By Lauren DiFilippo
SC Contributing Writer
“I was happy to find a Civil War soldier had gonorrhea,” said Dr. Michael Gray, history professor at East Stroudsburg University. “Finding that journal allowed me to help prove my thesis in my dissertation.”
ESU knows Gray as the Civil War expert, the rib-cooker, and the visuals-enthusiast, but America knows him as the “Civil War expert of the North.”
Gray will be speaking at the Andersonville National Historical site in September. He will be speaking as an expert on northern Civil War prisons on National POW/MIA Recognition Day.
“Of course, I want my students to know that what Andersonville National Historical site gets is what they get,” Gray said.
Gray delivers dynamic presentations about the Civil War and other aspects of 19th-century history, including information about the military and prison systems. His General Education courses are detailed and descriptive.
In his upper-level courses, students get the opportunity to visit Civil War sites such as Gettysburg, Harpers Ferry and Antietam with him. He is also a cook known for his famous BBQ baby back ribs, and lucky students get to taste his specialty.
Gray, winner of a federal grant that sent him to the Andersonville National Historical site, was featured on CNN.com discussing northern Civil War prisons. His biggest message regarding the prisons was that “Americans treated Americans badly.”
He will return to Andersonville to discuss northern Civil War prisons and his new findings, and CNN will be in attendance.
On his trip to the Andersonville National Historical site, Gray discloses, “I had an entire national historical site to myself. I met some pretty interesting people, some very bright people, and I am actually collaborating with some for my new book.”
Gray’s new book will contain thirteen chapters about northern Civil War prisons. When asked about his greatest accomplishments, he thought for a minute and responded, “I haven’t gotten there yet.”
Gray published an essay in Ovid Futch’s “History of Andersonville” and published a book entitled “The Business of Captivity: Elmira and Its Civil War Prison.” He intends to publish more.
When asked about his research, Gray laughed and said, “I work very hard. I’m very involved. Sometimes too involved; my house can be burning down, but I’ll still have diaries to go through.”
He also says that he loves his job, and he loves publishing his research. In the end, his research and publications help make ESU look good.
Gray also has some plans for his students at ESU.
He said, “I want to create an online course where I teach from Civil War sites. Students don’t have to be mobile, of course, but I can bring the site to them.”
In fulfillment of that goal, Gray recently won a grant for making a Civil War sites class available online for undergrads. He said, “Getting the grant was really cool. Now I can bring this to undergrads online.”
Gray also wants to help current history majors. “I also work on forums on Military.com, and so I want to get our history students to do an internship with the history and communications departments. They need to be more diverse so they have more job options.”
Gray has been working with Dr. Richard Otto from ESU’s Digital Media Technologies department to produce a six-episode series for the web called Battlefield 101. Three communications interns and one history intern from ESU are working on the prestigious series. All six episodes of Battlefield 101 have been posted online at Military.com: Urban Sniping, Terror Tactics, Tank Warfare, Animal Warfare, Close Air Support, and Sub Warfare.
Diana DiFilippo, who recently obtained her Master’s in History, is one of Gray’s previous students. DiFilippo said, “Dr. Gray brought so much fire and passion to the field of history. He inspired me to do what I love, and I’m happy to say I’m doing just that.”
“My teaching philosophy is to teach with students, not at them,” Gray said with a smirk. “I treat my students as the adults they are; if you’re 18, you’re old enough to serve in a war, you should be treated like an adult.”
As an affirmation of his teaching methodology, Gray became an ESyoU honoree last year. He said, “That was really cool because it comes from the students.”
With this respect comes a little bit of fun. Gray takes pride in being a great story teller and encourages students to re-enact scenes from history in his classes.
He also shares interesting stories. One of his favorites includes finding a love letter from a soldier, and the soldier’s scab that was sent with it as a gesture of romance.
“I’m one of those people who would teach for free,” Gray said, enthusiastically.
Gray is very proud of the PASSHE system.
He said, “Professor [James] Henwood, one of my advisors here, influenced me a lot. There’s a bit of a legacy here, too. I went here; my wife went here; and my son is going to West Chester. I wouldn’t send him if I didn’t have faith in the PASSHE system. ESU and PASSHE schools are a great springboard for career advancement.”
Gray also asserts that students get a “bang for their buck” here at ESU.
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