Hanna Holborn Gray, Ph.D., is one of the most honored educators in the United States today. Dr. Gray spent more than thirty-four years of her life both teaching history and directing university administration in Illinois. Hanna was born in Heidelberg, Germany in 1930. Her family fled from the Nazi regime and moved to the U.S. in the middle 1930s. She graduated from Byrn Mawr College in Pennsylvania in 1950 and studied as a Fullbright Scholar at Oxford. She met and married her husband Charles M. Gray in 1954 when both were graduate students at Harvard and both became professors there and later both were professors at the University of Chicago.
Hanna earned her Ph.D. in history from Harvard University in 1957 and taught there from 1955 to 1960 as an instructor, teacher, and assistant professor. She has received honorary degrees from more than sixty colleges and universities including Harvard, Oxford, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, and Duke.
After teaching history at the University of Chicago from 1961 to 1972, she was the first woman Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University from 1972 to 1974, and the first woman Provost at Yale University from 1974 to 1978. She was also acting president of Yale for fourteen months in 1977 and 1978. In 1978, Dr. Gray was appointed as the first woman President of the University of Chicago and she served in that post for the next fifteen years until 1993. She was also the first woman to serve as a full president of a major university at that time.
After completing her years as President of the University of Chicago, Hanna again returned to teaching history for several more years at the university as the Harry Pratt Judson Distinguished Professor of History. She was honored in 1996 with the Quantrell Award for excellence in undergraduate teaching. Dr. Gray has served in recent years as Chairman of the Board of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which is the second largest foundation in America. She has also served as a regent of the Smithsonian Institution and as a trustee for Bryn Mawr College. She also was Chairman of the Board of the Andrew Mellon Foundation until 2003. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush gave her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
In addition to all her other work, the picture at right and above shows Dr. Gray being inducted as a Member of the Corporation, or the governing body, at Harvard University in 1996. She completed her term at Harvard seven years later in 2003.