Art McDonald, Patricia Gray, and Gordon Gray

The lasting legacy of Gordon Gray, BComH’50, LLD’04

The Queen’s community is remembering Gordon Gray, BComH’50, LLD’04, the respected business leader and philanthropist who provided invaluable support for the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO).

The former real estate executive, previously awarded both the Order of Ontario and the Order of Canada, passed away on May 19, 2024, in Richmond Hill, Ontario. He was 96.

A giant of Canadian business, Gray previously served as a director of Abitibi, Consumers’ Gas, Crown Life, Rogers Communications, Toronto Dominion Bank, and many others. Gray was also the former president and chairman of Royal LePage, leading the organization’s tremendous growth and turning it into Canada’s largest full-service real-estate company. 

A dedicated philanthropist, he and his wife, Patricia Gray, established the Gordon and Patricia Gray Chair in Particle Astrophysics in 2006. In 2015, Professor Emeritus Art McDonald, the first Gray Chair, was named a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the SNO project.

“Through the Gray Chair in Particle Astrophysics, Gordon provided essential support to Dr. McDonald and Professor Chen’s research into the subatomic neutrino,” says Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane. “These scientific contributions, which have advanced our understanding of the universe, and also set the path for new directions in the study of physics and astronomy, are some of the university’s proudest achievements.” 

Gray, who grew up in Copper Cliff (now a suburb of Sudbury), near Creighton Mine, the home of the observatory, believed establishing an endowed chair would allow a researcher to focus all their attention on the SNO project.

“The Gray Chair has been of tremendous value to me in pursuing my research program at SNOLAB and I am very grateful,” Dr. McDonald said in 2014, at the conclusion of his term as chair.

Dr. Mark Chen, Sc’89, Gray Chair since 2014, and the director of SNO+, is building on SNO’s work by expanding the facility’s ability to detect neutrinos and explore their fundamental properties, including whether their matter-antimatter nature could contribute to why matter is dominant in the universe.

“Gordon was a dedicated supporter of the Department of Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy and of the Queen's University Biological Station,” says Barbara Crow, Dean, Faculty of Arts and Science. “His generosity and support have left a lasting and continuing legacy at Queen’s through his family and friendships and in the world of particle astrophysics and environmental sustainability.”

The Grays’ diverse interests also included animal welfare. The couple established the Gordon and Patricia Gray Animal Welfare Foundation, which has supported more than 60 Canadian and international animal wildlife charities since 2010. Their philanthropic support helped bolster scientific community at the Queen’s University Biological Station (QUBS), with the foundation supporting snake conservation and research at QUBS in 2023.