Saturday, April 23, 2016

Bill Gray And My Masters Thesis

William M. (Bill) Gray      October 9, 1929 - April 16, 2016

Back in 1972 the USAF sent me to Colorado State in a program designed to get Officers advanced degrees. I had been out of school since 1966, working as a forecaster, first for the U.S. Weather Bureau and then for the USAF. I was very interested in severe thunderstorms, since my forecaster job was in the Military Weather Warning Center, where we issued forecasts for the U.S. mainland of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.

When I got to CSU I talked with Bill Gray. He was interested in what I’d been doing and also had a side interest in tornadoes. So he became my M.S. advisor, and I did some simple research related to observed upper-air soundings taken close in time and space to tornadoes. He was my much-needed guide into the maze of academia and research. I was very lucky, and we hit it off since all the work I’d been doing was very keyed to observations, as was most of work related to tropical storms.

Bill was a very enthusiastic advisor and would run down (literally) to the graduate student office nearly each day and ask each of us what we’d learned since we last talked. Although we’d shudder when we heard him coming, his intense interest in each of us was very positive and also fairly unusual.

He had a personal philosophy he preached to most of us – “In your briefcase always have: 1) a 2-B pencil, 2) a pink pearl erasure, and 3) a tephigram* [we favored skew Ts at MWWC].” I took his advice to heart and to this day I have a skew T folded up in my travel bag.

The 18 months I spent working with Bill had a very large impact on me personally and on all I did during my career following graduate school. I will miss him very much.
* Corrected as per Klotzbach and McNoldy blog post at:

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