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One Monticello Life: UAM Provost, David Ray

September 5th, 2010 by

Drew Central Superintendant Wayne Fawcett, UAM Provost David Ray, and Monticello Superintendant Bobby Harper, at last week's MEDC meeting.

He’s been an inspiration and an example to college students for decades; everyone in town recognizes his name, and his voice: now sit back and join in on a visit with UAM Provost David Ray, this week’s One Monticello Life.

Ben and Lilah Ray welcomed their only child, David, into the world in San Antonio, TX in 1942. David Ray spent his early years attending Roosevelt School in the middle of the cotton fields of Lubbock, TX. He worked with his father in the fields until his sixth grade year when the family moved to Denver, CO.

Though it was a big change from the fields of Texas, the mountains of Colorado provided a wonderful growing up experience for David.

“In the summers, we’d spend a week at home and a week in the mountains. I must have fished every lake and river in Colorado… it was a really wonderful time.”

Provost Ray's hobbies include painting and sculpting, like these pieces, which decorate his office at UAM.

Mr. Ray said that transitioning from schools was easy for him.

“I was really just one of the guys. I was always athletic, and they liked my Texas slang, as they called it.”

In 1960 David graduated from high school in Aurora, CO and then headed directly to Lubbock, TX to attend Texas Tech. By 1961 he was back in CO, attending the University of Colorado.

“I didn’t finish college at that time. I went back to Lubbock and just worked for the next few years.”

Mr. Ray did complete his undergraduate work at Texas Tech in 1968 with a degree in psychology. He went on to receive his Master’s Degree in Speech Communication.

He said that the sudden change in majors came from a job opportunity there at the college. While getting his degree, he taught classes on Business Professional Speech. From there, he realized his calling as a teacher.

“I loved the classroom and I saw that I could have an impact on the lives of students. The reason that speech was so important was because I found it to be so difficult for myself… so I knew what they were going through. Communication is the biggest equalizer, with everything else being equal, so I saw this special calling to help students overcome this fear of public speaking.”

From there, David went on to teach debate classes and realized what a specialty debate was.

“With debate I could take kids out of the classroom, give them real life experiences, and expand their knowledge. I quickly realized there was something to this.”

David and Loyce Ray were married November 22, 1963. David recalled that the excitement of their wedding day was greatly overshadowed by the fact that it was the same day that President Kennedy was assassinated.

“I was out buying gifts for my groomsmen and stuff like that, and the ladies were in the back of the store packing things up, and I heard these terrible screams. I remember thinking, what in the world is happening back there? Someone ran out and said, “the President has just been shot!”

David and Loyce called friends and the minister to discuss going forward with the wedding due to the death of the President, but everyone agreed that nothing could be done about what had happened, and everything was already in place, so it was best to proceed.

As he finished his Master’s Degree, he began receiving letters from colleges all over the nation. One being from Monticello’s own college, then known as Arkansas A&M.

On January 2, 1970, David Ray interviewed with then President Dr. Claude Babin.

“The next day I left with a job offer, went back to Texas, and told my wife that we were moving to Monticello, AR.”

They made the move to Monticello with a 5 week old baby, their oldest child, Hunter Ray.

“We had two cars and two trailers, and that’s how we moved. We got caught in an ice storm and had to spend two nights in a hotel in Texas because we couldn’t travel on the roads. So, it was kind of a fun experience getting here.”

Five years later they welcomed a daughter, Heather.

Of all of the fascinating classes Mr. Ray has taught, he said that nothing could ever compare to the happenings during Public Speaking Class – more specifically, demonstration speeches.

“Those were the ones that always called up all of these wild and exotic things.”

One memorable moment came when a young man gave a speech on branding cattle. The room the speech class was in at the time had access to outside, and after his speech the student had the class follow him out, where he demonstrated branding on a live cow that he had waiting.

“The class was kind of excited, kind of shocked… I don’t think they had time to think that far! I think there were several gasps from the audience. I expected him to have visual aids like posters and such, but never thought he’d really demonstrate on a real cow!”

Another incident involved a student speaking on rattlesnakes, and then slipping out quickly to bring in two live rattlesnakes to show the class.

“He threw these two 6-7 ft. long snakes on the table at the front of the class, and four young ladies on the front row nearly turned pale! The young man was having a little bit of trouble with one of the snakes and he said, “I can’t imagine what’s wrong with her… I’ve had her in the refrigerator to cool her down all day!””

Other speeches resulted in a parachute being opened and draped over the entire class unexpectedly, a mountain bike being ridden up 3 flights of stairs, and many chainsaw demonstrations by UAM students.

“I think I’m still deaf in my right ear from that.”

In 2004 David Ray made the move from professor to Vice Chancellor.  His current titles include Provost, Vice Chancellor Academic Affairs, and Graduate Dean

“I took the position to do things you just can’t do in the classroom. My intent for everything is to help others be successful, as a teacher and an administrator.”

Mr. Ray has much advise as to what it takes to be a great teacher. He said that first and foremost teachers must have passion about what they are trying to get across to their students. Without that passion, it’s almost impossible to get students excited about learning. He said that one great lesson in teaching he learned as a student himself.

“I had a biology teacher in Texas that never gave me the answers. He just helped me find the answers myself.”

In closing, David Ray humbly accepted his being honored on Live, yet went on to praise many others at UAM for all of their accomplishments.

“Probably UAM is the best kept secret in the state of Arkansas. I’ll put our faculty up against anyone.”

Food – Shrimp
Restaurant – Outback Steak House
TV Show – News
Movie – The Blind Side
Book – Rhetoric of Aristotle, Bible
Past time – Art (painting, sculpting, etc)
Quote – Aristotle – “If it is a disgrace to a man when he cannot defend himself in a bodily way, it would be odd not to think him disgraced when he cannot defend himself with reason. Reason is more distinctive of man than bodily effort.”

7 Responses to “One Monticello Life: UAM Provost, David Ray”

  1. Archaeopteryx says:

    I think you could poll every faculty member at UAM and not find one who doesn’t enjoy working for David. He has a well-earned reputation as a guy who will do anything within his power to help a student.

  2. Russ Feeser says:

    As a Knight of UAM Alumni, Mr. Ray was a long time advisor of our group and on behalf of all of us, I would like to Thank him for all he did for the Knights over the years..

  3. Hoyt Andres says:

    It was a great pleasure to work with David and his speech students when we owned KHBM. David and Loyce are wonderful, fine people and that’s about the nicest statement i can make about someone.

  4. Gary Newton says:

    David was one of my favorite instructors when I was there, (and I remember my “demonstration speech” gone wrong! ha). He and Loyce are two of the finest people I’ve ever known.

  5. Paul Smith says:

    I don’t think you’d be able to find anyone with a negative thing to say about Mr. Ray.

    He was my professor, debate coach, and friend – and a shining example of the best that UAM has to offer (and probably too modest to admit it). He is a true gentleman in every sense of the word, and one of the best professors I ever had the privilege of learning from.

    Mr. Ray is one of the people from UAM that I miss the most – and I think if you asked any of my fellow debate alums, they’d tell you the same thing. He genuinely cares not just for the faculty, but also for the students on campus.

    The most fitting tribute to the impact that he has had on the UAM campus would be to eventually name an academic building after him. He has been, and continues to be, that important to the University; and the school is a better place because he and Mrs. Loyce are on the campus.

  6. Hunter Ray says:

    Thanks to each of you who posted such nice things about my dad. He was and continues to be the very best father a child could imagine. He was and will always be my hero. Thanks to all of you in Monticello who made it a wonderful place to grow up and have been so good to our family over the years. Love You Pop….Hunter

  7. Kay Worbington says:

    Thank you for all that you have done for UAM. I agree with Paul that it would be fitting to have an academic building named for David Ray. Monticello was blessed when the Ray family chose to move here. They are fine people.

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