Augustine Heard ``Steen’’ Gray Jr. - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Obituaries

Augustine Heard ``Steen’’ Gray Jr.

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Friday, November 15, 2019 2:39 pm

Augustine H. “Steen” Gray, Jr., died at home in Florence, Oregon, on Oct. 28, 2019.

He was born in Long Beach, California, on Aug. 18, 1936 to Commander Augustine H. Gray, USN, and Elizabeth Jordan Gray.

He graduated from Coronado High School (CHS) in 1953. Following a year at San Diego State College, he joined the MIT class of 1957 and received his BS and MS in 1959 in Electrical Engineering. At MIT he was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and participated in the electrical engineering cooperative program (Course VI-A) with General Electric, where he worked in Menlo Park, California, on the logic design of ERMA, the first major banking computer.

Following graduation from MIT he worked for a year as a physics instructor at San Diego State College, teaching electronic circuits, digital design, and digital computers. During this time he met and married Mary Averill Forneret of Montreal.

In 1960 he continued his graduate studies at the California Institute of Technology, from which he received his PhD in 1964. Following graduation Steen was appointed an Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and he and Averill moved to Santa Barbara where they lived for over three decades. During their Santa Barbara years Steen and Averill made annual three week voyages in their recreational vehicle to visit Averill’s sister in Vancouver Island, passing through and falling in love with Florence, Oregon.

Steen remained at UCSB until his retirement in 1980. He is best remembered by his students and colleagues as an amazingly good teacher who could render complex technical ideas clearly and a seemingly simple fashion.

During and after his academic career, Steen was a major contributor to the development of digital speech, especially real-time speech processing and communication over the early digital networks that later evolved into the Internet. He worked for Speech Communications Research Laboratory (SCRL) in Santa Barbara and was a co-founder of Speech Technology, Inc. (STI) with John D. Markel and Larry Pfeiffer in 1977. The company developed the Interactive Laboratory System (ILS) which was one of the first academic and industrial systems to combine computing power, keyboards, and screens to permit students, researchers, and designers to manipulate and visualize speech, audio, images, and video in real time, leading to many of the tools we now take for granted working on the Internet with computers and mobile devices. In 1981 he received an MBA from Pepperdine University.

Around 1994 Steen and Averill retired to Florence, Oregon, where they became active volunteers for the Oregon Coast Humane Society in Florence. They adopted a succession of rescue dogs and cats and Steen developed and managed the Humane Society’s original Website. Steen also held an Advanced Extra Class Amateur Radio License (AA6H) and for most of his life was an avid reader, walker, bowler, and motorcyclist.

Steen was pre-deceased by Averill in June 2016, by his brother Peter Russel Gray (CHS Class of 1957) of Darien, Connecticut, and by his son Augustine Heard (Tino) Gray III.

Steen is survived by his siblings, Robert M (Arlene) Gray (CHS ‘60) of Rockport, Massachusetts, Russell (Susan) Gray (CHS ‘64) of Arroyo Grande, California, Elizabeth Jordan “Liebe” (Susan Talbot) Gray (CHS ’64) of Los Angeles; sister-in-law Lynne Sward Gray of Chatham, New Jersey; and by many nephews and grand-nephews.

As Steen wished, no services will be held and his ashes will be scattered over the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Florence. Donations in his memory can be made to the Oregon Coast Humane Society in Florence, Oregon.