Lois Gray Honored with Founders Award by LERA

Labor education pioneer Lois S. Gray recognized for her role in the founding of Labor and Employment Relations Association
Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The longest-serving faculty member at Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations Dr. Lois Gray, Jean McKelvey-Alice Grant Professor Emeritus of Labor-Management Relations, was the recipient of the Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA) Founders Award at the presidential luncheon during their Annual Meeting this past May 28th, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

LERA is an organization of professionals in all areas of labor and employment relations. Since its founding 70 years ago, it has expanded nationwide to become a forum where contributors from academic, labor, government and management exchange ideas and research findings.

“From early in my career, I have benefited from my network of professional associations acquired through membership and participation in the Industrial Relations Research Association (IRRA) and its successor organization, LERA,” said Gray.

Gray’s colleague Rose Batt accepted the prize on Gray’s behalf at the LERA luncheon, sharing these words:

“Lois has been a wonderful mentor to me, other ILR school faculty, and scholars and students around the world.  She received LERA’s Lifetime Achievement Award a number of years ago as well as many other awards. She’s a true tour de force – still goes into the ILR New York office most days; and as of now is a member of LERA for 70 years.  She has been a devoted LERA member her entire professional career, and we have posted a video on the ILR website in which she provides a very thoughtful reflection on the importance of this organization to advancing the world of work, our profession, and the well-being of working people.”

Professor Gray’s strong interest in industrial and labor relations, encouraged by her experience working for the National Labor Relations Board, had her join the faculty of Cornell University’s ILR School in 1946 where she organized its first off-campus extension program. Shortly thereafter she was invited by Professor McKelvey, a founding faculty member of ILR, to attend the founding meeting for the IRRA. This experience exposed her to the broad range of knowledge encompassed by this emerging interdisciplinary profession.

While working at Cornell, Gray completed her Ph.D. in Economics from Columbia University.  Professor Gray has conducted research, benefitting from consultations with and contacts for data collection provided by academics and practitioners whom she met at LERA gatherings. In subsequent decades, Gray has published many books and articles on labor economics, migration, union administration and government, women in the workforce, women in leadership, and labor relations in the arts and entertainment industry. 

Gray has remained an active participant throughout the history of the association, from annual meetings to serving on committees and Executive Boards of the New York City Chapter and the national organization. She continues to advise younger colleagues and students to take advantage of the opportunities for professional development provided by participation in LERA.