39th Annual MLK Celebration Leadership Award Recipient: Priscilla King Gray

Priscilla King Gray

Former first lady of MIT

39th Annual MLK Leadership Award

Priscilla King Gray at the 2015 MIT Awards Convocation. Photo: Justin Knight 2015
Priscilla King Gray at the 2015 MIT Awards Convocation. Photo: Justin Knight 2015

Priscilla King Gray was honored with an MLK Leadership Award for her legacy of service and volunteerism, inspiring students and faculty to give back to their community.

Gray is a former first lady of MIT and still a warm presence and leader at the Institute. Except for two years in the military, her husband, Paul Gray '54 (MIT’s 14th president from 1980 to 1990 and 2002 MLK Leadership Award recipient), has been at MIT since he enrolled as a freshman in 1950. Mrs. Gray has been at his side for most of those years. She was committed to the total MIT community—faculty, students, and staff—and she made the president’s house available for many gatherings.

In 1988, Gray co-founded MIT’s Public Service Center Priscilla Gray co-founded the PSC with then-dean of student affairs Shirley McBay and mechanical-engineering professor Robert Mann. The PSC — renamed in her honor as the Priscilla King Gray Public Service Center in 2015 — promotes service to the MIT community, the Boston area, and the world by providing grants, advice, and logistical support. Gray has since remained an advocate for its work.

She also helped to guide and shape the organization now known as the Women’s League, taught crewel embroidery, raised four children, served as a hospital volunteer, and provided aid, comfort, food, and guidance not only to her husband, but to generations of students, faculty, staff, and others in the MIT community.

Mrs. Gray is an honorary member of the MIT Alumni Association and was presented with its Bronze Beaver Award in 1990 in recognition of her service to the Institute and the Alumni Association. She served as the Women's League’s Honorary Chair during MIT president Susan Hockfield's leadership (2004-2012).

At the 1994 Women's League’s annual meeting, Mrs. Gray said that “every first lady must bring with her three things: a sense of herself; a sense of humor; and a love of people.”