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“Jennifer Gray is beyond what a teacher is.” Students, family reflect on selflessness of nursing professor

In an upper level journalism class, 13 students featured faculty and staff members for a personality profile assignment. The students were not allowed to interview the faculty or staff member, but were instructed to interview their friends, family and co-workers. 

Long before she stood before eager nursing students at Oklahoma Christian University, Dr. Jennifer Gray filled the roles of wife, mother, missionary, Bible class teacher and women’s ministry leader.

Gray was raised on a wheat and cattle farm in Apache, OK. According to her daughter, Jenny Jones, Gray’s parents never attended college but placed a strong emphasis on higher education. Gray completed her associate’s degree at Oklahoma Christian, but graduated from University of Central Oklahoma with her bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Upon completion of her bachelor’s degree in nursing, Gray spent two years in Cameroon, West Africa working with a mobile clinic traveling out to local villages to conduct clinics for newborn children. She spent her first year as a clinic nurse and second year as the director of nursing for Christian Mobile Clinic.

Gray continued her education with a master’s degree from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1989 and Ph.D. in nursing from Texas Women’s University in 1997. She spent 26 years working for the University of Texas at Arlington as both an associate dean and the interim dean of the College of Nursing.

According to Gray’s husband, Randy, during Jennifer’s time at UTA, she developed a relationship with the government of Uganda, East Africa. Through this connection, Gray travels to Uganda on a yearly basis to conduct nursing seminars on basic skills, develop the curriculum of their national school of nursing and develop a foundation for research for their advanced degrees in nursing.

“Jennifer has never lost her passion for the souls of individuals on the African Continent,” Randy said.

In 2003, Gray returned to Africa to serve with her daughter, in Tanzania, at a mission located in the southwest rural village of Chimala to do mission work for the Chimala Mission Hospital.

“I got a glimpse into her life before me when she lived in Cameroon,” Jones said. “Seeing her in her natural element of a third-world hospital interacting with patients was a sight to behold. I cherish every Swahili prayer, game night, sewing project, village church, questionable meal, 10-plus-hour flight and passport line we shared on those trips.”

In 2015, Gray began working for Oklahoma Christian as the associate dean of the School of Nursing and College of Natural and Health Sciences. Her daughter said her job at Oklahoma Christian was a dream come true for Gray.

“My mom and dad have always loved Oklahoma Christian and what it meant to them individually, as a couple, and in their faith stories,” Jones said. “So, to be able to finish her career at this treasured place is a dream come true for her. To say my mom likes her job at OC is an understatement — she adores it.”

According to Jones, Jennifer’s devotion to Christ is evident throughout her life. From her mission work in Africa to her interactions with students, to her love for her family, Jennifer’s love for Christ shines through every aspect of her life.

“This faith has shaped her deep devotion to my dad in their marriage, raising Godly children and teaching college students how to be Christian nurses,” Jones said. “She has always been dedicated to the body of believers and served in many ways within the church.”

Gray’s nursing students say her love for teaching is evident in the way she treats students. Kaitlyn Crabtree, a nursing student who transferred to Oklahoma Christian lacking three credits, said Jennifer offered her the classes she needed over the summer to help her get caught up.

“The best part about it was Jennifer looked after me, not only as a student but also as a normal girl who was newly married about to go through one of the toughest combination of classes in just eight weeks,” Crabtree said. “Jennifer encouraged me in my education, faith and marriage.”

According to Crabtree, Jennifer personally helped her with study habits. Crabtree said one day when she showed up for class, Jennifer had handwritten flashcards prepared for her and they went through the material together.

“Overall Jennifer Gray is beyond what a teacher is,” Crabtree said. “She was the truest gift from God and I’m so thankful that I have gotten to know her so well.”

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