Donald William Gray

Image of Donald Gray in front of bookshelves.

Donald William Gray was one of the original staff members at UMN Morris and was the college’s first librarian. His work helped to establish the library as a central part of UMN Morris’s liberal arts mission.


born in Elk River, MN on November 15

graduated from Elk River High School

graduated from Asbury College in Kentucky

received a Bachelor of Divinity from Emory University in Atlanta Georgia

married Vivian Blasjo

became an ordained Methodist minister serving two pastoral charges

received a M.A. in Library Sciences from UMN Library Science program


became Director of Library at UMN Morris

left position at UMN Morris to work at the University of Ohio at Lyma

became Assistant Director of Northern Iowa Library

married Barbara Porter

retired from his library career

died in Waterloo, Iowa on August 20

Personal Life

Donald William Gray was born November 15th, 1928 in Elk River, MN.[1] He was the oldest son in a family with eleven children. Growing up, he was a talented writer and in 1944 he won third place in the high school newspaper contest held by the Minnesota Editorial Association.[2] He spent the rest of his childhood in his hometown and in 1946 he graduated from Elk River High School.[3]

In 1950 Gray graduated from Asbury College in Kentucky with his Bachelor of Arts.[4] In 1951 he was accepted as a candidate for the ministry by Minnesota's Methodist Conference.[5] He then enrolled in the seminary at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.[6] In 1953 he graduated with his Bachelor of Divinity degree.[7]

From 1953 to 1959 he worked as a Methodist minister serving two congregations.[8] He then went on to the University of Minnesota where he earned his Master’s in Library Sciences. In 1960 he became the first librarian at the University of Minnesota Morris.[9]

Campus Contributions

As the new branch of the University of Minnesota was being developed at Morris, Gray was tasked with the difficult and complex job of building the library’s collection. The university library started with one book on July 1, 1960 and grew to more than 4,000 volumes at the end of the first year.[10] The collection was greatly aided by donations of personal collections by people like Theodore C. Blegen, former dean of the University of Minnesota Graduate School, and Lawrence D. Steefel, UMN professor emeritus of history.[11] These efforts organized by Gray helped to build the library into a true resource for students of the university, even with the limitations of a new university’s budget.

After UMN Morris

In 1966, Gray left UMN Morris and began working at a branch of the University of Ohio in Lyma.[12] This was a short lived position, and in 1967 he became the Assistant Director of the University of Northern Iowa Library.[13]

He retired from the library in 1990 but worked part time for the UNI Foundation in its fund drive for the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center.[14] He spent the rest of his retirement enjoying reading, listening to classical music, spending time with his grandchildren, and taking lengthy 20-mile bike rides. In 2017, he passed away at age 88 in Waterloo, Iowa.[15]

Deanna Small
Stephen Gross (Editor)


[1] “Rev Donald William Gray (1928-2017),” Find a Grave, last modified April 26, 2019. 
[2] “Winner of War Bonds,” Minneapolis Morning Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), Jan. 28, 1944.
[3] “Rev Donald William Gray (1928-2017)
[4] University of Minnesota Morris, "Regents Approve Appointment of UMM Librarian," July 20, 1960. 
[5] “18 Received for Trial by Methodists,” The Minneapolis Star (Minneapolis, MN), June 14, 1951.
[6] Publishers, ECM, “Donald W. Gray.”, August 29, 2017. 
[7] "Regents Approve Appointment of UMM Librarian"
[8] "Regents Approve Appointment of UMM Librarian"
[9] "Regents Approve Appointment of UMM Librarian"
[10]  University of Minnesota Morris, "News Article about the Creation of the UMM College Library," March 
15, 1961.
[11] "News Article about the Creation of the UMM College Library"
[12] Dee Waldee, “Bits ‘n Pieces,” Vanguard (Morris, MN), Apr. 21, 1966. 
[13] “Rev Donald William Gray (1928-2017)
[14] “Rev Donald William Gray (1928-2017)
[15] Publishers, ECM, “Donald W. Gray

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