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OJC Press Release ID: 2657

Monday, May 1, 2017

Gray retires from Otero Junior College after 23 years

The mark of a true academician is lifelong learning. Joel Gray’s life exemplifies this drive for knowledge and thirst for ideas.

A graduate of Roosevelt High School in Johnstown, CO, Gray began his academic career as a physical education major with plans to become a football coach. After realizing that this was not a fit, Gray set off on the path of pre-med.  Soon he discovered his true calling: chemistry.

Gray found his fit with the study of chemistry; so much so that he completed a Bachelor of Science in chemistry and a Master of Science and Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Colorado State College (now UNC).

Working for 15 years as a research chemist for Coors Brewing Co., Gray learned a lot about corporate life. Though the work was interesting at first, Gray found it mundane after a time and made an important career change. 

In August 1994, Gray began as a chemistry instructor. Soon he was also teaching physics and statistics. 

Through the years, Gray continued to expand his knowledge. “I completed all of the coursework for a Master of Science in Applied Statistics from UNC. I didn’t need the degree; I just needed to know more about the topics,” said Gray.

“One of the most significant and beneficial events that came our way was when Jim Rizzuto became President of OJC,” Gray recalled. “With his acute business sense and long standing ties to the communities, OJC became more prosperous and more responsive to the changing needs to our communities.  I also believe that the OJC family became much more comfortable and confident of the path ahead of us.  He is OJC!”

Gray’s dedication and love for quality instruction and high standards led him to chair the Math/Science department from 1999-2015. His tenure in this role produced what Gray sees as one of his greatest accomplishments in his time at OJC: quality, dedicated math and science faculty who have helped to grow the number of Associate of Science graduates. 

“The one thing that has meant the most to me is increased enrollments in the sciences,” said Gray. “When I started, the number of AS graduates could be counted on two hands. The big reason for this, I believe, stems from our dedicated math and science instructors.  They are the people who have made this difference possible.”

Along with hiring excellent faculty came the difficult task of making decisions about not recommending contract renewals for some faculty who did not meet muster. Though this was a challenge, the greatest challenge for Gray was making the decision to retire.

“What I will miss most is the opportunity to teach chemistry and physics and the opportunity to try new experiments,” said Gray. “But I am not leaving just yet. I am really excited about taking those courses that I haven’t yet had, like astronomy, geology, archaeology, and renewing my knowledge of biology.”

In true form, Gray intends to continue learning and discovering new ideas and concepts indefinitely.

Press Release Photo
Dr. Joel Gray, science faculty at Otero Junior College, is retiring from OJC this year.