W. Ray's Story
W. Ray Cleere, 81, of Atlanta, GA, died on January 26, 2018 of complications from Alzheimers disease. Born in Atlanta, he loved the city and often told stories about his grandmothers boardinghouse on Kennesaw Avenue and his first job as a bread truck driver. After graduating from Bass High School, he went on to earn degrees from Appalachian State University, University of Mississippi, and University of Georgia. In 1962, he joined the Georgia Department of Education, having previously been a teacher and counselor in Atlanta Public Schools. In 1967, he became head of the first counselor education program at West Georgia State University. Beginning in 1970 at Valdosta State University, he was dean of the school of education, followed by vice president and dean of faculties. In 1982, Dr. Cleere became vice chancellor of academic affairs for the University System of Georgia. In 1987, he was appointed as the first commissioner of higher education for the State of Mississippi and oversaw the first public higher education desegregation case to go before the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1995, he returned to Georgia to become president of Piedmont College. During his tenure, he developed academic programs, but students also took note when he and the college chaplain walked their dogs, Emma and Rosie, on campus. This courtship led to their marriage in 2006. Upon retirement in 2011, Ray taught graduate courses for Piedmont and served as a trustee of Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School. Throughout his career, Dr. Cleere was known for encouraging individual students and colleagues to make the most of their potential. He is survived by his devoted wife, Ashley Cook Cleere; loving daughter, Jennifer Cherry Cleere (Kelly Burns); sister, Adrienne Cleere (Robert Moor); and extended family. Full obituary and service information are at www.asturner.com. A.S. Turner and Sons Funeral Home and Crematory.
Published on February 1, 2018