Clarence Gray

Dr. Clarence Cornelius Gray III Clarence Gray, professor, international agronomist and a retired principal officer with the Rockefeller Foundation died peacefully November 5, 2017. He was surrounded by his loving wife of 59 years, Shirley, daughter, Michele and sons Clarence (IV) and Sean.

He was born in Ridge Springs, SC, July 23, 1917, but his early years were spent in Virginia and in New York where he graduated from Hempstead High School. Virginia State College, now University, played a very important role in his life. In 1939, as a 22 year old freshman, he ran out of money and received a campus job that enabled him to remain in school. With the help of supportive staff he lived at the college year round. It became his home where he remained for three and a half years. During the course of his studies, he achieved honor roll each term. He made scholastic scientific honor societies, was in the student council and graduated Second in the class of 1943. Years later, after WWII and graduate school (MS, PhD, Michigan State University), he returned to the college as a faculty member. Within a few years, he was a hard charging young professor of Agronomy. At the Centennial Commencement in 1982, he was awarded Doctor of Laws degree.

In 1958, after marrying Shirley Brown, Warsaw, Virginia, he took a leave of absence from his alma mater and accepted a two year appointment to Nepal as a Foreign Service Officer with the United States Agency International Development. Two years of service with USAID grew into nearly thirteen years. He received assignments in four countries and one Department of State assignment as Officer in Charge of Ceylon-Nepal affairs. In addition, he was sent to the School for Advanced International Studies, John Hopkins University, for intensive study in economic development. He worked for 40 plus years with international assistance agencies in Asia, Africa, Central and South America, to help solve food and income problems of people in developing nations and with low income farmers in the Southeastern United States. Between 1958 -63, he was an Agronomy Advisor, Government of Nepal where he helped develop an agricultural research and extension system. 1964 – 65 he was visiting professor of agricultural Extension, Alexandria University, Egypt. He established the first baccalaureate curriculum in agricultural extension which is credited for modernizing farming in the Nile Delta. In 1966, his work with the Government of Jordan resulted in an irrigation system and agricultural service center in the Jordan Valley. From 1967 – 70, as Chief of the USAID, Agriculture Inputs Division , New Delhi, India he helped drive India’s Green Revolution to avert possible famines in the 1960s. In 1970, while on USAID assignment to India, he was recruited by the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) to supervise their programs in Asia and to be their representative on the Board of Trustees of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Las Banos, PhillippinesHe was on the Board of Trustees of IRRI for 12 years with the last six as Chairman. He was subsequently appointed by RF to develop a crop gene bank for the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing, China. Today, it is one of the largest facilities for the preservation of crop seeds and genetic materials in the world.

Upon retiring from the RF in 1983, he joined the faculty of Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA where he received the designation of Professor Emeritus International Studies. He continued his involvement in international activities as President of CCG Associates, an international agricultural research and development consultancy firm. He received numerous awards and honors for his accomplishments. In 1979, he received a Doctor of Laws degree from Morehouse College. In 1990, he received the Joseph C. Wilson ($10,000) award for outstanding contributions to the alleviation of hunger and poverty in low income, food deficit nations of the world. In 1991, he was the first recipient of the W. Averell Harriman International Service award.

He was a retired officer and veteran of WWII and the Korean War with active service in the US and Japan and reserve duty in France and Turkey. He was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha college fraternity, the society of Sigma Xi national science honorary, Gamma Sigma Delta, the honor society of Agriculture, The Washington chapter of Guardsmen and a “Distinguished Archon” of northern Virginia Beta Nu chapter of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity. He was a resident of Fairfax City for 34 years.

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