B. Roger Ray, age 100, retired Dean of Sciences at Wash., State University, died June 2, 2013, in Pullman, Wash., after a brief illness. By his wish, cremation took place and no public service is planned.
He was born Nov. 29, 1912, in Hoquiam, Wash., to George Walker Ray and Leora Myers Ray. His grandparents were pioneer Idahoans Clinton and Mary Myers, who founded what is now Smith's Ferry, Idaho, in 1887. His sister, Lillian, died in infancy. To be near Leora's family, they moved to the Boise Valley, where Roger grew up. Walker became chief engineer of the large Barber sawmill; Leora was a school teacher
Roger had an exceptionally happy childhood. Known as Billy to his large extended family, he was dearly loved. He grew up curious about everything, was encouraged to explore anything, got into trouble often and was always forgiven. Favorite adventures involved running free and barefoot with friends, cousins and his beloved dog, King Tut. Roger maintained lifelong strong connections with all of his big family.
Roger graduated from Caldwell High School, in 1930. His father died in a tragic workplace accident the next day. Roger accepted responsibility for his family, while facing the Great Depression. He worked at many jobs, including head lifeguard at the innovative Boise Natatorium. Eventually, he was able to attend the College of Idaho. He graduated in 1935, was chosen as the outstanding senior,= and was nominated as a Rhodes Scholar. For the next four years, he taught at the Emmett and Nampa high schools. During summers, he worked for the American Red Cross; he travelled throughout the West teaching advanced first aid and water safety. Then, he became a teaching assistant at Oregon State University, obtaining an MS degree in 1941. He won a fellowship at the University of Michigan
and received a PhD in Chemistry in 1945. During this time, he supervised a wartime project for the national Office of Scientific Research and Development.
After the war, he held National Defense and Merck postdoctoral fellowships at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, in New York City. He then joined the University of Illinois
and was an Associate Professor and Assistant to the Chairman of the School of Chemistry. In 1957 he came to Washington State University, in Pullman, eager to return to mountains, forests and family. He was professor of Chemistry and Dean of Sciences and served until his retirement in 1978.
Professor Ray's research contributions were in colloid and surface chemistry, including publications and direction of 25 doctoral students and postdoctorate associates. That research continued as he also served as dean. He was a member of the American Chemical Society for 74 years. For eight years, he chaired the Colloid and Surface Division and directed the large annual symposium. He was also a member of several other professional groups and honoraries.
During his 22 year tenure as Dean of Sciences, WSU tripled in size with even larger growth in graduate work and degrees in the sciences. He promoted interdisciplinary efforts and helped initiate the nursing, WAMI medical, and Tri-Cities programs. He was a firm supporter of the WSU tradition of attention and recognition of undergraduate education.
Roger married fellow Idahoan Dorothy Dean Cummings in 1942 in Ann Arbor, Mich. They observed their 69th wedding anniversary just before her death in 2011. Their love and loyalty were clear to all who met them.
Roger enjoyed backpacking, camping and white-water running; he took up downhill skiing in his late 50s. He led Dorothy and their three children on frequent, remarkable adventures. Sometimes they were wet, cold or hungry; but they adored being with him.
Roger and Dorothy loved traveling, were quite fearless and explored the world together for all their lives. They also loved their little cedar cabin on Lake Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, which Roger designed and largely built. After his retirement from WSU, he and Dorothy spent happy years there, making inventive improvements, enjoying the beautiful view and entertaining their children and grandchildren.
Roger remained remarkably healthy and in command, even as he turned 100. He was grateful to live independently at home until the end, encircled by wonderful neighbors. He treasured their extraordinary friendship and many kindnesses.
Professor Ray is survived by his three children, Roger C. Ray of Portland, Ore., Kathleen Ray Derbawka of Yakima, Wash. and Amy (Sasha) Ray of Pullman; and by his three grandchildren, Meg Derbawka of the San Francisco Bay area, Calif., Alexandra Derbawka Navarrete of the Tri-Cities, Wash. and Rasool Ray of Pullman.
Kimball Funeral Home of Pullman, Wash., is caring for the family. Online condolences may be sent to www.kimballfh.com.