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Late director, professor inspires new justice studies scholarship


Black-and-white photo of ASU Emeritus Professor Gray Cavender sitting on a desk in a classroom speaking to students.

Gray Cavender served as a faculty member at ASU for 40 years. Photo courtesy the School of Social Transformation

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November 13, 2023

Gray Cavender will be remembered as a friend, colleague and mentor to many.

That sentiment is something the attendees of a recent celebration of the late Arizona State University emeritus professor’s life all agreed on. The event was hosted by the School of Social Transformation.

Cavender died this summer at age 76. His outstanding record of teaching, research and continuous involvement with the ASU community has inspired the Gray Cavender Undergraduate Justice Studies Scholarship. The scholarship will be awarded annually to a justice studies undergraduate student focused on law and society or economic justice issues.

School of Social Transformation and justice studies Emeritus Professor Nancy Jurik endowed the scholarship in remembrance of Cavender. She and Cavender were colleagues, collaborators and life partners.

“I could think of no better way to honor Gray’s strong commitment to teaching and research in the interdisciplinary field of justice studies, and his work building this program at ASU,” Jurik said. “I am grateful for the outpouring of additional donations from alumni, colleagues, family and friends to grow the scholarship.”

Cavender served as a faculty member at ASU for 40 years, playing a key role in creating the nation's first PhD program in justice studies within the university’s School of Social Transformation.

“Listening to the eloquent speakers at the ceremony to honor the memory of Gray Cavender reminded me that Gray was not just a valued and respected faculty member for four decades in justice studies, but he was the main symbol of a dream. The dream to create a new academic discipline (justice studies), which would transcend the narrower focus of crime and criminal justice to create and affirm the intellectual foundations of human rights, Indigenous justice, work and economic justice, gender justice, racial justice, equal treatment for marginalized groups and more,” said John Johnson, ASU emeritus professor and a colleague of Cavender’s.

Cavender served two terms as graduate director of justice studies at ASU and also established himself as an outstanding teacher and mentor, much admired by undergraduate students, many of whom have gone on to prestigious careers as university professors and attorneys.

His courses on law and social control, punishment, and media and crime drew students from across ASU campuses, and he was frequently rated by graduating justice studies students as their most influential professor.

“Gray was an incredibly kind and warm human,” said former student Sarah Prior, currently an associate professor at Michigan State University. “As a mentor, he constantly provided me constructive and challenging feedback and balanced that with encouragement. I always knew that I could count on him to follow through and to help me along the way. Over the last 10 years, he has sent me regular emails checking in, seeing how my work is going, checking on my girls. He has read manuscript drafts and provided helpful feedback. He was a constant cheerleader in my life since I met him in 2008. I truly am forever grateful for his guidance, love and friendship.”

Justice studies faculty member Gregory Broberg knew Cavender as both a student and a colleague.

“There was never a time when Gray didn’t check in with me. As a PhD student, Gray was always there to guide me through my dissertation dilemmas. When I returned to justice studies as a faculty member, Gray took the time to guide the work I did with students. He participated as a judge in mock trial experiences in my classroom, and frequently sent emails to me checking in once he retired. I will always value the time and guidance I received from Gray. He will be greatly missed.”

Cavender was a nationally and internationally recognized expert in crime, punishment and media coverage of justice issues. His books and articles on corporate and governmental deviance tackled the issues of why our legal system and popular media so often fail to recognize the harm caused by organizational wrongdoing. His research on media constructions of crime, reality and justice focused on how reality crime television programs appeared falsely authentic to viewers. Upon retiring in 2017, Cavender devoted more time to writing crime fiction.

To learn more about donating to the Gray Cavender Undergraduate Justice Studies Scholarship, visit asufoundation.org/graycavender. All gifts to this scholarship support undergraduate students majoring in justice studies at the School of Social Transformation. For information on applying for the scholarship, contact SSTAdvising@asu.edu.

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