Engineering professor Howard “Mac” Gray ’73, ‘75G has enjoyed a career in construction technology both in the field and in the classroom. One of his most satisfying building projects, however, has been developing the Construction Engineering Technology program at his alma mater.
Gray is the January recipient of the Alumni Association’s Faculty Excellence Award. After earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering at UMaine he worked as a structural engineer in Illinois. Missing the opportunities for hiking, canoeing, and camping that his home state provided, the Stockton Springs native returned to Maine and joined his alma mater in 1981. Gray received UMaine’s Presidential Outstanding Teaching Award in 2016.
In layperson’s terms, what are your academic (teaching, research, scholarship) interests?
My main interests are structural analysis and design. My passion is teaching. I particularly enjoy interacting with students. I am currently teaching Statics and Strength of Materials, and Structural Design. I have set up both courses so that students work in teams while I facilitate their problem solving.
I have had many opportunities to work on research projects with students, faculty, and staff at the Advanced Structures and Composites Center. I have greatly enjoyed these experiences. In connection with one of these projects I received a patent for a method of reinforcing wood beams to make them stronger.
Why did you choose to pursue those interests?
Pursuing an academic career was not planned. My first professional employment was with Chicago Bridge & Iron Company as a structural engineer. Although I liked the work, my wife and I missed the opportunities for hiking, canoeing, and camping that were abundant when we lived in Maine. I landed a temporary lecturer position at UMaine and planned to look for a position in industry when we got here. It turned out that I loved teaching and was able to get a permanent position.
What is your most memorable event or experience as a member of the UMaine faculty?
The creation of the Construction Management Technology (now named Construction Engineering Technology) program at UMaine.
Of all the courses you’ve taught at UMaine, which one do you enjoy the most? Why?
I have enjoyed all the courses that I have taught at UMaine and the one that I enjoy the most is Structural Design. This is a senior level course with many prerequisites, so the students are well prepared to perform at a high level and work in teams. My favorite part is eavesdropping on a team as they discuss a design problem and work their way to a solution.
What is your favorite place on campus to spend time?
I like to spend time in the University Forest: walking, skiing, or just sitting on a bench.
Aside from your faculty role, what are your interests or favorite things to do?
During the summer I like to boat. My wife and I have both a small sailboat and a small motorboat. My favorite place to go to is the dozens of islands south of Deer Isle. I also like to hike, snowshoe, and cross-country ski.
What advice for students do you have to help them succeed?
Study hard but also set aside time for exercise and recreation. Get a good night’s sleep, especially the night before an exam. Join or form a study group. Even if you’re the smartest one of the group you will benefit from explaining concepts to others.
What advice for new faculty members do you have to help them succeed?
Get to know your colleagues and ask them questions. Seek a mentor.
Sponsored by the UMaine Alumni Association and University Credit Union, the Faculty Excellence Award is given monthly to a faculty member whose work contributes to UMaine’s national reputation for excellence. Selections are made in consultation with the university’s academic deans.