Let the legacy of Lois live on through us.
  • Born on October 17, 1923 in St. Louis, Missouri, United States.
  • Passed away on September 20, 2018 in New York, New York, United States.

This page is a tribute to Lois Spier Gray. Lois was a giant in Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Her passion for workplace fairness and her presence will be sorely missed by all who knew her and her impact will continue to be felt by generations to come.

Posted by Judy Hoover on February 14, 2019
Lois Gray was one of the most remarkable women I have ever met. She was so brilliant, yet every time she talked with me she reacted as though she was still learning new ideas and perspectives. She had an absolute interest in so many topics. She was a teacher, a mentor, a pioneer and a friend. It was a distinct privilege to have been able to occasionally work with her and get to know her. She will be sorely missed.
Posted by Ed Fry on February 11, 2019
I first met Lois thru her foundational book on the NY entertainment industry, "Under the Stars". Later, I met her while working on a project with my union, the State AFL-CIO and Cornell ILR. She was welcoming, encouraging, informative, probing and funny. Not at all what I expected. We spoke many times over the 16 years I knew her. I count the work I did in conjunction with Cornell quite valuable. What I learned there I was able to put to good use. Lois was fundamental to that work, always bolstering my personal confidence. I will always always be grateful to her.
Posted by David Alexander on January 19, 2019
I was fortunate to have been hired by Lois Gray early in my career as a labor educator. She taught me how to be an educator -- not just the technical part of the job, but the humanity and courage to commit to the task. She led with grace and wisdom, and imparted lessons to me that I still draw on over 40 years later. Her influence over thousands of people will be felt well into the future.
Posted by Louise WALSH on December 30, 2018
Lois gave me more than an ILR (Eleanor Emerson) fellowship in graduate school and a teaching position in Cornell’s Extension School almost 40 years ago. She modeled how to be a strong, caring and feisty woman. We reconnected decades later in New York, and through the Berger-Marks Foundation that I founded to honor another courageous woman, Edna Berger—the first woman organizer on The Newspaper Guild staff. The courage to build something, starting wth almost nothing, to honor and develop young women leaders in social justice, I owe, in no small measure, to Lois’s example.
Posted by Vanessa Figueroa on October 17, 2018
Happy Birthday in heaven. I am thinking of you today and will honor you always
Posted by Theresa Wood on October 17, 2018
Happy heavenly birthday Lois. I will raise a glass in honor of your birthday this evening. Love and miss you.
Posted by Dan Cornfield on October 16, 2018
Lois was a generous, supportive, and inspiring colleague. She was one of those rare individuals who connected the arts, labor, and democracy in her compelling, voluminous and exemplary research and practice.  Her departure leaves us with an enduring and inspiring legacy of guidance and advocacy for human rights.
Posted by Mike Donovan on October 15, 2018
Sadly when we need more people like Lois Gray we lose Lois Gray. She was a wonderful woman, boss, and activist and inspiration! Here's to you Lois!
Posted by Vicki Saporta on October 12, 2018
I was so sorry to hear about Lois’ passing. She was so supportive of me and other women in the labor movement, and we were grateful to know her and benefit from her wise counsel. May her life continue to inspire future generations of Cornell students and labor union women.
Posted by Sandra Acevedo on September 27, 2018
Lois was an exceptional human being. She was kind and very open to listen to anyone who needed to have her ear and to provide advice, if asked. She was super stylish and had the sharpest mind ever. I knew Lois for over 20 years and enjoyed every minute I spent speaking to her. I will forever have fond memories of her.
Posted by Richard Lipsitz on September 27, 2018
I first met Lois as a very young child. She was a dear friend of my parents. Later in life, she became a valued friend and very thoughtful advisor. She was a brilliant person, who had exceptional insights on all important questions facing the labor movement. She will be greatly missed.
My deepest condolences to her family and to the entire Cornell community
Posted by David Lipsky on September 26, 2018
Sandy and I were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Lois Gray. Kevin Hallock and others have called Lois an “icon”, and she surely was. She was a towering figure in the history of the ILR School and an ardent advocate for the School, the rights of unions and women, and human rights generally. Lois’s knowledge and understanding about unions, politics, and public policy were unsurpassed. She was an invaluable advisor and guide to me and countless others. It should also be noted that she was a highly productive researcher, and did outstanding work on women and minorities, union governance, and labor relations in the entertainment industry. When I was dean of the ILR School, I had the privilege and pleasure of appointing her as the first holder of the McKelvey-Grant Professorship. She had a wonderful sense of humor and was a warm and generous person. Everyone who knew her benefitted greatly from the experience. She cannot be replaced.
Posted by Robert McKersie on September 26, 2018
When I arrived in 1971 (as dean) Lois headed the NYC office of the School and guided a wide range of educational programs for management and labor. She taught in these programs and conducted research on industrial relations in the arts. In 1976 when the Associate Dean’s position needed to be filled Lois was for me the obvious choice. Some faculty asked: could she relate to hurly burly of our field? The picture of her with Harry Van Arsdale head of the NYC Labor Council speaks to the deep respect of union leaders for her. Several days before her passing my wife and I talked with Lois on the phone. Her admonition: Do not retire -keep working for social justice and worker rights. We have a mandate - thanks to the life of this remarkable person. bob and nancy mckersie lois.tif
Posted by Steven Greenhouse on September 26, 2018
Lois was such a kind, smart, engaged, caring person -- always ready to help, always having an intelligent insight. I'll never forget the stirring story she told me over dinner one night about how she had overlapped with Frances Perkins in Lois's early years at ILR. Both were inspiring women who made major contributions.
Posted by Fred Kotler on September 25, 2018
Brilliant, courageous, and kind woman who did more than anyone to establish and provide the credentials for university-based labor education in the United States. A fighter for social justice and spiritual heir to Eleanor Roosevelt. Lois was an inspiration and role model for us all.
Posted by Alaka Basu on September 25, 2018
I have a part time office next door to Lois' in the ILR space in NYC and from my first day there, I watched in awe her regular comings and goings, chatted with her every few days in my office or hers, went out for lunch a few times with her striding ahead of me. She never acted too busy to talk or enlighten.
I will greatly miss the sight of her in the corridor; even more, I will greatly miss her irreverential sense of humor and total clear-headed honesty.
Alaka Basu, Professor, Development Sociology, Cornell University.
Posted by Charles Ritzel on September 24, 2018
So sorry to hear of Lois' death. She was a very interesting and lovely person. She was my Grandmother's sister-in-law and whenever Lois and my Uncle Ed Gray visited Atlantic City my Father said they made a very striking couple. Condolences to her family.
Posted by Kyle Friend on September 24, 2018
Dr. Gray was an icon in so many different respects. She was one of the kindest, smartest, most impressive (and not to mention most fashionable) people I have ever known. I am grateful to have had the wonderful opportunity to get to know her both personally and professionally this past summer as her Harry Van Arsdale, Jr. Research Fellow in New York. She will be missed dearly, but the students, colleagues, union leaders, researchers, and workers she has inspired throughout her long and meritious life will no doubt keep her memory and legacy alive.
Posted by Geraldine Healy on September 24, 2018
What an extraordinary woman! Fantastic scholar, activist and inspiration for changing the world for the better. Her inspiration will live on.
Posted by Paul Clark on September 23, 2018
I have been fortunate beyond measure to know Lois Gray as a mentor, co-author, and friend for four decades. Her intellect, grace, generosity, and commitment to social justice were as remarkable at age 94 as they were throughout her life. These qualities, and her longevity, allowed her to touch a tremendous number of lives. This will ensure that her impact on this world will be felt for a very, very long time.
Posted by Janice Fine on September 23, 2018
Lois Spier Gray
Was a trailblazer, brilliant academic AND organizer whose shining example and laser beam of support and love was so important for me and so many of us.
Posted by Francine Blau on September 23, 2018
Lois was an amazing, inspirational figure and at the same time a deeply caring, down-to-earth person. She meant so much to so many. She will be deeply missed, but not forgotten.
Posted by Gill Kirton on September 23, 2018
Lois was such a great colleague and friend to so many. She was truly an inspiration as a person, a scholar and an activist. She will not be forgotten.
Posted by Greg Bamber on September 23, 2018
The late, great, Lois Gray was inspiring, with many thoughtful insights and much humanity. She will be much missed by many. It was always a delight to catch up with her, especially at one of the excellent NYC restaurants that she knew so well, but also at LERA or ILERA congresses; see the photo on this website [ForeverMissed.com] of Lois at the International Labour & Employment Relations Association (ILERA) European Congress, Amsterdam, 2013. More recently, together with Paul F. Clark, Sandra Cockfield, Paul V Whitehead and me, she co-authored a paper on unions, which was presented at the 2018 World Congress of ILERA. We are currently re-writing it to submit to a good journal. She inspired it; we wish she were still here to see it published, in her honour! gregbamber@gmail.com
Monash University, Melbourne, Australia and Newcastle University, UK.
Posted by Susanne Bruyere on September 23, 2018
I met Lois when I first arrived at the ILR School in 1985, and she was serving as the ILR Associate Dean of Extension.  She was visiting our revered Emeritus professors, who shared offices in the basement of the ILR Extension Building with the few of us who belonged to the Human Services Program, which later evolved into the Program on Employment and Disability.  I was impressed from the moment that I met her, by her ability to convey genuine interest in the work that each one of us was doing and her sincere willingness to work to help us in our respective missions. She later generously and consistently offered her mentorship when 20 years later I served in her same role. Her continual presence among us both in this inspirational mentoring role and her consistent visibility in the NYC office will be very much missed!
Posted by Anil Verma on September 22, 2018
Wow, what a great courageous and meritorious career. I did not know her, but her work makes me feel as if I did. It is a sad commentary on present-day politics in the US that most people in power in Washington today do not have the courage and principles that Lois Gray demonstrated more than half-a-century ago.
Posted by Tia Denenberg on September 22, 2018
Lois was a force of nature personally and professionally. Those who attended LERA in Baltimore last June had the pleasure of spending time with her and listening to her wise counsel.
Posted by Trevor Bain on September 21, 2018
A tearful loss of a giant. Helena and I just spoke with Lois in Baltimore. We shared an elevator down in the am at the LERA/IRRA meetings. . In 1956 Lois was already a force in the quonset huts along with Alice Cooke, Jean McKelvey, and Francis Perkins when she was on campus. By the 70's Lois was in and out of the Mid-Manhattan office where I taught an evening labor econ course. There will never be anything better then sharing a drink, a labor story, and a smile with her husband while watching Lois work the room.
Posted by Theresa Wood on September 21, 2018
I knew Lois through working in the ILR Dean's office at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. I visited NYC at least once a year and Lois and I would make a date to go out to either lunch or dinner. She took to me every different kind of restaurant. Our conversations never lagged. We spoke about our work and our families. She truly touched me and my heart. She was one of a kind and I miss her dearly.

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