William “Bill” Gray III
“Bill called me on a Saturday while I was attending a football game in Atlanta. He said to me ‘Brown you need to go to Mississippi — Alcorn is the perfect job for you.’ I advised him that I was content where I was. To which he replied, ‘You need to put all of your energy into going to Alcorn. It is the ideal campus to build a model public black college. Don’t call me back until you have the job.’ And when Bill speaks, you listen. So, I started studying all things Alcorn. A few months later, I had the job. I can now say that it is the best job I have ever had. Every day I wake up, I live my mission and passion because of Bill’s guidance.”
President Brown mourns the loss of his mentor, collaborator and friend. “Today, I find myself more emotive than logical,” says Brown. “He taught me so much, and I will forever cherish his stern guidance, unequivocal advice, genuine friendship, and host of memories. When Bill recruited me from Penn State to serve as executive director and chief research scientist at UNCF, he taught me how to be an effective, data-driven, outcomes administrator. ‘No’ was never an answer or an option. He drilled in me the responsibility to be excellent without excuse. I model his leadership style every day.”
Last Friday when President Brown was named 2013 HBCU Male President of the Year by the Center for HBCU Media Advocacy, he dedicated his award to Congressman Gray and his mentorship.
“I will never forget him teaching me the gravitas and grace of successful leaders. He taught me how to manage people, to invest my money, what cars to buy, and how to balance my career and ministry. Many people were unaware that, during the time Bill led UNCF in Fairfax, Virginia, he was also Senior Pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,” said Brown. “It is not surprising that he transitioned at Wimbledon. Bill loved tennis. During my interview back in 2003, he was watching tennis and grilling my credentials at the same time.”
President Brown added, “Bill’s mind and work were unparalleled. No matter how well I did, Bill demanded that I do better. In chapter 6 of the book of Genesis, there is a passage that reads: ‘There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bore children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.’ Bill Gray was a giant. I am because he was. Everyone knows that Bill put his mark on me.”
On May 7, 2011, Gray, the former United States House of Representatives Majority Whip and past United Negro College Fund president, delivered the 140th Commencement Convocation address at Alcorn. He served as the first Commencement speaker under President Brown’s new administration. He drew upon his professional and personal experiences as he shared his passion for helping others and offered messages of hope to the Class of 2011.
“You have indeed come a mighty long way to achieve excellence,” said Gray, who received the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Gray congratulated Alcorn’s 2011 graduates by stating, “Always remember where you come from, whose you are and how you have been blessed. None of us achieve greatness alone.”
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