Derek Gray moves to South Africa in the early 1980s and creates the association “Expo for Young Scientists” as part of his role as a researcher at the Ministry of Education and with the unconditional and precious support of his wife Rosemary, a professor at the University of Pretoria. A car accident in 1981 while returning from an Expo meeting confined Derek to a wheelchair, but his passion for youth science was undaunted.
During the 1980s he takes courageous and generous initiatives for South Africa such as opening the Expo for Young Scientists to all communities of the country and breaking down the country’s international isolation. He attends the ESI 1989 in Brest with a multiracial delegation where MILSET participants and organizers help him celebrate a special 50th birthday.
Elected to the MILSET Executive Committee, he immediately proposes to organize an International Science Fair on African soil. In 1995, in Kuwait City, Mr Maurice Huppé and Mr Adnan Al Meer present Derek with the banner for ESI 1997, an event that achieves extraordinary success at the prestigious University of Pretoria. Through the success of ESI 1997, he earns the support of the national electricity company ESKOM, which becomes the official sponsor for all South African regional and national science fairs.
Sadly, Derek dies in December 1998 without realizing his dream of climbing to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan, Mexico during ESI 1999, after passing the MILSET ESI banner to Roberto Hidalgo at ESI 1997.