Joris M. Ray: Leading with Passion

Alumni // August 23, 2019

Dr. Joris M. Ray spent much of his career in education working for the public schools in Memphis. Now he is the district’s new superintendent, leader of 110,000 students and the second largest employer in Shelby County. 

Ray was a young teacher when he decided to pursue his master’s in education with a concentration in school administration at Freed-Hardeman University/Memphis.  

“Freed-Hardeman’s program is very rigorous and in my role as superintendent, it prepared me to understand the difference between authority and power - learning the formal and informal power structures of a school district,” he said. 

In addition to the challenging program, Ray said it was also the professors and fellow students who made his experience worthwhile. “We had several wonderful professors, one that sticks out is Warren Butterfield and the energy he brought into the classroom. He was a principal’s principal and his leadership was contagious. I really learned the psychology of leadership and the spirit of service,” he said.  

Since his appointment as superintendent earlier this year, Ray created the seven steps to Destination 2025. He credits the fourth step, servant leadership, as a principle he learned while at Freed-Hardeman. “Freed-Hardeman taught me to serve others so that I can lead accordingly,” he said. “I also learned to really hone in on the data and to allow it to lead in everyday decision making.” 

Ray begins his 14-hour day with a heart full of gratitude that he has the opportunity to lead a school district where he was once a student.