Priscilla King Gray, co-founder and namesake of the Institute’s public

Priscilla King Grey, an integral a part of the material at MIT for greater than 50 years, died on Feb. 8. She was 89.

Grey, who had been the spouse of former MIT president Paul Grey ’54, SM ’55, ScD ’60 till his demise in 2017, co-founded the MIT Public Service Middle — since renamed in her honor because the Priscilla King Grey Public Service Middle — and was a champion of public service and a pacesetter in efforts to construct group on the Institute.

She arrived at MIT when her husband joined the college of the Division of Electrical Engineering in 1960, and skilled Institute life with him over the subsequent 5 a long time as he ascended the ranks of the administration. Paul Grey served because the dean of engineering, affiliate provost, and chancellor, after which as MIT’s 14th president from 1980 to 1990, adopted by seven years as chair of the MIT Company.

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All through this time, Priscilla Grey made her personal indelible mark on the Institute via her contributions to public service, whereas additionally being Paul’s confidante, sounding board, and occasional advisor.

“I didn’t have the prospect to satisfy Priscilla Grey,” says MIT President Sally Kornbluth, who assumed the position on Jan. 1. “However her spirit feels splendidly acquainted, as a result of, from her portrait within the entrance corridor at Grey Home, the place she and Paul are painted facet by facet, her quiet smile warms the room. As I am studying, Priscilla’s title is synonymous with public service at MIT — a becoming legacy for somebody who believed deeply in our college students and their capability to do good on the earth.”

A legacy of service

Priscilla King Grey and Paul Grey met as school college students in 1951, when Priscilla was at Wheaton School and Paul at MIT. They married in 1955 and spent two years on the close by Fort Devens Military Base, the place Priscilla taught second grade and gave delivery to the primary of their 4 kids whereas Paul accomplished his army service. The household then moved to the Cambridge space, in order that Paul may start his PhD at MIT.

As her household grew and Paul grew to become an MIT college member after which administrator, Priscilla was an lively volunteer each on and off campus. Amongst different actions, she joined the MIT Girls’s League, later saying in an MIT Infinite History interview, “Within the early years, that’s actually how I received to know the Institute.”

With the league, she labored to assist college wives host occasions of their properties for college kids, after which participated in different efforts, akin to elevating cash for and serving to to reorganize Elizabeth Killian Corridor (Constructing 14), and supporting an area shelter for folks experiencing homelessness. Grey additionally taught crewel embroidery at MIT from 1978 to 2007.

In 1988, whereas her husband was the Institute’s president, she co-founded the MIT Public Service Middle with dean of scholar affairs Shirley McBay, and served as co-chair of its steering committee for greater than 23 years. The middle was renamed in her honor in 2015, and is now often called the PKG Middle.

“Priscilla was the mom of all of us who have been college students at MIT,” says Hyun-A Park ’83, MCP ’85, a member of the MIT Company and former president of the MIT Alumni Affiliation. Park labored with Grey on the MIT quasquicentennial gala centered across the opening of the Wiesner Scholar Artwork Gallery. She remembers that Grey would recurrently invite her to breakfast on the president’s home: “I cherished these breakfasts with Priscilla. She at all times may discuss something and it will be enjoyable and fascinating.”

“She welcomed college students with open arms then wrapped them round us so we felt at residence. I used to be fortunate sufficient proceed to have her ‘mom’ me all through my life together with her generosity and love,” Park says. 

Imaginative and prescient and technique

Right now, the PKG Middle has expanded past a “day of service” mindset; its imaginative and prescient of public service is now extra long-term, community-informed, and academically aligned. Grey was “a real strategic thought accomplice” all through the middle’s evolution, says Jill Bassett, affiliate dean and director of the PKG Middle.

Grey was “visionary in setting the stage so we may evolve in an MIT-specific method. She lived and breathed MIT and would by no means have wished us to stay stagnant and stationary. As we advanced, she was thrilled that we have been manifesting the MIT ethos,” Bassett says.

In 2020, the PKG Middle wanted assist to supply alternatives for MIT college students to lend their expertise to the struggle towards Covid-19. Grey decided that it was time for the 2 of them to talk with then-President L. Rafael Reif, and labored fastidiously with Bassett to arrange for the assembly, which went efficiently.

“She introduced her expertise as having been a primary girl and understanding what Paul was grappling with,” Bassett says. “She had an especially astute sense of political timing and framing that she helped me with, and I’m so grateful.”

“Priscilla was a beautiful and caring buddy and advisor to my spouse and to me throughout our time in Grey Home,” Reif says. “She was, with Paul, such pleasant position fashions for what it means to be MIT president and first girl. Chris and I’ll deeply miss her presence, her heat, her seemingly infinite power and her lifelong dedication to the folks of MIT.”

A accomplice in management

Priscilla was a trusted advisor to Paul as he took on extra administrative tasks, and thru her group actions she typically discovered an important deal about college students’ opinions and desires. As she recalled in her Infinite Historical past interview, she would typically hear issues from MIT group members, for instance, throughout her crewel embroidery courses, that she felt can be useful for Paul to know — however she additionally knew when folks have been simply “stirring the pot” in her presence, and stored these issues to herself, she stated.

The longer Paul labored at MIT, the extra the Institute demanded of him, and, in flip, his household. The pull was maybe most acute within the late Nineteen Sixties and early Seventies, because the antiwar motion swelled. Throughout these turbulent instances, Paul “lived” at MIT, Priscilla recalled later, noting that she would deliver him contemporary garments every day.

To make sure, there have been merrier instances as effectively. The Grays hosted many social occasions for MIT group members through the years. When Paul was chancellor in the course of the Seventies, the household hosted enormous dinners on each Friday and Saturday nights at their residence in Winchester, at all times inviting spouses as effectively. “We felt they shouldn’t be neglected,” Priscilla recalled.

“Priscilla was for many years the guts and soul of MIT — considerate, thoughtful, gracious, and deeply within the well-being of everybody within the MIT group,” says Professor Eric Grimson, who can be the chancellor for tutorial development and interim vice chairman of open studying.

Making a house at Grey Home

When Paul grew to become president of MIT, he and his household moved into the president’s home, now named Grey Home. Though his predecessor as MIT’s president, Jerome Wiesner, had opted to stay together with his household in their very own residence, Paul and Priscilla felt it was essential to reside on campus throughout this time.

There, along with internet hosting dignitaries, memorial gatherings, college gatherings, and extra, Priscilla began a convention of holding dinners for undergraduate seniors. “I wished to by some means make certain each MIT scholar had been within the president’s home as soon as,” she advised Infinite Historical past.

Bonny Kellermann, director of particular constituencies, who has labored at MIT for almost 50 years, remembers that at receptions for brand spanking new college students and their mother and father, Priscilla and Paul would personally greet everybody as they entered Grey Home and got here via a receiving line. “Priscilla appeared to have a tremendous knack of remembering the names of the entire folks she had met. I used to be at all times in awe of her means to do this,” Kellermann says.

Grey’s duties as first girl additionally included serving on two committees, together with builders and designers, to plan renovations of the coed heart and Edgerton Home. She traveled with Paul ceaselessly, together with to Egypt and to Japan, the place she met the emperor and empress, and to the UK, the place she met Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Grey was named an honorary member of the MIT Alumni Affiliation in 1977 and acquired its Harold E. Lobdell ’17 Distinguished Service Award in 1985. In 1990, she additionally acquired the Bronze Beaver Award, which is the Alumni Affiliation’s highest honor.

“From the time I first met her in 1965, Priscilla was certainly one of my dearest pals who  was woven into the tapestry of my life. My household visited ‘Aunt Priscilla’ ceaselessly, and we talked recurrently to share the thrill and frustrations of life. She personified the MIT spirit of ‘I can’ in ways in which no one else imagined,” says Jim Taylor ’65, an in depth buddy of Priscilla and Paul for 58 years. “She was by no means too busy to pay attention, at all times constructive, and by no means missed a chance to serve others. I feel Priscilla discovered as a lot satisfaction in educating my then-4-year outdated son tie his sneakers as she did interacting with the prime minister of the U.Ok. She was an unimaginable girl who lived a full, wealthy life and gave again rather more than she ever took. I’ll miss her.”

Grey is survived by 4 kids and their spouses — Virginia and Thomas Military, Amy and David Sluyter, Andrew and Yukiko Grey, and Louise and Timothy Huyck — and by 12 grandchildren, 5 of their spouses, and 6 great-grandchildren. A number of of the Grays’ grandchildren have MIT ties of their very own: Priscilla Military Elliott graduated from MIT in 2010; Elizabeth Grey Military at the moment works for the MIT Alumni Affiliation; and Caroline Perry works within the Workplace of the Vice President for Analysis.

Presents to MIT in Grey’s reminiscence could also be made to the Priscilla King Gray Public Service Fund.


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