Alumni Spotlight: Major Marshall Gray, MBA '16

Major Marshall Gray, MBA ‘16

A member of the TCU MBA Class of 2016, Major Marshall Gray has dedicated his career to setting ambitious goals for himself — and achieving them. Fascinated by all things aviation from an early age, Major Gray only decided to pursue a business degree after nearly a decade of military service.

Currently, Major Gray serves as the Assistant Product Manager for the RQ-7B Shadow Weapon System in the Program Executive Office – Aviation in Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. In this role, he explains, he is responsible for "the cost, schedule and performance of the overall program, ensuring that the government delivers unmanned aviation capability to the warfighter around the globe today in support of ongoing combat operations.”

Major Gray says that his TCU MBA has allowed him to build a successful career as a liaison between the military and industrial sectors. "Having the business acumen to write proposals, execute contracts and oversee production for equipment that ultimately finds itself — and performs well — in some of the harshest environments known to man (such as Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan) is both essential and invaluable," he says.   

A Successful Aviation Career

Major Gray joined the Aviation Branch of the United States Army after completing the University of Texas at Arlington’s ROTC program in 2005, where he was recognized as a Distinguished Military Graduate. He then graduated from the U.S. Army’s Flight School in Ft. Rucker, Alabama as a UH-60 Blackhawk Pilot.

Over the next 13 years, Major Gray held a wide range of positions, including Flight Platoon Leader, Aviation Maintenance Company Commander, Aviation Headquarters Company Commander, Aviation Operations Officer and Aide-de-Camp to the Commanding General for the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center. He also served as the Assistant Product Manager for Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

Finally, in 2013, Major Gray left the cockpit and transitioned into the Army Acquisition Corps. His journey to the Neeley School of Business begins there.

Why TCU?

When Major Gray notified the Army of his desire to further hone his skills and expertise, he was given several options from which to choose. One scenario allowed him to attend a full-time graduate program for two years while continuing to serve his country. Major Gray jumped at the chance, and he immediately knew he wanted to return to Texas to further his education.

TCU made an immediate positive impression on Major Gray. “I could tell that TCU recognizes and rewards the intangibles that military candidates bring with them: leadership, self-drive, dedication to the team concept and a 'don’t quit' attitude,” he says. Major Gray also found that the dynamic within Neeley's relatively small classes reminded him of being a member of a tight aviation formation. 

Beyond the personal touches that attracted him to the program, Major Gray felt drawn to TCU because of its strategic location. He and his wife lived in Fort Worth, and, as he explains, "the Fort Worth business community is a community that I wish to return to one day after I hang my uniform up and transition to the private sector."

TCU Makes an Impression Far Above the Rest

Throughout his decision-making process, Major Gray applied to several MBA programs and interviewed with several business school admissions departments in the DFW area. However, he often left these meetings feeling that those programs were looking for what he could do for them.

TCU was different. "During every interaction I had with TCU, I always had the impression that they were driven by what they could do for me," Major Gray says. "TCU has top-notch academic resources and libraries, a curriculum that is tailorable to support your individual interests and goals, and a staff who will bend over backward to help you attain your career goals."

Invaluable Experiences Gained at TCU

Two TCU MBA experiences proved particularly crucial to Major Gray’s professional development: the C-Level Confidential dinners and the Neeley & Associates Consulting program.

In discussing the value of the C-Level Confidential dinners, Major Gray explains that “it’s not often that you find yourself in a room with 10 of your peers and the Chief Executive Officer for a Lockheed Martin or Bell Helicopter." He further elaborates that being able to pose "non-attributional questions about issues that are currently afflicting a company and receiving feedback that is privy to only those in the room at the time" is a rare privilege.

Meanwhile, through the Neeley & Associates Consulting program, Major Gray participated in a consulting project for Bell Helicopter. He and fellow team members focused on providing viable solutions to challenges regarding post-purchase maintenance facing the company.

"After four months of interviews with senior staff members at Bell Helicopter, discussions with numerous competitors and internal strategy sessions with Neeley staff," Major Gray says, "our team presented to the CEO of Bell Helicopter. The solutions we developed eventually provided the foundation for measures implemented across the organization."

The Value of an MBA for Those in Military Service

Major Gray believes that those in the military should consider an MBA because, he notes, while "veterans and active-duty military members are comfortable speaking to others that come from the same pedigree and background, they can often appear as an insular community" to those not in the military. However, by sharing academic experiences with his classmates, Major Gray says that he was able to "gain an understanding of how my non-military counterparts thought, as well as how they approached problems."

With respect to specifically transferable skills, Major Gray indicates that the experiential learning opportunities he enjoyed at TCU boosted his confidence in his ability to communicate with senior executives. Thanks to his military experience, he was already comfortable briefing senior General Officers and their staff. However, Major Gray explains, "Neeley & Associates taught me how to brief to senior managers and executives outside of the military, a skill that I use daily in my current role as I dialogue with my industry counterparts."

Advice to Prospective TCU MBA Students

When asked to dispense advice to prospective TCU MBA students, Major Gray says to stay focused and concentrate on being productive. "Football games and tailgates are great, but the real value in the Neeley experience comes from the work you put into your academics over your two years in the program," he says. "TCU prepares you for the world after academia and positions you to walk in as a value-adding team member to any organization you join post-graduation — assuming you do your part."

A Final Note

Major Gray highlights that TCU provides an “indispensable service to this country through its continued partnership with the U.S. Military and its support of veterans pursuing their graduate education.”

Learn more about TCU’s MBA program and how it has contributed to student success stories like Major Marshall Gray's by visiting the Neeley School of Business website.

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