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Remembering Professor Emeritus Perry Grady

Scan of a film photo of Perry Grady standing on the bridge from the Wilson College of Textiles.

By Sarah Stone

The Wilson College of Textiles is mourning the loss of Professor Emeritus and Former Associate Dean Perry Grady. 

Grady earned all three of his degrees at NC State University: a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering in 1962, a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering in 1967 and a Ph.D. in fiber and polymer science in 1973. He devoted the entirety of his career to the Wilson College of Textiles starting as a research assistant faculty member in 1962. During this time, he advised numerous graduate students and impacted countless lives through his passion for education and research. 

Scan of a film photography. Professor Emeritus Charles Livengood (left) and Perry Grady stand outside the Textiles Complex during construction. Both look at the camera and smile.
Professor Emeritus Charles Livengood (left) and Perry Grady outside the Textiles Complex during construction.

“In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, the Textile School (now College) was transitioning from being a place where college graduates were prepared for the primary textile industry to a place where education, applied research, basic research and extension classes were equally emphasized. Perry was one of a cadre of young graduates hired to move the college forward in this endeavor,” Professor Emeritus of Textile Chemistry Charles Livengood writes. “He contributed in a very positive way in each of these areas as he advanced through the ranks to full professor and Associate Dean. I was privileged to be his colleague, collaborator, travel companion and personal friend from the beginning. In retirement our friendship continued with many family functions. Rest well, old friend. You will be greatly missed.”

Pushing research, extension and higher education forward 

Grady leaves a legacy of research both in terms of output and impact. Over the course of his career, he co-authored two books and published many academic papers concentrating in energy and electro technology. Partners include Cotton Incorporated, the Department of Energy and the North Carolina Department of Commerce. 

Scanned black and white film photo of Perry Grady. He is sitting at a desk and looks down at a sheet of paper.
Perry Grady teaches the first TOTE course recorded on videotape and mailed to students at American Enka 1976

While not formalized research, Grady also helped advance NC State University into the modern era by developing and offering the university’s first remote learning program. Students in North Carolina and four other states had the opportunity to learn through the Textile Off-Campus Televised Education (TOTE) classes. His accomplishments in short courses and other extension initiatives earned Grady the Outstanding Extension Service Award from the university, just one of five awards he won over the course of his career. 

Grady also donated a collection of course outlines, student works, photographs and more to the NC State Library Special Collections in 2007. 

Laying the foundation for Centennial Campus 

One of the biggest ways that Perry Grady will continue to live on is through the Textiles Complex on Centennial Campus. Former Dean Bob Barnhardt assigned Grady, who was an associate dean at the time, “to do nothing but get us to the new campus,” Barnhardt recalls in an oral history with the NC State Libraries. “That was his assignment. And that was a great assignment because he took it very seriously and did it extremely well.”

Before the college’s new home opened its doors to students, staff and faculty in January 1991, Grady made countless visits to Centennial Campus. He expertly coordinated with staff and faculty to realize their visions for the college’s new labs and studios. 

“In December of 1989, our department needed to move chemistry laboratories from David Clark Labs to the new College of Textiles, so that spring semester courses could be taught in them,” Professor Emeritus Keith Beck remembers. “Perry was instrumental in getting all the equipment moved and preparing the new rooms for it. His efforts made a complex task much easier.”

  • Outstanding Extension Service Award from North Carolina State University, 1977
  • Fiber Society Distinguished Achievement Award, 1979
  • Textile Division of Instrument Society of America Achievement Award, 1984
  • Cates-Rutherford Lecturer & Distinguished Alumnus in Fiber & Polymer Science, 1991
  • ISA (The Instrumentation, Systems and Automation Society) Fellow, 1993
  • American Society of Engineering Educators
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
  • Phi Kappa Phi
  • Sigma Xi
  • Phi Lambda Upsilon
  • The Textile Institute
  • Eta Kappa Nu
  • Delta Kappa Phi
  • American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists
  • American Association for Textile Technology
  • The Fiber Society
  • Textile Quality Control Association        
  • Past Director (and multiple other leadership positions) of Textile Industries Division of ISA –The Instrumentation, Systems, and Automation Society
  • Member of the Board of Directors of North Carolina Agribusiness Council

To share your memories of Professor Grady or give in his memory, please visit his obituary page.

This post was originally published in Wilson College of Textiles News.