Obituary Listings

W. Ray Cleere

February 6, 1936 January 26, 2018
W. Ray Cleere
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Obituary for W. Ray Cleere

W. Ray Cleere, 81, of Atlanta, Georgia, died peacefully on January 26, 2018 of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. Born in Atlanta, he loved the city and often told stories about his grandmother’s boardinghouse on Kennesaw Avenue and his first job as a bread truck driver. After graduating from Bass High School, he went on to earn degrees from Appalachian State University, University of Mississippi, and University of Georgia. In 1962, he joined the Georgia Department of Education, having previously been a teacher and counselor in the Atlanta Public Schools system. In 1967, he became head of the first counselor education program at West Georgia State University. Beginning in 1970 at Valdosta State University, he was dean of the school of education, followed by vice president and dean of faculties. In 1982, Dr. Cleere became vice chancellor of academic affairs for the University System of Georgia. In 1987, he was appointed as the first commissioner of higher education for the State of Mississippi and oversaw the first public higher education desegregation case to go before the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1995, he returned to Georgia to become president of Piedmont College. During his tenure, he developed academic programs, but students also took note when he and the college chaplain walked their dogs, Emma and Rosie, on campus. This “courtship” led to their marriage in 2006. Upon retirement in 2011, Ray taught graduate courses for Piedmont and served as a trustee of Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School. Throughout his career, Dr. Cleere was known for encouraging individual students and colleagues to make the most of their potential. He is survived by his devoted wife, Ashley Cook Cleere; loving daughter, Jennifer Cherry Cleere (Kelly Burns); sister, Adrienne Cleere (Robert Moor); his wife’s parents: Peter and Nancy Cook, Laurel and Bruce Beh; sister-in-law, April Downey; brother-in-law, Thatcher Cook (Corbin Gurkin); and four nephews. He previously was married to the late Gail Cherry Criminger and Mary Charles Allen Cleere. Ray was preceded in death by his parents, George and Marguerite (Cartledge) Cleere, and sister, Kathleen Cleere-Stockwell. A memorial service will be held on February 17 at 1:00 at First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, 105 Courtland St., NE, Atlanta. A reception will follow. Memorial contributions may be made to Piedmont College, PO Box 429, Demorest, GA 30535. A. S. Turner and Sons Funeral Home and Crematory. A guest book is available at

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Memorial Service




1:00 PM 2/17/2018 1:00:00 PM
First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ

105 Courtland St. NE
Atlanta, GA 30303

First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ
105 Courtland St. NE Atlanta 30303 GA
United States

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