Father Howard Gray’s Legacy at John Carroll University

By Edward J. Peck, PhD 

A Cleveland native and longtime friend of John Carroll University, Howard Gray, S.J. came home to serve as rector and special assistant to the president for mission and identity at John Carroll from 2001-2007.  During these years, he made significant inroads among faculty and staff, inviting us all to understand Ignatian spirituality anew and see ourselves as companions in mission. In the spirit of the 34th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, which Howard attended as a delegate in 1995, he and his fellow Jesuits shared their spirituality, their friendship, and their resources in a variety of ways.

Howard is a beloved figure who will be warmly remembered at John Carroll for starting the yearlong “Bagging Ignatius” luncheon series, coordinating book groups and learning communities, holding community conversations on mission, leading people on individual and group retreats, and hosting faculty, staff, and students in the Jesuit community.  He was also a popular teacher among graduate and undergraduate students, regularly offering creative courses in Ignatian spirituality and narrative theology.  Additionally, he supported the work of John Carroll’s Ignatian Spirituality Institute as an intern supervisor and guest speaker.  In his final years at JCU, Howard led a two-year project consisting of community-wide conversations that resulted in a Board-approved Catholicity Statement in which we articulated our Jesuit and Catholic identity as a single reality that guided our way of proceeding. He also served on the Board of Directors from 2005-2014 at the invitation of then president Fr. Robert L. Niehoff, S.J.  Most notably, however, this Jesuit giant will be remembered at John Carroll as a great friend to all he met and as a living sacrament of the love of God.  And as my wife Sarah reminds me, he is famous for insisting that “God does not make junk.”

During his years at John Carroll, Howard was one of several key leaders among the ten Heartland-Delta schools who regularly collaborated on formation programs for staff and faculty.  Together, they ran the Heartland-Delta Faculty Conversations weekends and the Triannual Heartland-Delta Gathering for faculty and staff, each of which he hosted at John Carroll.  He also helped design and hosted the first two Magis National Faculty Retreats before they moved to other schools and eventually to the AJCU.   These kinds of collaborative efforts among friends in the Lord eventually led to the development of the Ignatian Colleagues Program, which he helped design and in which he was a featured speaker and favorite author.

These are just a few of the ways in which Howard’s legacy lives on among all who take up the invitation to be companions in mission. I write this as one of countless people who have been mentored by this dear friend.   We will miss him. 

Visit John Carroll University's Tribute Page for Howard Gray, SJ to share your favorite memories. 

Edward J. Peck, Ph.D. has been vice president for university mission and identity since August 15, 2014.  He was also the first director of the Ignatian Colleagues Program.