr. Bill Pinson
Pro Texana, Medal Of Service: Sen. Kirk Watson
Baylor Legacy Award: Sadie Jo Black
Baylor Legacy Award: Sue Holt Getterman
Baylor Legacy Award: Harold Riley
Baylor Legacy Award: Clifton Robinson
Baylor Founders Medal: Charles and Mary Alice Wise
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