Published January 8, 2015
Gregory J. Dimitriadis, an accomplished and much-loved professor and administrator in the Graduate School of Education, died unexpectedly Dec. 29. He was 45.
A funeral mass was held on Jan. 5 at St. Nicholas Church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Dimitriadis, associate dean for academic affairs, was highly respected for his work in urban education and policies serving disenfranchised urban youth. A professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy, he wrote numerous articles and books, among them “Critical Dispositions: Evidence and Expertise in Education,” “Performing Identity/ Performing Culture: Hip Hop as Text, Pedagogy, and Lived Practice,” “Friendship, Cliques, and Gangs: Young Black Men Coming of Age in Urban American” and “Studying Urban Youth Culture.”
Dimitriadis served on many doctoral committees and guided countless students throughout the country with their studies.
Jaekyung Lee, dean of the Graduate School of Education, called Dimitriadis’ death “tragic and heartbreaking.”
“Dr. Dimitriadis has represented the best of us in GSE,” said Lee. “His integrity, dedication and commitment for great scholarship and education have influenced so many people’s lives. A star is gone, but his legacy will shine on us forever here at UB.”
Dimitriadis’ death shocked his colleagues, who showered him with accolades, both for his cutting-edge academic expertise and his timeless awareness of how learning enriches students’ lives.
Kari Winter, professor of transnational studies and director of the UB’s Gender Institute, where Dimitriadis was a faculty affiliate, described him as “extraordinarily generous, compassionate and just.”
“Greg exemplified the best traditions of creative, original scholarship and proactive university citizenship,” said Winter. “He made major contributions to his own field while also serving as one of the most actively interdisciplinary scholars we have had the honor of knowing.
“Through his many publications and his devotion to fostering the intellectual inquiries of other people as an editor, teacher, colleague and friend, he left a profound legacy in the minds and lives of countless students and faculty across the university, around the country and throughout the world. He will be sorely missed.”
“Greg was a brilliant and dedicated scholar,” said Lois Weis, SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Graduate School of Education. “He worked with scores of students and was a much-beloved member of our community. He loved his students, the Graduate School of Education and the University at Buffalo. We will miss his brilliance, his compassion, his devotion to students and his dedication to making the world a better place. He represents the best in all of us.”
A graduate of Fordham Prep in the Bronx, Dimitriadis earned a bachelor’s degree from Boston College, two master’s degrees from UB and a doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
During his time at the University of Illinois, he was cherished as a mentor and friend to many families at the Boys’ Club of America. He took an unusual approach to his research: Instead of writing about what he believed the community needed, he went into the community to listen to what the people said they needed. He worked with boys destined to join gangs by serving as a mentor and friend to them and their families.
Dimitriadis was a behind-the-scenes person, never boasting about his good deeds or accomplishments, said his wife, Michelle Bae, an assistant professor of art education at SUNY Buffalo State. When he worked with the boys in Illinois, he often went grocery shopping for one boy’s mother who had severe diabetes and resided in a rehabilitation home.
“He did things like this all the time for the boys he worked with at the club,” Bae said. “He took them for pizza, gave them rides home or to the laundromat.”
Dimitriadis quietly continued to support these boys and families until he died, his wife said.
When Bae started working with the Karen Refugee Teen Girls Community on art and media projects, she learned the organization was desperate for SAT preparation.
“Greg sprung into action and searched for the best-qualified students from the UB Honors College and hired them to tutor the girls over the summer in preparation for the SATs,” she said. “Greg attended these tutoring sessions and assisted in any way they needed him to.”
“His unconditional love and empathy through deeds made me feel safe, comforted and happy,” Bae said. “My years with Greg were the happiest days of my life. Those memories made with him are so very precious, and I am so blessed and proud to have him as my husband. His tender heart and sincerity made our love complete.”
Students and colleagues alike talked about Dimitriadis’ ability to remain modest, despite his high-profile and broad accomplishments.
“He was inspiring because he was modest,” said Ramona R. Santa Maria, associate professor at SUNY Buffalo State. Dimitriadis was Santa Maria’s adviser while she earned her doctorate from UB. “He never bragged about what a rock star he was in the field. And he really was. He knew his craft backwards and forwards. He would talk about his work anecdotally, but he was totally approachable about it.”
When Santa Maria discovered 11 years ago she had cancer, Dimitriadis was the first person she called after her family.
“I called him at 6 a.m.,” she said. “He was adorable. He allayed my fears. ‘School isn’t the problem right now,’ he told me. ‘You work on your health.’”
The respect and appreciation of Dimitriadis’ colleagues matched the passion of his students.
“He was a man of profound empathy for others,” said Ernest Sternberg, professor and chair of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning. “And that was completely heartfelt; none of it was ideological. It wasn’t from some sort of dogma or correct thinking, but a true love for people.
“I have very rarely in my life met someone who was so open to ideas, so willing to listen, someone with an excitement for ideas of all kind,” said Sternberg, who co-taught a course with Dimitriadis called “Intellectual History and Public Policy” — a course Sternberg called “his best teaching experience at UB.”
“He was a man of complete integrity,” he continued. “Not a dishonest bone in his body. It’s one thing for a professor to provide information or knowledge; many of us do that. It’s a whole other additional facet to present the students a full character of a man who should be emulated. That’s much more rare. And that’s what Greg was.”
Contributions in Dimitriadis’ memory can be made to the Greg Dimitriadis Memorial Scholarship Fund through the Graduate School of Education. Donations can be sent to the UB Foundation Inc., P.O. Box 900, Buffalo, NY, 14226, referencing Greg Dimitriadis on the letter or check memo.