$1.75m gift from FSU professor emeritus to ‘forever change’ international affairs program

Headshot of Richard B. Gray, Ph. D. with a gold Florida State University 1851 emblem. Gray is wearing glasses and a dinner jacket in the picture.
Richard B. Gray, Ph.D.

A $1.75 million gift from a beloved Florida State University professor emeritus will create two new graduate fellowships in the International Affairs Program.  

Professor Emeritus Richard Gray, Ph.D., began working at FSU in 1958 as a professor of political science. Dr. Gray was instrumental in establishing the international affairs master’s program and expanding the undergraduate program, both housed in the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy (COSSPP).

Tim Chapin, dean of COSSPP, said Dr. Gray’s gift provides an endowment fund for two new graduate fellowships, one named for Dr. Gray, the other for his parents, Laura and Harold.  

“Dr. Richard Gray was a wonderful professor who dedicated his career to growing the International Affairs Program at FSU, and his gift will forever change the program,” Chapin said. “These prestigious graduate fellowships will help us to recruit the best master’s students from all over the country to continue to grow the program and provide undergraduates with the very best education.” 

Dr. Gray described the significance of the program in a 2014 address at the 50th-anniversary celebration for the program.  

“We just can’t avoid world affairs. These days, everything that happens in Libya or Egypt now has an effect on what we pay for gasoline,” he said. “For instance, I think that it’s essential that universities have a broad student exposure to international matters because it’s of extreme importance. I think that FSU is well ahead in that respect [and] that the current program for international affairs is very impressive.” 

He added: “I think successful people in the teaching profession learn much from their students as they teach over their careers, and I know that I have benefited a great deal by my association with some mighty fine people in the program.” 

Dr. Gray was a prolific traveler who specialized in Latin American studies. Before pursuing his formal education, he joined the U.S. Army in 1943 and served in WWII’s European theater, and received an honorable discharge in 1946.

He earned a bachelor’s in Hispanic studies from the University of Wisconsin in 1947, a master’s in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in 1949, and a doctoral degree in political science from the University of Wisconsin in 1957.  

After completing his master’s, he was offered a job in the Dominican Republic in the International Education Program, which was started by Nelson Rockefeller when he was Under Secretary of State. After two years, he decided to study for a Ph.D. and enrolled at the University of Wisconsin’s Buenos Aires campus. 

He then spent two years in Cuba working and writing his doctoral dissertation. He left Cuba as the Castro revolution was ousting the existing military dictatorship. 

Not long after joining the FSU faculty as a professor of political science in 1958, he was selected to direct the International Affairs Program after the untimely passing of the program’s founder André van Assenderp, associate professor of international relations.

As director, Dr. Gray worked diligently to grow the program, and in 1964 established the master’s degree in international affairs. He was a beloved professor at FSU until his retirement in 1989. In 1997, alumni established the Richard B. Gray Scholarship for international affairs students in his honor. The scholarship provides support to international affairs students who use the funds to study abroad.

The two new graduate fellowships created by Dr. Gray’s transformative gift will enhance the educational experience for all international affairs students.

Lee Metcalf, the program’s current director, said the gift is a game changer.  

“The fellowship increases the diversity of the program, honoring Dr. Gray’s interest in Latin America,” Metcalf said. “This gift will really be able to help us expand the program and support our students in a much better way.”

The International Affairs Program at FSU provides an individual education tailored to fit each student’s unique career aspirations and prepares students for international careers in the public and private sectors. Students develop knowledge of global history, culture, and contemporary political and economic issues. 

Graduates go on to find jobs in government service, international organizations (public, private, or non-profit), business, journalism, and teaching.

Distinguished alumni of the program – including Colonel Richard J. Erickson, Ph.D., Senator Mel Martinez, Deborah Sawyer, and Henry Kenza “Ken” van Assenderp – have credited Dr. Gray and the program with preparing them for successful careers.

Previous student Richard Erickson, Richard Gray, and Olivia Bibilonia, the 2014 Richard B. Gray Scholarship recipient, all sitting at a dinner table with a white tablecloth and dishes. It is dark out, and both Erickson and Gray are wearing dinner jackets, with Bibilonia wearing a red patterned blouse.
From left: Richard Erickson, Richard Gray,
and Olivia Bibilonia, 2014 Richard B. Gray Scholarship recipient

Colonel Richard J. Erickson, Ph.D. (International Affairs, B.A. ‘64 M.A. ’65) spent his career creating international policy for the U.S. government.

He grappled with issues such as how air power was to be used in international armed conflict, how international law applies in civil wars, and how to handle international terrorism – leading to the development of such things as the International Criminal Court and the International Criminal Court.

At the 50th anniversary celebration for the program, Erickson credited Dr. Gray and the education he received in the International Affairs Program with preparing him for his role.

“I went on later in my career to become an international lawyer and to practice international law and negotiations and spent my entire career wrestling with the questions we talked about in [the course he taught on international organizations],” Erickson said. “[I] have to say that one of the great advances I felt of an education at Florida State was that the professors here were very interested in students they’ve mentored students and they and they really cared for their students.”

Erickson added, “I think that’s very much a creative motivation that moves students on in their careers as long as FSU is doing that and offering great programs. It’s going to continue to turn out alumni, who are going to do great things for the University, for the State, and also for the country.”

For more information about the International Affairs Program at FSU, visit coss.fsu.edu/internationalaffairs.