Political science graduate picked for Outstanding Alumni Award 

Most students must acclimate to being at a university that is a few hours — or sometimes a few states — away from home. For Michael Gray, the culture shock was a bit more significant.

He came to Pittsburg State University as a political science major after spending 11 years of his childhood in Puebla, Mexico, where he attended a high school that involved students in a model United Nations. 

“Attending that high school was my first introduction to the concept of representing citizens and country,” he said. 

Gray went on to a career with Watco, a global transportation and supply chain services company based in Pittsburg that employs thousands in locations throughout North America and Australia. But he never lost the desire to serve his community. 

On Friday, Oct. 15, Pittsburg State formally recognized him for his accomplishments as one of two Outstanding Alumni. A ceremony and reception was held at the Wilkinson Alumni Center as part of Homecoming activities. 

After the culture shock wore off during Gray’s freshman year at Pittsburg State, he jumped into student life and service organizations with both feet, serving in Student Government Association, as a resident’s hall assistant in Dellinger and Bowen halls, and as a member of the Christian organization Cross Quest. 

“I got to meet people from different walks of life, including a large group of international students that were very engaged,” he said. 

In addition to getting what Gray described as a “meaningful, quality education,” he points to the influence of teachers like professors Bert Patrick (Spanish) and Paul Zagorski, as well as Cross Quest Advisor Mike Trent, with whom he still has a friendship today. 

“Being at Pittsburg State strengthened my sense of community, my involvement with the community,” he said. “I began to recognize that we don’t need to live in silos, that the community can support the university and vice versa. In all my travels, I have yet to find an example that’s even close to what we have here, when it comes to the D-II level.” 

After graduating in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in political science, international studies, and Spanish, Gray went on to earn his juris doctorate from the University of Tulsa College of Law. He has been the assistant general counsel at Watco since 2007.  

His time serving two terms on the Pittsburg City Commission and as mayor saw significant improvements in city infrastructure and collaborative projects with the university, including Block22 — an innovative space downtown with student housing, restaurants and a coffee shop, business start-ups, and meeting space — and the Robert W. Plaster Center, which has drawn athletes and visitors from across the U.S. for national championships. 

He also has been active in Pittsburg Rotary, Pittsburg Area Young Professionals, and supported youth athletics, and is a member of numerous bar associations, national railroad associations, and the Christian Legal Society. 

“I am honored and humbled – I honestly did not expect to get an award like this,” he said. “To be recognized is very special. I’ve always considered myself a die-hard Gorilla. Just to be on a list of other Gorillas recognized at this level will be something that I will always cherish.”