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Michael Gray

Michael Gray
Michael Gray (BSc Applied Physics 1990-93) is an inspiration to anyone who thinks they're too old to learn. After a lifetime in farming he came to Warwick to study for a degree in physics and graduated at the age of 60. Now happily retired, Michael, who turned 80 in March, looks back on his time at Warwick with fondness.

Michael Gray

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When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Funnily enough, a bus conductor!! They do not have many now, but I was fascinated as a child, when we went to school on the bus, by the machines which they used to print the tickets (it was 3d, old money, from Charlecote to Stratford (about four miles) in the 1940s!) Being brought up on a farm, I suppose farming came next.

What was the best careers advice you were given?

Very little careers advice was given at school. I seem to remember an army recruiting office giving us a bit of a pep talk. Remember, it was wartime till 1945.

Describe yourself in three words

Single, reserved, male

What are the most challenging parts of your job?

I am now well retired, but when I was actively farming, I found actually planning each day’s activities, bearing in mind how much agriculture depends on the vagaries of the weather, this was one of the most difficult things. Sometimes if required finding useful work for men involved on three different farms some seven miles apart.

What have you done that you are most proud of?

Achieved a third class honours degree in Applied Physics at the age of 60 years at the University of Warwick!

What drives you?

A sense of justice and mercy to everyone.

What single thing would most improve the quality of your life?

A more equable mean temperature, not too hot in the summer and not too cold in the winter.

What three objects would you take with you to a desert island?

A radio, a saw and a spade.

Where do you hope to be in 10 years’ time?

I shall be happy if I am still alive and in good health at 90 years of age!

How would you like to be remembered?

I cannot bear eulogies at funerals. If people remember me as honest, friendly and just, I should be satisfied – but how shall I know?

What are your favourite memories of your university years at Warwick?

The tremendous help and friendliness I received from the staff and from my fellow undergraduates (mostly teenagers).

Do you have any advice for new graduates and undergraduates?

Work hard, play hard, encourage one another, enjoy the three years but remember there are only two long vacations! The last will be spent looking for a job!

Anything else you would like to add?

Speaking from my own experience: “It is never too late!”

Michael Gray: the facts
Age: 80
Lives: Snitterfield near Stratford-upon-Avon
Education: Kindergarten at the Croft School Stratford-upon-Avon, 5 to 8 years old
King Edward VI Grammar School, Stratford-upon-Avon 8 to 17 years old. School Certificate and Higher School Certificate (the last one before GCEs)
Stratford College of Education 1989: a refresher course called “HITECC”, the first year of a 4 year engineering degree run by Coventry Polytechnic.
University of Warwick: 1990 to 1993: 3 year degree course for a BSc in Applied Physics.
Career: For a short while helped engineering students at Coventry University with their maths problems. Between school and university I spent 40 years farming apart from two years National Service (1951 –53) in the Royal Air Force where I trained as an aircrew signaller (wireless and radar operator) flying in Shackletons of Coastal Command ostensibly looking for Russian submarines during the Cold War.
Interests: My main hobby is church bell ringing. Snitterfield has six bells and I go on bellringing outings and courses to teach bellringers. I am one of the churchwardens at Snitterfield. I keep in touch with my old school at Stratford and am on the Old Boys’ Committee. I enjoy country walks with a friend from Shipston; we did our National Service together in the 1950s.