Wendell L. Wray Memorial Award



Eligibility

Graduate

Amount

$3500

Country/Region

AFRICA

Honor/Memoriam

Wendell L. Wray, former faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh, left a bequest to fund a summer study abroad scholarship for study in Africa. A native of Pittsburgh, he attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Information Science) and made history as the first African-American graduate from the school. Wray was then hired by the Carnegie Public Library, the first African-American male hired by the Library system.

Details

WENDELL L. WRAY

Professor emeritus Wendell L. Wray, a native of the Beltzhoover neighborhood of Pittsburgh, was the first African American man to graduate from the library school housed at then-Carnegie Institute of Technology, earning his M.L.S. in 1952.

Wray graduated from South Hills High School, where he mastered Spanish and learned the art of making mobiles by studying the work of Alexander Calder.
Following military service in the U.S. Army during World War II, he accepted a scholarship under the GI Bill to attend a small liberal arts college – sight unseen – in Maine.  He entered Bates College in Lewiston for what he described as the four happiest years of his life.  He was the poet laureate of his class, and his poetry was celebrated at the class’s 50th reunion in 2000.

He graduated from Bates in 1950, Phi Beta Kappa in Spanish and psychology, and returned to Pittsburgh, to participate in the library science program.  After earning his M.L.S., he became the first African male hired by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, where he worked for seven years during the 1950’s.
n 1959, Wray moved to New York City, working at the New York Public Library for 14 years, serving in the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and directing the North Manhattan Library Project, a cultural outreach program that introduced arts and humanities programs to inner-city youths.  While in New York, he was encouraged by Alex Haley, author of “Roots,” to study at Columbia University’s newly-established program in oral history, where his personal and professional fascination with this approach to historical and literary documentation began.

In 1973, Wray was appointed a faculty member at Pitt’s library school, the academic successor to the Carnegie Tech program from which he had graduated and from which he had received the 1973 Distinguished Alumnus Award.  He remained at the school for 15 years and retired in 1988.
(photograph and text taken from the University Times, 9/11/2003)