Remembering a beloved wind power pioneer: Tom Gray

UPDATE: Services for Tom:

  • A “memorial party” will take place on Sunday, September 24, 5-7 p.m., at the Montshire Museum, in Norwich, Vermont. There will be pizza and beer (the menu from Tom and Linda’s post-wedding party), time to reminisce as a group, and toasts to Tom. Flannel shirts are encouraged!
  • There will be a celebration at Georgia Mountain Community Wind in Vermont on Sunday, October 22, 1 p.m. Celebrants will scatter some of Tom’s ashes, remember his passion and dedication to wind energy, and, of course, reminisce.

UPDATE: We have received an overwhelming number of tributes from Tom’s friends and colleagues. We’ll continue to add them to the bottom of this post.

The wind community suffered a heartfelt loss with the news that former AWEA Executive Director Tom Gray passed away yesterday, after a head injury sustained in a fall where he lived in Vermont.

Tom was a true industry pioneer, having worked across four decades to grow American wind energy and our association. In the 1980s he famously used his personal credit card at one point to keep AWEA afloat. After writing our first newsletters, he personally stamped and mailed them.

Beyond all that, he was a kind friend and a skilled and principled mentor for countless people in our industry.

Whenever we needed clarification on an obscure point of reference, we called upon Tom’s encyclopedic knowledge of wind, leading many AWEAns to dub him the “Wind Wizard.” He was an expert copy editor and opinion writer, and continued to edit this blog and grow his Twitter following well into “retirement.”

There was simply no way to separate Tom from his love of wind power – on more than one occasion, he told me there is no better job in the world than working in wind.

His wife Linda wrote us: “You’ll appreciate that Tom made me promise to spread some of his ashes at a wind farm. I have a Vermont project in mind.”

As news spread of his untimely death in his seventies, we’ve received an outpouring of support for Tom today, far more than we can fit in a single post. Many of the people whom Tom influenced are also sharing stories on Facebook, such as on the page of Randy Swisher, who succeeded him as AWEA’s CEO.

Scott Sklar, The Stella Group:

“I met Tom in 1980 as he was trying to form AWEA. His love for the wind industry was so sincere and his dedication to the wind industry was amazing. He was thoughtful and honorable to work with — and just a wonderful human being. The wind industry and AWEA owe Tom an immense sense of gratitude. He was a selfless giant and helped position the wind industry into its position today. You have to understand, we were ridiculed back then by policymakers, energy experts, and the media – the idea of wind farms and acres of solar modules were inconceivable back then with just a handful of tiny, tiny companies. It took immense dedication, stamina, and courage to face down these ‘experts’ and naysayers. Tom was never deterred.”

Lauren Glickman, former AWEA staffer:

“When I was hired to take over AWEA’s social media strategy, during my on-boarding process, I was told that the AWEA Twitter account was mostly managed by a semi-retired older gentleman, who lived in Vermont. I was filled with dread as I tried to imagine how I was going to manage this situation. Tom blew every stereotype out of the water about how social media is ‘only for a younger generation.’ Not only did he have a firm grasp on ‘using social media’ but he was completely self-aware about just how much he had to learn. Our time working together was inspiring…I’m proud to have been mentored by Tom, and filled with pride as I watched his social media presence as @ClimateHawk1 grow to over 77,000 followers.”

Paul White, PRC Wind:

“Tom is one of the first people I worked with on writing and editing the Wind Energy Weekly when I entered the wind industry in 1992. I believe that Tom’s personal commitment qualifies him as a founder and ‘hero for change’ in this important industry.”

David Ward, former AWEA staffer:

“We called Tom the “Wind Wizard.” He was the one who showed me how to write a powerful letter to the editor, he redlined my draft blogs, and he was my defacto Wind 101 teacher. He was the spirit and, at times, the conscience of the AWEA Public Affairs team when I first started. He never hesitated to give me a call to check in on how I was doing or give me words of support. I remember him for his heart and how big it was for advancing wind power. He’ll stand large for me personally as someone who has a fundamental presence in my professional upbringing. I never got to say this enough: Thank you, Tom.”

Jim Walker, EDF Renewables:

“I worked with Tom closely in the early 2000’s. Wonderful sense of humor and positive attitude. Completely devoted to his family and took great pride in the success of wind energy. He will be missed.”

Emily Williams, former AWEA staffer:

“Tom was such a pioneer in the wind industry, and never lost his passion for wind power or climate change. He also was incredibly welcoming and engaging to new entrants to the wind industry. I remember his thoughtful edits to our market reports, and tidbits on how to write better. I hope I can maintain a fraction of the passion he demonstrated.”

Stefanie Brown, AWEA:

“The thing I think of first and foremost about Tom, beyond all of his wisdom and experience, was his smile. He was just a good person always with a smile on his face and easy laugh. He never took things too seriously and had a generous spirit. And whether people realize it or not, he continued to have an influence on AWEA even to this day. Each Sunday I would receive an email from Tom with that week’s New York Times ‘Corner Office’ column, which I would share with all AWEA staff as short lessons on leadership and workplace culture.”

Kevin O’Rourke, Wind Energy Foundation:

“I feel extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with, and learn from, Tom during my time as a contractor on AWEA’s Rapid Response team from 2012-13. Tom was in semi-retirement at the time, also on contract as the lead editor for all blogs and opinion content. Tom’s sense of humor, wind industry knowledge, thoughtful advice, and skill as a writer and editor were appreciated by all on the Public Affairs staff. In short, he embodied all the qualities that one would hope for in a co-worker. Tom will be missed.”

Don and Heather Ross

I never had the opportunity to meet Tom in person yet still felt connected to him via our e-mails, social media contact and shared passion for wind power and the environment over the years. He has made this world a better place during his lifetime and his legacy will continue with every wind farm built in the USA and around the world. He is one of my wind heroes who I will always remember.

Aaron Severn, AWEA

Tom was a leader, a mentor and one of the warmest and most dedicated colleagues I’ve worked with. In fact, when he announced that he was retiring from AWEA many of us joked with him that we knew there was no way he would ever truly “retire.” He was just too committed to the mission of AWEA and our members. I learned so much  from him about how to work with our members, how to be a better writer, and how to be a forceful advocate while still treating those who disagree with respect. His sudden death is tragic, but his legacy of helping the wind industry blossom lives on.

Herman Trabish, Utility Dive

Tom ran the show when I first started covering wind, over a decade ago. As I told him more than once, I owe my career as a reporter to his patience and guidance. I’ll never know what he saw that made him put up with me but I will always be grateful to him.

Jeff Genzer, Duncan Weinberg Genzer Pembroke

I worked closely with Tom, especially in the 1980s, during AWEA’s formative period.  He was brilliant and committed.  I remember that he never seemed to have a bad day.  Tom was always positive, whether we were talking about wind or our alma mater, Haverford College.  He will be sorely missed.  Tom had much to be proud of and he left an amazing legacy.

Laurie Jodziewicz, former AWEA staffer

I worked at AWEA twice, from 1998-2000 and again from 2004-2010. Tom hired me for my second stint as a communications staffer.

Tom was a tireless advocate for wind and the truth about wind energy’s impacts. Tom taught me a love for what at the time was still a “new” energy technology. While focused on the industry’s business he was also focused on AWEA’s business. He was always interested in ways to improve AWEA as an organization and how to use new technologies to excel. Sometimes his ideas were a little crazy, but a few of them I continue to implement in my career today. He was a fantastic boss that gave his employees space to grow and follow their own ideas with his support and guidance.

Mike Swinburne, former AWEA staffer

Not long after I started at the Association, Tom was in for one of his regular D.C. visits and sat down with me to offer me his perspective on the history of the US wind industry. He taught it in such a way that much of the info stuck and we had many a laugh along the way – what I grew to see were the classic Tom Gray traits.  What a loss this is – not just of a deeply dedicated industry advocate, but as a genuinely amazing and decent person in every respect. Rest in peace Tom, goodbye sir.

Chris Madison, former AWEA staffer

I worked at AWEA from 2008 to 2010 in the communications shop. Tom was the nicest boss I ever had and a great manager. He was also wicked smart, as they say in Boston, and effective politically in the organization and in the industry. He also knew more about wind power and the industry than anyone. He was not in your face about his knowledge, but when you asked him a question you could take his answer to the bank.

Jon Dunlop, former AWEA staffer

Tom was always a great collaborator and supporter for wind energy and related issues. He provided great advice to me while I was with the Minnesota State Energy Office in 1981 as we launched the first state-wide wind resource assessment program. After I joined AWEA in 1993, Tom was a strong advocate for me serving as remote staff person since he was also located outside D.C. The American wind industry has Tom to thank for helping wind power to grow into the mainstream, lowest-cost energy source that it is today.  My heart is with Linda and her daughters as they absorb their loss.

Please continue to send me your thoughts and condolences for Tom, and we’ll have further details on how the industry will memorialize him. R.I.P, Tom Gray.

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