A University Chancellor’s Library

What can you learn about someone by studying the books they read?

Joseph M.M. Gray, a Methodist minister, served as Chancellor of American University from 1934-1940. At his inauguration in 1934, American University launched its School of Public Affairs. American University Library is in the process of cataloging some books from Gray’s personal library. The books are all inscribed and dated. The inscriptions include Gray’s location so you can follow his travels. One of the books is marked “On S.S. Lapland.” Other locations include Detroit, Michigan, Gray Rocks, Gloucester, Massachusetts, Kansas City, Missouri, and Scranton, Pennsylvania. Gray Rocks was the name of his family’s summer home. Many of the books are slightly annotated. The multiple inscriptions in the back document that Gray read John Brown’s Body by Stephen Vincent Benet several times between 1928 and 1934. His annotations range from comments “It was Grant who said…” to criticism “This would be better in alternating rhyme.” The collection reveals his interest in poetry, Shakespeare, and Greek drama. Though we do not have his entire library, this collection does provide us with insight into Joseph M.M. Gray as an individual.