Gray, Garrett Buddy_edited

Henry L. (Buddy) Gray

May 18, 1936 - July 24, 2020

Henry L. (Buddy) Gray, of McKinney, Texas passed away on July 24th, 2020 at the age of 84. He was born on May 18, 1936 to Henry L. Gray and Eleanor Schoonmaker in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  He is pre-deceased by his loving wife, Rebecca A. Gray.

Buddy grew up poor during the latter part of the Great Depression.  His father died when he was four years old leaving him to be the man of the family at a young age.  He and his two older sisters as well as his mother all went to work just to get by in the 1930’s and 1940’s; but, there was great love among them and they found joy in the smallest of things.

Buddy received his B.S. (1959) and M.S. (1961) degrees in mathematics from Texas Tech University and his Ph.D. in 1966, also in mathematics, from the University of Texas at Austin.  Buddy became an associate professor in the Mathematics Department at Texas Tech in 1967. He quickly rose to the rank of full professor in 1970 and became chair of the Mathematics Department in 1971. In 1973 he accepted the prestigious Frensley Endowed Chair of Mathematical Sciences at Southern Methodist University (SMU), a position he held until his retirement in 2006. During his time at SMU he served as Associate Dean of Dedman College (the School of Humanities and Sciences) from 1980-1988, Dean ad interim of Dedman College from 1988-1989, and Dean of Dedman College and Vice Provost from 1989-1991. Buddy was a born leader, and his success as a visionary administrator came as no surprise to anyone who knew him.  However, his real love was teaching, research, and working with students.  Consequently, he left the administrative positions in 1991 to return to full-time teaching and research.

Buddy was a brilliant, internationally known researcher in the area of time series analysis and of the application of mathematical and statistical techniques to real world problems.  He had an incredibly creative mind and was always thinking of new and innovative approaches to problems. He published 80 plus journal articles and three books. He loved to teach and was an outstanding classroom teacher.  He also loved working with students one-on-one, and he directed or co-directed over 30 Ph.D. students at SMU and Texas Tech. One of the secrets to his amazing academic success was the fact that he loved what he was doing.  In fact, he once said to his colleagues, “Can you believe we get paid to do this?” This attitude was contagious, and he had a special gift for getting graduate students and colleagues excited about learning and doing research.  He received a substantial amount of research funding for his work Among these were funding by DARPA for research in detecting underground nuclear explosions, from DOE for analysis of climate change data, and from NASA for analyzing satellite imaging data.

Buddy received numerous honors and recognitions for his academic contributions including being elected as a Fellow of the American Statistical Association, the highest and most competitive award bestowed by the Association on its members. Among his other recognitions, he received the SMU Sigma Xi Research Award, the Don Owen Award for service to the statistical profession, the Phi Beta Kappa Laurence Perrine Award for Outstanding Teaching and Scholarship, and the Distinguished Alumnus Award for Career Achievement from Texas Tech.  He was also included in a list (of about 75) distinguished Texas Tech alumni during Tech’s 75 Year Anniversary. After his retirement, he spent a year as the Hamilton Scholar in Residence in the Department of Geological Sciences at SMU.  The fact that he had retired didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for working with students.  He directed or co-directed several dissertations after his retirement.  As he said, “The only difference is that I don’t get paid for doing it.”  Buddy was much loved and admired by students and colleagues alike.

While Buddy was an internationally famous statistician, he was first and foremost a family man. He met Becky Helmer, the love of his life, during high school in Stamford, Texas. They married on June 7, 1958 and were together for 61 wonderful years.  Buddy loved his wife, his children, his grandchildren and the many friends who came to know his infectiously positive attitude.  From coaching his son Robert’s football teams, to having Kelly’s cheerleading squads practice all day in the backyard to having one of our famous family mathematics roundtables at midnight over ice cream and cookies because one of us made the mistake of asking a calculus question too close to bed time, he loved being involved in all of his children’s activities. Indeed, Buddy loved teaching but more importantly, he taught his children the importance of learning and questioning everything around us. That foundation of learning was fundamental to the future paths Kelly, Robert and Scott took.

A first-generation college student, Buddy wanted only the best for his family.  His wisdom was among his greatest attributes.  He wrote down many of these thoughts of wisdom in his diary and he wrote two nonfiction books based on true events of the Gray family.

Buddy was a very spiritual person as well.  He taught Sunday School at First Baptist Church of Lubbock and at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas. He often asked “Who is God? Who is He? If we don’t get to the bottom of that then it doesn’t make sense to be here.”  He often overlapped his mathematical and statistical studies with Christianity and saw commonality among the truths of mathematics, science and Christianity.  And, part of that spirituality manifested itself in his sense of charity to others less fortunate than he was.  He would help anyone in need and never expect anything in return. There were times when he emptied his entire wallet for a homeless person on the corner during the holidays so they could have a good place to stay Christmas Eve and a hot holiday meal.

In short, he was a great father, humanitarian, Christian and titan of the statistics world.

The family has decided not to hold a funeral due to COVID-19.  Buddy will be cremated and will rest next to his wife Becky’s urn.  Buddy and Becky had a great love affair that is rare in life.  We know that they are once again in each other’s arms and at peace.

As we will not be holding a funeral, Kelly, Robert and Scott would like to honor our father by announcing an endowed scholarship that will be established in his name and that will go to a deserving freshman student who also is a first generation college student and who will major in the sciences, mathematics or statistics as these were Buddy’s passion.

The Gray family is establishing an endowed scholarship fund to honor Buddy’s legacy of teaching, research, and leadership at SMU. The family is asking others who have been touched by Buddy’s life to add to this scholarship fund. The Gray family intends to continue to grow this scholarship over the coming years in order that it may impact more students for generations to come. Memorial contributions may be directed to the Dr. Henry L. Gray Endowed Scholarship for Dedman College. Please visit to make your gift online, or mail checks to SMU Office of Development PO Box 750402  Dallas TX 75275-0402 or call 214-768-3739.

Buddy’s legacy will also endure through the Henry L. Gray and Rebecca A. Gray Endowed Chair in Statistical Sciences established by the Gray family in 2016.

Buddy is survived by his children, Kelly Doughty and husband, Craig, Scott Gray and husband, Duane Minix, Robert Gray and wife, Michelle; grandchildren, Brian Gray, Drew Gray, Stefan Scott, Samantha Benfield, Robert “Bo” Todd; great grandchildren, Kendall, Jayden, Rainee, Molly; and numerous other loving family members.

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Daddy, Not a day will go by that I do not think of you and mom. I promise to be the best version of myself to honor you and mother when we are all reunited. I hope to make you proud. You taught me so much, that it seems inconceivable to walk through life without your guiding hand. But, I know you will be with me the whole time guiding me in my heart. Your love was truly unconditional no matter my faults. And, perhaps loving someone in that way is the greatest wisdom you bestow upon me. I love you daddy. Scott
Scott Gray, August 6, 2020 Farewell Uncle Bud. Now you be with your Sweetheart, Mother, Father and Sisters. You will be missed David and Brenda Victor, August 2, 2020 Robert and Family, We are very sorry to hear about the loss of your beloved Father Our hearts go out to your entire Family Jim & Sharon Hudspeth, July 31, 2020 What an incredible man Buddy was. I was aware of his academic accomplishments but he had so many other dimensions to his life which I did not know as much about and which made him so very special. Upon meeting him you couldn't but realize that he was an original -- a unique and very genuine man who enjoyed the company of others, cared about those around him, and was always comfortable having a good laugh. I'm humbled but also proud to be able to follow in the footsteps of such a man. Ron Butler, July 30, 2020 Hello Kelly, Robert and Scott, I'm sorry not to have seen you guys in such a long time, but know that you have never been out of my heart, as you all were like family for so much of our younger lives. Buddy and Becki were incredibly special to our family. I miss getting to hear about our parent's visits on the phone and in person. I'm glad my mom and dad got to see you all at Becki's service. I'm sorry this chaos is causing you to have to not have a service as I know you would have been overwhelmed with the turn out. Buddy was a brilliant man. I love his book and I love the memories of our camping trip to CO that year. I wish you all peace in your hearts. I for sure know that Buddy and Becki are in each other's arms again. They will always be looking down on you all. Love, Mendy Fort Collins, CO
Mendy Wimberly Putman, July 30, 2020 What a wonderful tribute! I wish I had known this intriguing, brilliant, kind and giving person! His legacy lives on in so many lives, of students, colleagues, family and friends. My prayers are with you as you mourn your loss but celebrate his life. Alyce M. McKenzie, July 30, 2020 Buddy was the best colleague and a great friend. He and Lee McAlester invited me to be part of the little Tuesday afternoon group, “the guys,“ and we would meet at Ozona to talk with great good humor about the foibles of life at SMU. He was one of the few scholars I know who talked deeply about how he taught students. He respected his students and wanted them to learn. Best teacher, best scholar, best colleague. He talked about his kids with constant love and affection. A really lovely man. bonnie wheeler, July 30, 2020 Buddy was an exceptionally talented and devoted teacher, scholar and administrator. I had the pleasure of working with Buddy from his arrival in '73 until his retirement. His deep love for students and SMU always shined. My heartfelt sympathies to his family and the SMU community. John Hall, University Registrar, SMU John Hall, July 30, 2020 I am so sad… I came to SMU in 2003 as a fresh Ph.D. graduate. Although I only had three years overlapping with Buddy, I feel like his presence in my career all the time. I was so amazed by his passion for his job, especially for teaching and research he had been doing. I was raised up in an environment and at a time telling me that a person’s job was mainly for making a (better) living. There was nothing wrong with that, especially back to those days my family had to cut the expenses on food and clothes for purchasing the first black-white TV. However, after getting to know Buddy, I was soon convinced by his example that one can and should work for her curiosity and passion. When he retired, I asked for his teaching notes and he was so happy to give them to me. He smiled like a kid at the moment he handed over his notes to me… My deepest condolences to his family. He will never truly be gone, for he has left such a meaningful presence in our hearts.
Sherry Wang, July 30, 2020