African Heritage Room Committee / Wendell L. Wray Memorial Award - Graduate

This award supports global education experiences for graduate students pertaining to Africa.

Professor emeritus Wendell L. Wray, a native of the Beltzhoover neighborhood of Pittsburgh, was the first African American man to graduate from the library school housed at then-Carnegie Institute of Technology, earning his M.L.S. in 1952.

Wray graduated from South Hills High School, where he mastered Spanish and learned the art of making mobiles by studying the work of Alexander Calder. Following military service in the U.S. Army during World War II, he accepted a scholarship under the GI Bill to attend a small liberal arts college – sight unseen – in Maine.  He entered Bates College in Lewiston for what he described as the four happiest years of his life.  He was the poet laureate of his class, and his poetry was celebrated at the class’s 50th reunion in 2000.

He graduated from Bates in 1950, Phi Beta Kappa in Spanish and psychology, and returned to Pittsburgh to participate in the library science program.  After earning his MLS he became the first African American male hired by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, where he worked for seven years during the 1950s. In 1959, Wray moved to New York City, working at the New York Public Library for 14 years, serving in the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and directing the North Manhattan Library Project, a cultural outreach program that introduced arts and humanities programs to inner-city youths.  While in New York, he was encouraged by Alex Haley, author of “Roots,” to study at Columbia University’s newly-established program in oral history, where his personal and professional fascination with this approach to historical and literary documentation began.

In 1973, Wray was appointed a faculty member at Pitt’s library school, the academic successor to the Carnegie Tech program from which he had graduated and from which he had received the 1973 Distinguished Alumnus Award.  He remained at the school for 15 years and retired in 1988. (University Times, 9/11/2003)