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In Memory of Professor Emeritus
William M. Gray

October 9, 1929 - April 16, 2016

William Mason Gray (Bill) passed away peacefully surrounded by his family on April 16, 2016 at the age of 86. With his passing the meteorological community has lost one of its most remarkable members. Bill was a faculty member in the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University from 1961 until his retirement in 2005. His research made enormous contributions to the understanding of tropical cyclone structure, intensification, and climatology. During his long academic career Bill advised 70 masters and Ph.D. students, many of whom have become prominent leaders in the field of tropical meteorology.

Bill was born in Detroit, Michigan on the 9th of October, 1929. He was the eldest son of Ulysses S. Gray and Beatrice Mason Gray. The family moved to Washington D. C. in 1939 where Bill grew up in the northwest section of the district. He graduated from Wilson High School and George Washington University (1952) and was very active in high-school football and baseball, at one time dreaming of a career in professional baseball.

Bill received a 2nd Lt. commission in the Air Force in 1953 and served as a weather forecast officer for four years, the majority of which was in the Azores and in England. He remained active in the Air Force Reserves until 1974 when he retired as a Lt. Col. After his active Air Force duty ended in 1957, he obtained an MS (Meteorology) and Ph.D. (Geophysical Sciences) from the University of Chicago. He then joined the newly-formed Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University in 1961.

Bill married Nancy Price (from Oshkosh, Wisconsin) on October 1, 1954. They had four children, Sarah, Anne (deceased), Janet, and Robert. Nancy Gray was active for many years in Fort Collins community affairs, including serving as Mayor of Fort Collins in 1980-1981, before her death in 2001.

Bill worked voluntarily for many years with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which is part of the United Nations. He organized the first WMO International Workshop on Tropical Cyclones in Bangkok (1985). He traveled the world and maintained collaborations with prominent researchers in the field of tropical meteorology throughout his career. In recognition of his pioneering contributions to the understanding and forecasting of tropical cyclones, Bill received many professional awards, including the American Meteorological Society's "Jule Charney Award" (1994) and the first “Robert and Joanne Simpson Award” (2014) from the National Tropical Weather Conference.

Bill enriched the lives of all those around him. When discussing the history of the Atmospheric Science Department, Bill would often refer to "The Miracle on the Hill," started by Herbert Riehl in 1962. When we, as colleagues, look back on it, we feel that Bill deserves primary recognition for developing CSU into an internationally recognized program in tropical meteorology. The impact he had was enormous, and he will be greatly missed.

~Prof. Emeritus Wayne Schubert

Comments, condolences, and stories in memory of Bill Gray may be sent to Katherine Oldberg to be shared on the ATS website. Submissions may be viewed here.

A memorial service for Dr. Bill Gray will be held on May 22nd at 11 am MDT in the ballroom at the Lory Student Center at Colorado State University. A reception will follow the service.

Also, the Department of Atmospheric Science will host a gathering in ATS 101 (large classroom) on May 23rd from 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm. This will be an informal gathering where people can share their memories (and of course, stories) of Bill Gray. Bill's daughters, Janet and Sarah, will be in attendance and refreshments will be served.

For those interested, donations to honor Dr. Gray's memory can be made to the newly established "William M. Gray Tropical Meteorology Memorial Fund", which will support graduate studies and research in tropical meteorology in the Department of Atmospheric Science. To donate to the fund, please go to

Alternatively, you can send a check made out to:

CSU Foundation
410 University Services Center
Fort Collins, CO 80523-9100

In the memo line reference "72925" or "William M. Gray Tropical Meteorology Memorial".

More details about a celebration of his life as well as donations in his memory will be forthcoming and posted on the Bohlender Funeral Chapel (Fort Collins) website (

Last Updated: 19 May 2016. Contact the Webmaster