Jeff Ray was dean of Western Carolina University’s College of Engineering and Technology

Jeff Ray, dean of Western Carolina University’s College of Engineering and Technology and a Vanderbilt University engineering graduate, died July 26, 2021. He was 61.

Jeff Ray

A Tennessee native, Ray spent five years as an electrician and earned a Journeyman Industrial Electrician license while working at R.R. Donnelley & Sons in Gallatin, Tennessee. He entered Tennessee Technological University and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering. At Vanderbilt, he earned a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, conducting research in the department and in the Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s orthopaedics unit.

Ray served as dean of engineering at Western Carolina University since 2014. Prior to joining WCU, he was dean of Engineering Technology and Management at Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta, Georgia. He previously served as director of Grand Valley State University’s School of Engineering and managed the interdisciplinary industry-sponsored senior capstone design program.

As an educator, Ray drew on his precollege experience as a journeyman industrial electrician and a production troubleshooter. In an era of videos and online learning, Ray believed there was no substitute for a lab where students can hear and see something operate and malfunction, or for real-world industry-sponsored projects in the classroom.

Ray’s attention to diversity issues, contacts with the K-12 community, and outreach to minority service organizations helped SPSU–though not a historically black institution–graduate the most African American males with bachelor’s degrees in engineering technology two years running.

Ray serves on the American Society of Engineering Education’s Executive Board as Vice President, Institutional Councils and as Chair of the Engineering Technology Council.

Throughout his 28-year academic career, he served in many roles with the ABET and the American Society for Engineering Education. He was an ASEE Fellow and served as president of the ASEE Task Force on Faculty Teaching Excellence. Ray was appointed to the Industry Advisory Board for the Tennessee Technological University and East Tennessee State University’s joint bachelor’s degree in engineering program.

Ray, of Sylva, North Carolina, is survived by his wife, Tina Ray.

Contact: Brenda Ellis, 615 343-6314