Published April 2, 2019
It is with great sadness that the UB Department of Media Study announces the passing of Gerald “Gerry” O’Grady on Tuesday 26 March 2019, in Boston, MA. Gerry had been living in Boston--where he had grown up-- since his retirement from SUNY/Buffalo in the mid-1990s.
Gerry arrived at the University at Buffalo in 1967 where he became the initiator and Director of the Center for Media Study which was renamed the Department of Media Study in 1982. He was instrumental in turning UB Media Study into the hotbed of experimentation and innovation that is so compellingly documented in the book Buffalo Heads: Media Study, Media Practice, Media Pioneers, 1973-1990 (MIT Press, 2008); he helped hire the now canonical, then avant-garde filmmakers Hollis Frampton, Tony Conrad, Paul Sharits, the documentary filmmaker James Blue, the video artists Steina and Woody Vasulka, and the media artist Peter Weibel. His last hire was our very own, award-winning Sarah Elder.
Today, Gerry O’Grady’s influence remains far-reaching and profound: he advocated for a new way of using image and sound, a way of seeing and understanding media he referred to as “mediacy”, i.e. the literacy of a new generation whose legacies are as important and inspiring now as they were then. During his visionary leadership, he established two other organizations for which he simultaneously served as Director: The Educational Communications Center at the university that served all of the media production and classroom exhibition needs of 128 departments and included the management of the Public Radio Station, a studio transmitting engineering and business courses to industries on cable television, and the foreign language laboratory; and a regional community development center called the Media Study/Buffalo, that provided access to equipment, workshops and nightly exhibition of media to the Buffalo community. It is under Gerry’s leadership that the vision of a scholarly and social engagement with media study and media art, of a hybrid theory and practice model, was realized. His goal was first and foremost to improve public media competence “for it is only possible to participate fully in society if one understands its channels and modes of communication.”
In remembrance of Gerry O’Grady, we will be planning an event to celebrate his life and work as well as that of the pioneers for whom he served as such a catalyst and supporter. Please let us know if you would like to join us, including to help us with planning.
To post condolences and tributes, you may go here:
Here are links that further testify to the depth of Gerry O’Grady’s sustaining work and legacy:
Department of Media Study, Chair