Remembering William W. and Mary Gray (Munroe) Cobey
Talking to Julia Cobey Gluck ’62 and Betty Cobey
Joseph ’65 about their
parents, William Wilfred Cobey ’30 and Mary Gray (Munroe) Cobey, is like peering
through a window into the history of the University of Maryland.
Bill, a career Marylander, worked as the University of Maryland cashier in
1931 and worked there until 1948. He became graduate manager of the athletic
office during the years when the Terps’ football team was bringing home national
championships, and took over the reins as athletic director from Jim Tatum,
where he capped off his career. Back in those days athletic directors did
everything, from arranging team schedules to selling tickets. In fact, the whole
family got involved, says Betty, helping out their father in the office.
Mary Gray was a homemaker, as was expected of women of her generation. She
managed her six children and hosted frequent parties for the athletic department
and the Terrapin Club, of which she and Bill were early members. Curley Bird, Jim
Kehoe, Jack Faber, the Elkins and other iconic Maryland figures were frequent
visitors to the Cobey home.
But Mary Gray was also a philanthropist. Her father had made some smart
investments with Coca-Cola, leaving her a significant sum. Mary Gray managed the
finances, and the family lived comfortably but without extravagance. That
moderation, along with Mary Gray’s savvy investments over the years, allowed her
to devote her sizeable fortune to the causes and places that meant the most to
In another time, Mary Gray might have turned her prodigious intellect to
finance, say her daughters. “My mother would have been a wonderful CEO. She
really understood how to invest,” says daughter Julia. “But she was a
philanthropist. She gave so wisely to so many things.”
Among those were the University of Maryland-Baltimore Medical School, the
University of Maryland Alumni Association, and her alma mater, Wesleyan College
in Macon, Ga. Mary Gray was a champion of education because she valued learning
“She was a ferocious reader, able to absorb so much information,” says Betty.
“Every house in our table had a pile of books. She loved books so much that for
her 90th birthday, everyone in the family gave her a book.”
That was a lot of books, because by the time of her death Mary Gray’s family
had grown to include six children, 19 grandchildren and 34 great-grandchildren.
Mary Gray wanted both to create a legacy in her husband’s name at the Smith
School and benefit her family. So she worked with the Smith School to create the
Cobey Lead Trust, one of just two lead trusts ever given to the university.
Charitable lead trusts provide an annual income to the university during the
trust’s term, and then the assets revert back the donor or the donor’s heirs.
Mary Gray’s gift benefits the Smith School by designating a scholarship to a
graduate student who was an athlete. Her children, grandchildren and
great-grandchildren will receive the remaining trust assets at the end of its
term. As a bonus, Mary Gray’s family will pay reduced gift and estate taxes.
Mary Gray’s daughters aren’t surprised that even in her estate plan, Mary Gray
was working out the smartest way to benefit both the people she loved and the
school that had meant so much to her husband and their family.
Bill passed away in 1998, and Mary Gray passed away in 2005, but their memory
is alive all around the university, from the photo of Bill in the Comcast Center
to the Cobey Lead Trust—an extraordinarily generous legacy from a family that
has had such a positive impact on the university.
Get in Touch! Contact information for Julia Cobey Gluck and Betty Cobey
Joseph is available through the eAlumni Network.