Susan Gray (1913-1992), a Peabody alumna, was a co-founder of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. When the Center was formed in 1965, the Early Training Project, directed by Gray and her colleague Rupert Klaus, had begun to receive national attention. With a new research center developing at Peabody and with Gray as a national authority on the early education of "disadvantaged" children, it was natural that the Center should have an on-campus, research-oriented school. The Experimental School - renamed the Susan Gray School in 1986 - was devoted to educational research involving children with various disabilities or children whose future development was at risk because of conditions such as poverty.
The Demonstration and Research Center for Early Education, or DARCEE, which Gray directed, focused on improving the educability of children from low-income families. It was housed in temporary buildings until 1972, when the DARCEE model preschool classroom moved to the School where it continued into the 1980s.
Sargent Shriver, founding director of the Peace Corp and political advocate for persons who are poor and powerless, has credited Gray with the inspiration for founding Head Start: "Dr. Gray's pioneering experiments showed us what could be accomplished and how to go about it. Through Head Start and through the even more massive programs for child development which have flowed from the Head Start experiment, Susan Gray has made an enduring contribution to the nation's welfare."
"Children are our future and their today is our world's tomorrow"
- Susan Gray