Born in southwestern Arkansas in 1892, Grady Gammage overcame tragedy at an early age. His mother died when he was quite young, and Gammage had to support himself through school. Although he entered high school later than other children his age, he made excellent grades, became the school's top debater, and graduated on time. Gammage, a student attendee at court trials, caught the attention of a clerk who named him deputy clerk. After graduation, he taught in a rural school from 1911-1912.
A bout of tuberculosis forced Gammage to move west. Settling in Arizona, he found employment as a groundskeeper for the University of Arizona, where he also enrolled as a freshman. Gammage, befriended by a Tucson philanthropist, served as campaign manager of a prohibition initiative. In 1916, he began graduate studies and worked part-time for The Post. In 1918, Gammage shifted his studies from law to school administration and completed a master's degree in 1922. (The U of A awarded him an honorary LL.D. in 1927). After graduation, Gammage accepted a position as superintendent of the Winslow Public Schools. He earned extra money teaching summer sessions at the Flagstaff campus.
In 1925, Gammage joined the staff of the Northern Arizona State Teachers College as vice-president. He became president the following year. During his tenure, the popular Gammage raised the standards of achievement for students and faculty, improved campus morale, and developed a sound relationship between campus and community. In 1928, the school received official recognition as a Class A four-year teacher training institution and a new name--Arizona State Teacher's College at Flagstaff. In 1930, ASTC was the first school in the Southwest to be granted full accreditation. As economic conditions worsened in the Great Depression, Gammage made it possible for students suffering "hard times" to pay their expenses through barter; dairy cows and potatoes underwrote room and board. In 1933, Gammage resigned the presidency in Flagstaff to become the president at Tempe, a post he held until his death in December 1959.
Condensed from Platt Cline, Mountain Campus: The Story of Northern Arizona University (Flagstaff: Northland Press, 1983), chapter V.