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David Gray's great adventure

Meet the new Dean of Dalhousie's Faculty of Agriculture

- July 22, 2013

David Gray doles out some puppy love (Nick Pearce photo).
David Gray doles out some puppy love (Nick Pearce photo).

Dr. David Gray is embarking on yet another adventure, packing up his family and moving to Canada to become the first full-time Dean of Dalhousie’s Faculty of Agriculture and Principal, Dalhousie Agricultural Campus.  

David Gray is no stranger to big moves, having travelled from the UK to South Africa, as well as Hong Kong. Canada – and more importantly, Truro, Nova Scotia – are next on his itinerary.

Discover what motivates David Gray on a more personal level.

What role has international travel played in your career and education and that of your family?

The world is the biggest classroom there is! The chance to travel around the world and meet people from other cultures and backgrounds is simply some of the best education you can get, especially in the modern era of global communication. You never stop learning and being able to visit other countries and see how they approach the same challenges we face is a wonderful opportunity.

My wife is South African by birth. We met when we were both undertaking our doctoral studies at Rhodes University. If you ask my daughters where they are from they have a quite unique reply: "We are half English, half South African, but all Cornish. Perfect!”

What are you looking most forward to about life in Truro, Nova Scotia?

Nova Scotia is a beautiful part of the world with many opportunities to enjoy the natural surroundings and wildlife. This will be a totally different way of life for us and we all find that very exciting. Truro and Bible Hill both seem like friendly places with a true and strong sense of “community” and that is very important to me, having grown up in a small fishing village in Cornwall.

I want my children to have a similar childhood to the one I had and look back on fondly, but let’s not forget the Faculty of Agriculture. I knew the reputation of the NSAC when I worked at Hartpury College and I’m really looking forward to working with the team to make the Faculty of Agriculture a recognised international centre of specialised excellence.

What is the one piece of wisdom or guiding principle you try to bring to your work every day?

A good question. I have picked up a number of “pearls of wisdom” over my years in academic leadership and management but the one I always keep coming back to is that I want people to enjoy their work. I want to walk around the campus and see smiling faces, hear laughter and know that people are truly happy to be there. I have found that a happy and content team delivers way above expectations, plus it's healthy. After all, you work to live you don’t live to work. Work hard, play hard. And let’s be honest, nobody plays harder than Aggies!

You have three daughters, twin girls Rebecca and Emma, 14 and Bethan, 10.  What is your biggest challenge in raising three daughters?

Apart from being the only male in the house, you mean? My family means the world to me and I suppose I take that approach into the workplace too and understand that many of my team are juggling work and family commitments in the same way I am. I am incredibly lucky in that my daughters have been very supportive and understanding of the move. They remember the days when they used to come milking with me at Hartpury College and helping out during lambing, so they’re pretty excited about the whole thing. I just want to ensure I do the best I can for them and preparing them for the chaotic modern world we now live in. After all I have two full-time jobs: principal/dean, and dad!

You have a young family. How do you prioritize your demanding work schedule with family life?

This one relates back to my earlier answer about getting your work/life balance right. My family all enjoy my work and so also get involved whenever possible. The girls have all been “assistants” on research projects and field work with me and have regularly joined me on my early morning campus walks. I’m in a very good place in that what I do for work is also what I enjoy for leisure. If you can find that combination then you’ve won!

What is your favourite way to unwind?

Simple–my family. Being a dad means that when you walk through that front door then your focus and attention has to be on your family. Janine often says that I’m addicted to my Blackberry and email and will one day need to have it surgically removed, and she is right. But modern technology allows me to keep in constant touch with the campus and with what’s going on whilst being with my family. Obviously music also plays a big part in my “down time." I have played since I was little and find it relaxing and great fun. The fact that my three daughters have also followed me into music is a huge bonus, as we can share activities and spend time together doing what we all enjoy.

What was/is your biggest misperception about the Maritimes?

This is a difficult one to answer, as I’ve only been “in” the Maritimes for two weeks, one in February and one in June. But I suppose it might be the weather? I was envisaging some pretty hectic snow in Nova Scotia through the winter period (which in my head was from September through to maybe June!). Having visited and spoken with locals, who I must say, have all been incredibly warm and welcoming, I know that not to be the case.


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