Osgoode alumni, faculty and former deans celebrate the life of Professor R.J. Gray

Scores of Osgoode alumni, faculty and former deans gathered Feb. 11 to celebrate the life of former professor R.J. Gray, whose remarkable 42-year career at the law school had a positive impact on thousands of Canadian lawyers.

The guests of honour included his wife of 66 years, Kelley, his children and grandchildren (including two Osgoode graduates), and seven former deans – Harry Arthurs, John McCamus, John Evans, Jim MacPherson, Jinyan Li, John Evans and Lorne Sossin.

Current Dean Mary Condon paid tribute to R.J. Gray’s tremendous contribution to the Osgoode community as a teacher, a longtime associate dean and a passionate coach of the Osgoode Owls basketball team.

“He was a force of nature around the law school who was deeply connected to its history and its development into a leading location for legal education,” she said. “He approached everything he did with his characteristic warmth, humour and humanity.”

Condon quoted from a Kudo Board set up in R.J. Gray’s honour to highlight the enduring affection he inspired in many Osgoode students. For some, his influence was literally life-changing.

“He had a way of bringing out the best in students and helping them overcome any hurdles they may be facing,” said one of his former students. “In every person’s life, there are a few individuals who make a significant difference. R.J. was one of those people in my life,” said another Osgoode grad.

Other speakers paying tribute included his son Rob, a 1984 Osgoode grad, his daughter Trish, Professor Allan Hutchinson, who was on faculty with R.J. for many years, and three alumni, Gilbert Sharp ’72, Courtney Betty ’86 and Jeff Raphael ’95.

On his retirement in 2000, R.J. Gray’s enormous contribution to the law school was celebrated at a retirement party at Toronto’s Royal York Hotel that brought together more than 700 people. The event marked the creation of the R.J. Gray Award, which is presented annually to a student in financial need who demonstrates outstanding academic performance and participation in extracurricular activities.

His family has invited people wishing to honour R.J.’s memory to donate to the award fund and more than $15,000 has already been collected – an amount that will be matched by the law school.