The Forum

In Memoriam: Judge Richard S. Bray

May 14, 2024 by Michael B. Poliakoff

A great man, a passionate champion of excellence in higher education, a dedicated supporter of ACTA, and a cherished personal friend has died. The loss of the Honorable Richard S. Braywill be keenly felt at ACTA. We mourn his passing and express our deepest condolences to his family. 

Among his many accomplishments and contributions, Judge Bray served on ACTA’s Board of Directors from 2021 to 2023. His work was characterized by the energy, virtue, devotion, creativity, and sense of honor that were manifest in all aspects of his life, from his interpersonal interactions to every professional and volunteer endeavor he undertook. 

From 1989 to 2003, Judge Bray was a distinguished jurist in his native Commonwealth of Virginia. He served as a judge for the Third Judicial Circuit from 1989 to 1991, when he was elevated to serve an eight-year term on the Virginia Court of Appeals. He finished his service as a senior judge on the Court of Appeals from 2002 to 2003.

Judge Bray

In 2002, Judge Bray was chosen to take the helm of the Portsmouth, Virginia-based Beazley Foundation, Inc., where his love for mankind and his reverence for excellence in higher education were demonstrated in profound ways. It was in his striving for the highest academic standards that his work intersected with ACTA, and we had the tremendous, good fortune to partner with him to strengthen higher education. 

Under Judge Bray’s leadership, the Beazley Foundation commissioned a report from ACTA in 2012, entitled The Diffusion of Light and Education, which assessed the core curricula, tuition costs, retention and graduation rates, and governance at 39 public and private institutions in Virginia. ACTA’s ultimate findings so disturbed Judge Bray and the foundation’s trustees that they “voted to suspend further grants to undergraduate liberal arts higher education in the Commonwealth until the Board fashions measures of educational effectiveness necessary to properly assess an institution’s academic program and related issues. A more enlightened funding model will promote recognition of performance as well as need and doubtless impact the direction and amount of Foundation assistance.” 

This bold action changed expectations for higher education in the Commonwealth. It was instrumental, for example, in Regent University’s rise to an “A” school and Christopher Newport University’s rise to an “A+” school in ACTA’s college ratings tool, What Will They Learn?®. I had the pleasure of traveling with Judge Bray to a number of colleges and universities, urging their leadership to take up curricular reforms and enthusiastically celebrating their success when they did. Those were some of the most inspiring moments of my work at ACTA. I treasure the memory of Judge Bray’s penetrating logic and the dignity with which he spoke in every meeting we attended. I also cherish the memory of the irrepressible, warm humor with which he discussed both our strategy and the human condition in general during our personal conversations.

I do not think it possible for anyone to have been with him for long without perceiving the depth of his faith, his love for his family, his patriotism, and his desire to do something small or large each day to make a better world. He left the world far too soon, but the time he gave us was full of blessings. Rest in peace and honor, dear friend. Thank you for your light.


Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

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