Former students, colleagues remember late professor Philip Gray


By Maddie Barrett

DeKALB — Colleagues of Philip Gray remember him with a delightful sense of humor, as a motivating teacher and a professional within the Department of Communication.

Gray, former assistant chair of the Department of Communication and award winning professor died Sept. 7 in his Arizona Home.

Judith Santacaterina, director of the general studies baccalaureate degree program and former student of Gray, said he was important to her, having known him since she was 20 years old.

“What was always interesting is that he would call, and I still referred to him as Dr. Gray,” Santacaterina said. “That relationship, while it changed most certainly, the mutual respect, the admiration and the love that I had for that man never changed.”

Santacaterina said one of her favorite memories of Gray was in her methods class as a junior at NIU. She said she tried to sneak into the classroom, and Gray announced she was there every day, calling her out for being late. She recalls him having a wonderful sense of humor, but his desire to challenge her created a bond between them throughout the years, she said.

“At one point in time [while student teaching] I was having a disciplinary problem,” Santacaterina said. “I kept looking at him hoping he’d intervene, and I handled it. Afterward, he said ‘I knew that was a problem. I wasn’t going to bail you out, and you handled that exactly the way you should.’”

Sue Doederlein, former assistant dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said she remembers Gray as a jokester, and someone with an amazing laugh.

“He had an extraordinary sense of humor,” Doederlein said. “He was always playing little practical jokes on people, and the one thing I remember most vividly was whenever I would come over to my husband’s office, I would hear Gray laughing in his. He was always telling jokes or people were sharing jokes with him.”

Doederlein said Gray was also a “consummate professional” and took his job very seriously. He helped with the Teacher Preparation program so students hoping to become teachers would be prepared for what was to come, she said.

Communications instructor Matt Swan said he was influenced by Gray’s teaching and still implements Gray’s techniques today.

“I think what’s notable is that he developed an exercise that mirrors how the television industry works in one of his classes,” Swan said. “He called it rerun, and later it became known as the simulation. That is still an exercise that I do, and it works beautifully.”

Gray influenced Swan to develop a course about one of their shared interests, director Alfred Hitchcock. Swan still teaches the class today, and shows Gray’s favorite movie, “North by Northwest.”