Back to Blog Posts

Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History Director to Speak at Santa Fe’s Commencement

Posted by Susan Jenkins on May 16, 2014

SANTA FE—St. John’s College will celebrate its 47th commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 24th at 10:30 a.m. Sixty-eight undergraduates and thirty-two graduate students will take part in the ceremony, held on the Weigle Placita at St. John’s College. Graduates represent 24 states including five students from New Mexico and 13 international students representing 10 countries.

The commencement speaker will be John Gray, Elizabeth MacMillan Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Mr. Gray currently oversees 234 employees, a budget of more than $34 million, and the renewal of the museum’s 120,000-square-foot west exhibition wing with its new exhibit spaces, interior public plazas, a Hall of Music for live performances, a modern education center and a gallery for the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation.

Mr. Gray was founding president of the Autry National Center of the American West, a consolidation of three cultural organizations in Los Angeles and Denver. Mr. Gray was known for his leadership in banking and government service until he became director of the Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Los Angeles. He enlarged the museum’s mission and scope, and, in 2002, merged the museum with Colorado’s Women of the West Museum and, in 2004, with Los Angeles’ oldest museum, the Southwest Museum of the American Indian. The new organization became the Autry National Center of the American West based in Los Angeles. The Autry National Center has more than 500,000 objects, a 130-member staff and an annual budget of about $16 million. It is accredited by the American Association of Museums and gained national prominence during Mr. Gray’s tenure.

Mr. Gray spent 25 years in commercial banking, serving as executive vice president of First Interstate Bank of California in Los Angeles from 1987 until 1996. He worked for the Small Business Administration in Washington, D.C., for two years, 1997 to 1999—when he moved back to the West Coast to serve as president and CEO of the Autry Museum in Los Angeles. He retired from the Autry National Center in late 2010 and currently lives in New Mexico. Gray has a bachelor’s degree from C.W. Post College at Long Island University and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Colorado. Mr. Gray is a student in the St. John’s Graduate Institutes Eastern Classics program.