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MEET YOUR NEIGHBOUR: David Gray brings good cheer as agriculture dean in Bible Hill

David Gray is the dean of the faculty of agriculture at Dalhousie University. He lives in Valley, N.S. (Photo credit: Nick Pearce).
David Gray is the dean of the faculty of agriculture at Dalhousie University. He lives in Valley, N.S. (Photo credit: Nick Pearce).
BIBLE HILL, N.S. —

Scientist, brass instrument player, sci-fi enthusiast, dad, proud Cornishman, dean of the Dalhousie University’s faculty of agriculture. David Gray is a man of many identities.

Now a resident of Valley, Colchester County, Gray grew up in the U.K. just outside of Truro, the capital city of Cornwall.

His post-secondary education began with a degree in marine biology from Bangor University. For his PhD in zoology with Rhodes University, he flew to South Africa where he later taught at the University of the Western Cape for five years. There, he met his wife, Janine (and received a tarantula bite while sleeping under the stars).

Gray's career has taken him across the globe in a variety of positions from teaching, to fellowship, principal and director roles at higher-learning institutions, including University of the West of England, Buxon College, Shetland Colleges, University of Hong Kong and the University of Darby.

When Gray heard about Dalhousie University’s merger with the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in Bible Hill in 2012, “all the stars started aligning,” he said because of his experience in satellite campuses and the opportunity to be closer to his brother, a professor of chemistry at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John.

Gray and his brother are the first generation of their family to attend university. Janine is also an instructor at Dal AC while twin daughters Rebecca and Emma are in their fourth year of study. Youngest daughter, Bethan, intends to join in 2021.

His time as dean has not been without its trials, however, following two major fires at the campus along with the challenges posed by the COVID pandemic.

“I always jokingly say that sometime in the future, when people are reading the history of the AC, and they get to my chapter, they're going to wonder what on earth happened,” he said.

But Gray said he loves the attitude, resilience and pride of “Aggies” and driving into the campus which he describes as a “botanical garden.” Although COVID has taken away the hands-on approach Aggies love about agriculture, he's trying to keep things spirited through online posts. This includes his monthly trivia and "dad jokes" on social media.

Although his family misses the sharpness of English cheddar cheese, Gray said his daughters took to Nova Scotia like “ducks to water.” And the beautiful ocean views remind him of where he grew up, while the amenities in Truro seem like a metropolis compared to where they last lived in Shetland, Scotland.

“You don't have to go very far and, actually, just enjoy the wildlife, just enjoy nature, in its unspoiled splendour.”

Gray participated in our question and answer session:

Who do you follow on social media?

I’m on Twitter, which my students and daughters tell me is a platform for “old people”. I really like sci-fi, so I tend to follow people from series like Star Trek, Firefly, Agents of Shield, The Mandalorian, etc.


What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I play a number of musical instruments and I have a tarantula bite on my tummy.


What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?

The final years of high school were incredibly hard and stressful. Plus, I found the (Cambridge International) A-level syllabus to be really boring and not designed with the learner in mind at all. it wasn’t fun to learn, which has really driven my teaching philosophy ever since. I work hard to make learning enjoyable for my students.


How do you like to relax?

Playing music and I also like to make models. Each year my youngest daughter and I choose a model to build together and I take some time off work and we sit down and build the model and chat. Last year we chose the Black Pearl from Pirates of the Caribbean … this year it was USS Voyager from Star Trek.


What is your greatest fear?

Frogs.


What is your most treasured possession?

I’d say my children, but they aren’t a "possession", so I’d have to go with … my tuba.

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