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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

Wakefield resident to graduate from URI as top human development student

Media Contact: Jhodi Redlich, 401-874-4500

KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 16, 2005 -- Donna Gray is known to wear many different hats in her daily life. On Sunday, May 22, she'll happily don a new one as she marches in the University of Rhode Island's 119th Commencement ceremonies.

Gray will receive her Bachelor of Science Degree in Human Development and Family Studies after working on it for years, and excelling at it in the process. She will also receive the President's Excellence Award as the top student in her degree program.

"About eight years ago, my husband and I took a class together. I loved it, he didn't and said 'this is not for me.' When I told him I wanted to take more classes, he kept saying, 'You go, girl!' and I continued," Gray said. "This was a personal goal for me, not a career-changing goal. The classes, the work, and all the interactions have helped me to deal with a lot of life issues."

At home, Gray is a wife, mother and grandmother juggling two households now under one roof -- her son moved home with his children following hurricane Charlie's destruction of his home in Florida in August. At the office, she is the information technologist or 'computer geek', as she says, for URI's Graduate School and for the PeopleSoft Information team during the University's computer software project transition. And in the classroom, she is the energetic student who has taken on the task of learning and working with students as peers.

Gray, who has been working at URI for 28 years, said that the classes she took and working towards the degree itself enriched her life and understanding of people and issues she has faced over the years.

"I am a people-person and learning about the entire lifespan -- from infancy to old age -- has really helped me as a person in both my home and professional life," she said.

"Donna has the enthusiasm of a younger student and inspires many in the classroom," said Gray's advisor, Human Development and Family Studies Professor Jerome Schraffran. "What impressed me most about Donna was how she committed herself to finishing this program in the midst of changes in her job at the University and her role as a parent and grandparent. As she faced new challenges, she was able to integrate those into her studies. She brought such a wealth of experiences into the classroom and shared these and much more with her fellow students."

When asked if she plans to continue for an advanced degree, Gray said she doesn't think she will, even though her professors have urged her to consider applying to the graduate program.

"And of course, my husband says again, 'You go, Girl!'," Gray said with a laugh.

URI News Bureau Photo by Michael Salerno Photography.