Lincoln resident top of his class at PC

Lincoln resident top of his class at PC

Sean Gray is pictured at last week’s Providence College commencement ceremony. (Photo courtesy of Providence College)

LINCOLN – Twenty-two-year-old Sean Gray is making history.

Providence College bestowed a number of academic honors upon Gray at last week’s commencement ceremony. He was recognized for having the highest GPA in history, and is one of three who received the Highest in Academic Rank Award.

The lifelong Lincoln resident graduated from Bishop Feehan High School in Attleboro, Mass., in 2017.

Providence College was a natural fit for his undergraduate studies. Both of his parents, Mark Gray and Julia Ann Crowley Gray are PC graduates, as well as his brother Kevin Gray.

Gray, who majored in history and minored in Spanish and philosophy, said his interest in the humanities also attracted him to the college.

“I’ve loved history for as long as I can remember,” he said. “History is an important tool in understanding where we come from,” and for learning from the past to pave the way for a better society.

“It’s an interesting academic discipline,” he said, especially given the transformative social movements of the past few years. So much more than memorizing facts, he said the study involves putting those historical facts into a framework to solve a puzzle.

In the spring, he was awarded a $4,000 Veritas Summer Undergraduate Research Grant from the college to support research on his senior thesis, a 70-page paper on John Jay, the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Gray explored why Jay declined an invitation from outgoing President John Adams to return for another term as chief justice in 1800, saying he would never return to “a system so defective.”

Gray researched what Jay felt was lacking in the system, and was invited to present his thesis at the annual Undergraduate Research Workshop at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

He’s also fascinated by Rhode Island’s rich history. He interned with the Rhode Island Historical Society in 2019, publishing two essays about the aftermath of the burning of the HMS Gaspee.

His love for history also blossomed into a passion for law, philosophy and literature during his high school years. While Gray said he graduated among the top 30 or so at Feehan and immersed himself in the school community, he wasn’t a perfect student.

“PC pushed me academically right away,” he said. After earning a perfect 4.0 GPA his first semester, “I put my head down” and worked to maintain his scores.

He preserved through the pandemic, which was a challenge for Gray, who said he’s very engaged in the classroom.

“I love being involved in classroom discussions and debates, and a certain amount of that is lost over Zoom,” he said. “At the same time, the PC community, especially the faculty and fellow students, were very supportive during that rough period.”

Gray was awarded the Berlin Fellowship by Humanity in Action, an organization that brings college students and recent graduates together to promote civic engagement, human rights and democratic values.

He would have spent last June at the University of Goethe, participating in seminars and listening to speakers discuss human rights in the context of Germany’s colonial history and the Holocaust. Due to the pandemic, the conference was held over Zoom.

“It was a really special time,” he said. While it felt a bit odd to be sitting in his childhood bedroom, he said the virtual platform allowed him to talk to people from all walks of life, calling in from various places around the world. This allowed people to talk about the work they’re involved with in their own communities, he said.

Gray, who graduated summa cum laude, is also a member of many honor societies including Phi Sigma Tau (Philosophy Honor Society), Sigma Delta Pi (Hispanic Honor Society), Phi Alpha Theta (History Honor Society), as well as the Dirigo Leadership Society (PC student leadership honor society).

Asked to summarize his time at PC, he said “busy” would be a cop-out.

“It was enriching and fulfilling,” he said. “I was given the opportunity to do a lot of great stuff academically, and some of my proudest work has been working on the Student Congress as vice president, and working as head writing tutor in the Office of Academic Services.

“It’s nice to do well academically,” he said, but more rewarding, “to make a tangible impact on students’ lives.”

Gray is heading off to Georgetown University on a pre-law track for the next three years after having been accepted to “a few great options” including the University of Chicago and Boston University.

As a practicing attorney, Gray said he hopes to continue to make tangible differences in people’s lives.

“Georgetown was the best fit for me. What better place to learn the law than where the laws were made?” he said. “I really love the school’s ethos of law and public service.”