Ken Gray, Ph.D., professor of Psychology at College of DuPage, has been named the Overall Outstanding Faculty Member for 2012-2013.
Representing the Health and Sciences Division, Gray will receive a $1,000 award from the College of DuPage Foundation, which annually recognizes outstanding teaching achievement at the College.
The Naperville resident described himself as "completely directionless" when he started college in the early 1980s. Although originally deciding to pursue engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Gray wasn't interested in it.
"I really disliked school as a student. I took only one class that I liked and it was psychology," he said. "It was the one subject where I could see how it related to my life."
Gray initially thought about becoming a therapist but was more interested in how people think and reason. So he took classes and pursued research in cognitive psychology. After completing both his master's and doctorate degrees, he landed what should have been his dream job -- as part of the marketing faculty at Northwestern University, where he conducted research and did some teaching.
"It's an oversimplification to say that I hated almost everything about the position," he said. "I decided to take apart my day to determine what I enjoyed, and I realized that I liked being with students and I really liked being a teacher."
Although he left Northwestern and worked in advertising research, Gray saw an open position teaching Psychology at College of DuPage in 1997, applied and was offered the job.
"I was 33 and thought I had wasted my education. I was in a nightmare position and had never enjoyed my career," he said. "But then I came here and it was everything I hoped for."
In addition to teaching, Gray has served on more than 30 committees during his time at the College, including the Institutional Effectiveness Council, as chair of the Faculty Professional Development Committee, and as co-chair of the new Visioning the Future of Education Committee. He has authored a General Psychology textbook and is co-advisor for COD's chapter of Psi Beta, the National Honor Society in Psychology.
He is also an avid runner, having competed in numerous races and triathlons around the country. He is co-chair of COD's successful Laps With the Chaps 5K Run/Walk, helped organize the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Giant Steps Walk for Mental Health, and is a member of the race planning committee for the NAMI Run for the Mind 5K Run/Walk.
But it's in the classroom where Gray feels most comfortable. He likes exposing students to research, a process where they can create knowledge. He also wants them to understand how the material relates to them, much like he discovered when taking psychology for the first time in college.
"I like connecting with students, especially when I say something and immediately see it resonate with them," he said.