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ENE Memo: May 6, 2013

From the Head: 5/6

Vale: Mike Gray

Last week we lost a new but dear friend of ENE – Mike Gray. He was the documentary film-maker who was on campus last year collecting footage for a video he was making to help celebrate the first ten years of ENE. We have lost a creative, artistic engineer who asked difficult questions and who was blown away by what we are doing.  When he collapsed, he was actually editing the ENE video.

Mike editing in his studio in the Hollywood Hills (February 2013)


Below is his obituary from the LA Times:

Mike Gray dies at 77; co-wrote 'China Syndrome' screenplay

Mike Gray, an author, activist and documentarian, developed the movie's provocative story about a cover-up at a nuclear power plant.

May 02, 2013|

From a Los Angeles Times staff writer

Mike Gray is shown in 1998. He also wrote "Drug Crazy: How We Got into This Mess and How We Can Get Out (Chuck Berman / Chicago Tribune )

Mike Gray, an author, activist and documentarian who co-wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay for "The China Syndrome," the provocative 1979 film about a cover-up at a nuclear power plant, died Tuesday of heart failure at his Hollywood Hills home, his family said. He was 77.

Gray developed the "China Syndrome" story after reading books and interviewing scientists about the dangers of nuclear power. No one knew how timely the subject would prove. A nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania went into partial meltdown barely three weeks after the opening of the movie, which starred Jack Lemmon, Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas and became a box-office and critical success.

A Newsweek reviewer described the film as "a rare phenomenon — a piece of popular entertainment that immediately foreshadows a major news event and then helps explain it."

"I meant 'China Syndrome' to educate people about what I'd found … that our heavy reliance on nuclear plants hadn't been clearly thought through," Gray, who co-wrote the script with T.S. Cook and James Bridges, told the Chicago Tribune in 1998.

Born Oct. 26, 1935, Gray was a native of Darlington, Ind., who earned an engineering degree from Purdue University before moving to Chicago in the early 1960s. He was making TV commercials for major brands like Kentucky Fried Chicken when the Democratic National Convention came to Chicago in 1968. When police began beating protesters in the streets outside the convention hall, Gray took a film crew to record the events.

"When we came back to our studio at 3 a.m.," Gray, who had been a Goldwater Republican, told the Tribune, "we were different people. We had been changed, transformed."

He gave up TV commercials and turned to projects that reflected his new political sensibilities. With Howard Alk, a founder of Chicago's Second City comedy group, he collaborated on documentary films, including "American Revolution II" (1969), about the social and political turmoil of the 1960s, and "The Murder of Fred Hampton" (1971), about the FBI raid in which Chicago Black Panthers leader Fred Hampton was killed.

After moving to Los Angeles in 1973, Gray wrote screenplays and several books, including "Angle of Attack," about America's race to the moon, and "Drug Crazy: How We Got Into This Mess and How We Can Get Out," about the failures of the U.S. war on drugs.

At his death he was working on a documentary about former Black Panther and Houston community organizer Robert E. Lee III

Gray is survived by his wife, Carol, and a son, Lucas.

LA Times, May 3, 2013

Calendar: 5/6

Spring 2013

  • May 8-9: ENE Advance (9:30-3:30) 

Summer 2013

  • June 17 - July 11:  STAR​ (Student Transition, Advising and Registration)

Fall 2013

  • Aug 13: ENE Faculty Advance 
  • Aug 14: BGR lunch
  • Aug 14-16: ENE PhD orientation
  • Aug 19: Classes Begin
  • Sept 27: 2nd Annual First-Year Engineering Friday
  • Sept 28 Homecoming & Family Weekend
  • TBD:   ABET Site Visit (Mon + Tues; most likely in Oct)
  • Nov 8: Engineering Education Industrial Advisory Council (E2IAC) 
  • Nov 9: ENE Friends at the Football
  • Nov 14: 3rd Annual Interdisciplinary Engineering Colloquium

Kudos: 5/6

.... to Heidi A. Diefes-Dux, Margret A. Hjalmarson and Judith S. Zawojewski on publication of "Student Team Solutions to an Open-Ended Mathematical Modeling Problem: Gaining Insights for Educational Improvement" in JEE Vol 102, No1; pp 179–216. Bill Oakes on his selection as a CIC Academic Leadership Program Fellow for the 2013-14 academic year.

To suggest content for future issues of ENE Memo, contact David Radcliffe or Lisa Tally by midday Friday for the following week's issue.