WHITE PLAINS, NY -- ArtsWestchester recently announced that it is honoring Dr. LaRuth Gray of New Rochelle at its November 20 gala that is celebrating the organization’s 50th Anniversary.
Gray is among a group of 19 former and current presidents being honored for ensuring ArtsWestchester’s growth and success throughout its five decades in existence.
In announcing this tribute during a celebratory event in October at The Ritz-Carlton, Westchester, ArtsWestchester CEO Janet Langsam praised the work of these Westchester leaders who have each, in his and her own way, propelled the organization from a small group of volunteers in 1965 to a nationally recognized private arts council, the largest of its kind in New York State.
“Westchester County is a more vibrant place because of the hard work, dedication and leadership of these devoted individuals,” said Langsam. “The work of these board presidents has grown the cultural industry in Westchester to an economic impact of more than $156 million. They deserve this tribute.”
ArtsWestchester was founded in 1965 -- the same year as the National Endowment for the Arts -- when a small group of volunteers wanted to build a cultural center in the suburbs similar to Lincoln Center. But the early founders instead focused their energies and resources on arts programming and advocacy. A year after they organized as an Arts Council, they received their first $1,500 grant from the New York State Council on the Arts. Over the years, ArtsWestchester has invested over $35 million in arts and cultural programming; supported over 1,300 artists and 300 cultural institutions; and worked with Westchester school districts to bring the arts into the classroom.
The organization’s mission came full-circle in 1998 when it acquired and renovated a historic nine-story building in downtown White Plains that serves as ArtsWestchester’s headquarters, performance space and a gallery for artists, while remaining a cultural resource for the entire county. To this day, ArtsWestchester remains the county’s cultural lynchpin.
Dr. Gray has dedicated her life to children by working to improve their quality of education and their quality of life. An ArtsWestchester Board Member since 1997, her passion for the arts runs as deep as does her commitment to ensuring the accessibility and diversity of the arts in Westchester. As President of ArtsWestchester, Dr. Gray has credited her exposure to the arts in rural Texas as her "window to the world."
A retired Superintendent of Schools for Abbott Union Free School District in Irvington, New York, Dr. Gray currently serves as Scholar in Residence for the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education (Metro Center) at New York University. Prior to this appointment, she served as Deputy Director of Metro Center and as Affiliate Professor in the Administration, Leadership and Technology Program in NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. She began her career in education as a teacher in the New Rochelle City School District and moved up in the ranks to become Chairman of the Language Arts Department. From there, she was named first as Principal, then as Director of Instruction and finally as Assistant Superintendent before becoming Superintendent of the Abbott Union Free District. Among the accomplishments attributed to Dr. Gray during that time are the design, development and execution of a plan for the reorganization of the New Rochelle Public Schools to address the twin problems of minority isolation and declining enrollment. A lifelong arts advocate, Dr. LaRuth Gray was honored by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Alliance for Arts Education as an outstanding educator contributing to and supporting the arts in education.
A graduate of Howard University, Nova University and Columbia University Teacher’s College, Dr. Gray is married to Joseph Morgan, who is also an educator.
“I grew up in rural east Texas during the roughest years of segregation in that part of the country,” Gray said. “The arts were an incredible window to the world for me and provided hope for the future.”
The honorees are:
Froma Benerofe (2014 - Present)
Jacqueline A. Walker (2012–2014)
Joseph Oates (2010– 2012)
Stephen K. Dishart (2009–2010)
John Peckham (2005 – 2009)
Jamie Shenkman (2002–2005)
LaRuth Gray (2001-2002)
A. Maren Hexter (1997-2000)
Betty Himmel (1995-1997)
Kenneth J. Gould (1992-1995)
Francis G. Ronnenberg (1990-1992)**
Timothy J. Curtin (1987-1990)
Dorothy Swegel (1985-1987)**
Daniel Idzik (1983-1985)
Katherine Niles (1977-1983)**
William J. Bridenbecker (1975-1976)**
A. Corwin Frost (1974-1975)
Polly Siwek (1969 -1973)**
George Newlin (1966-1969)
The 50th Anniversary gala will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, November 20, 2015 at The Ritz-Carlton, Westchester in White Plains, N.Y. For tickets, journal ads or sponsorship opportunities go to artswestchester.org.