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A Centennial View
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Hanna H. Gray, 1991

Hanna H. Gray, 1991. Photograph by Will Crockett.





Gray launches a phoenix balloon at the Centennial celebration, 1992

President Gray launches an inflated phoenix balloon at the campus-wide party opening the Centennial celebration, October 3, 1992.

Hanna Holborn Gray


Assistant Professor of History
Associate Professor of History
Professor of History 1978
President 1978-

Hanna Holborn Gray was practically destined to an academic career. She is the daughter of a prominent professor of European history, Hajo Holborn, who after seeking exile from Nazi Germany taught at Yale for 35 years. Her mother, Annemarie Bettmann, who held a PhD in classical philology, was no less important in supporting her academic aspirations. She arrived with her family in New Haven at the age of four, and attended the Foote School with other Yale faculty children, as well as English children who had been sent from Oxford because of the war. She entered Bryn Mawr College at 15, and upon graduation travelled to Oxford as a Fulbright scholar. After receiving her PhD degree from Harvard in 1957, she taught there for several more years, being promoted to assistant professor in 1959.

She met Charles Montgomery Gray in a Renaissance history seminar while both were graduate students at Harvard, and they married in 1954. When he received an appointment at the University of Chicago in 1960, she moved with him, without any specific job plans of her own. She thought about attending law school, and spent the first year in Chicago as a Newberry Library fellow. However, in 1961 she was offered a position on the history faculty at the University of Chicago.

Hanna Gray received tenure in 1964, and taught Western Civilization as well as other graduate and undergraduate classes on Renaissance and Reformation Europe. She helped to redesign the College history requirements. Her name first came to prominence at the University, though, after she was appointed to head a committee to review the decision not to reappoint Marlene Dixon, a sociology professor, in 1969. Dixon's case had been taken up by students who claimed she was discriminated against because of her gender and leftist political views. While the committee was still considering the case, students took over the Administration Building, demanding that Dixon be rehired and that students take part in faculty hiring decisions. The committee upheld the decision not to reappoint but recommended that the University offer Dixon a one-year position.

Activists were discouraged by the result, but others hailed the work of the committee, which dispassionately scrutinized the charges of unfair practices and reaffirmed that appointment decisions must be based on teaching and research productivity, and that these standards must be applied equally to all faculty members.

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