CSC News

May 10, 2024

Memorial Scholarship Endowment Launched to Honor Michael 'Gray' Dougherty

On May 6th, friends and family gathered for a special event commemorating the official launch of a scholarship endowment to honor Computer Science (CSC) alumnus Michael 'Gray' Dougherty (BS CSC '20, MCS CSC '21), who passed away suddenly just over a year ago.


The Michael 'Gray' Dougherty Memorial Scholarship in Computer Science was made possible because of an outpouring of heart-felt pride and support from his friends and family totaling almost $175,000 to date.


The merit-based scholarship will be awarded annually to an undergraduate studying computer science at NC State University starting in the fall of 2024. Preference will be given to meritorious students who are enrolled in the game development concentration, or who have demonstrated an interest in video game design through internships, undergraduate research, work experience, career aspirations, and/or co-curricular experiences.


Gray, who was born in 1998 to proud parents, Mike and Abbie Dougherty, was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) before his first birthday. The early diagnosis came with a grim prediction that Gray would not live to see his second birthday. That prediction, like so many other potential limitations, was shattered and Gray excelled at life!


The intellectual capacity of this young man was matched only by his incredible persistence and determination to succeed. After graduating from the IB program at Myers Park High School in Charlotte, Gray was awarded the Michael A. Demayo Arrive Alive Scholarship and the Sun Cap Scholarship from Sun Cap Property Group to attend NC State University, where he thrived academically in cross-discipline study and ultimately graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BS and an MS in Computer Science, all in just four and a half years! While at NC State, he worked with the Disability Resource Office, advocating for the support he needed to navigate physical challenges most students never imagine, and in the process, he pioneered accessibility standards for future students at NC State University.


After learning of his untimely passing, Eddie Stone - a family friend of the Dougherty's and their friend group, decided that they wanted to do something to honor Gray, his family, and all of his accomplishments, and thus the idea for the scholarship was born.


"You didn't have to be involved in academics to sort of recognize, oh my God, the young man is so sharp, so on top of things, even though he was trapped by his body," Stone said.


Stone recalled fond memories of Gray, but one in particular stands out as having left a profound impact on him.


As Gray got older, his ability to communicate loud enough to be heard in normal conversation was diminished due to his SMA, meaning that if you wanted to talk to him, you needed to get really close in order to hear him speak. Stone recalls how one night, he was having dinner with Gray and his family on Hillsborough Street and he was really struggling to hear what Gray was saying because he was not leaning in. Stone did not want to invade his personal space, but Gray called him out and told him to "lean in".


"This was a real moment for me. I mean, it's even emotional now just because I should have recognized, right? I should have overcome my own inhibitions about this. For God's sake, I've got to do this to hear him. Still today, that impacts me. And I try to make sure in situations that have an awkwardness of this kind of nature or something similar that I don't let any type of preconceived notions or anything like that prevent me from doing what I need to do to participate with this person that probably desperately wants to participate in society, but has these limitations," Stone said.


After graduation, Gray accepted a job as Associate Software Engineer for Blind Squirrel Games. The company shared, "Gray came to us as an eager and open software engineer, and we knew from the start that he was going to be special and a valuable member of the team - he exceeded all expectations. ... Nearly 30 million people and counting have seen his work."


His talents, mind and heart are just some of the things that are missed by so many people, but Stone and everyone else involved in the creation of this scholarship, hope that his memory will live on forever by helping others and by leaving an impact on this place that he loved so dearly.


If you'd like to join Gray's family and friends by donating to the Michael 'Gray' Dougherty Memorial Scholarship in Computer Science, you may do so here.



Return To News Homepage