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Dr. Jeffrey Grigg worked to understand children’s early life experiences in relation to success in school.
Dr. Jeffrey Grigg worked to understand children’s early life experiences in relation to success in school. (will kirk / HANDOUT)

Dr. Jeffrey A. Grigg, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education, where he was a researcher, died Nov. 10 at Sinai Hospital from a rare disease of the central nervous system. The Roland Park resident was 42.

“Jeff was an outstanding colleague, mentor and friend to many,” said School of Education Dean Christopher C. Morphew, who praised his colleague’s “dry wit and compassion.”

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Dr. Stephen L. Morgan, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Education at Hopkins, recalled Dr. Grigg for his intelligence and promise in a biographical profile provided by Hopkins.

“Jeff was a very intelligent and thoughtful scholar, interested in ideas for their own sake but also interested in research that could improve the lives of the less fortunate,” Dr. Morgan said. “He was perfectly suited for a career in educational research, and we are far worse off without the contributions he would have offered.”

Jeffrey Alexander Grigg, the son of Douglas Wells Grigg, an artist, and his wife, Kaatri Robbins Boies Grigg, a lawyer, was born and raised in San Francisco. In 1995, he graduated from University High School.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in English in 1999 from Yale University and a master’s degree in educational leadership and policy analysis from the University of Wisconsin in 2006. He obtained second master’s degree in 2008 in sociology and his Ph.D. in sociology, both from Wisconsin, in 2014.

From 1999 to 2000, he was the Colet Fellow at St. Paul’s School in London and taught English from 2000 to 2004 at the Hopkins School in New Haven, Connecticut.

Dr. Grigg was a project assistant at the University of Wisconsin at Madison from 2005 until 2014, when he became a post-doctoral fellow at the Hopkins School of Education, where he was named an assistant professor in 2016.

He also held joint appointments with the Baltimore Education Research Consortium, also known as BERC, and the National Science Foundation’s Math Science Partnership STEM Achievement in Baltimore Elementary Schools (SABES) partnerships with Baltimore City public schools and city health officials.

“Through those collaborations, he focused on understanding how children’s early life experiences are related to school success,” according to the Hopkins biographical profile.

His work brought him in contact with not only the city school system but also the planning department, which used housing market trends to predict school enrollment, which factors in the size of teaching staff and financial funding for classrooms.

“We’re all interested in trying to understand the decisions that families make about where they live and where they go to school, especially in a city like Baltimore that allows for a lot of fluidity,” Dr. Grigg told The Baltimore Sun in 2017. “As investments are made in the neighborhoods in housing, do we see a corresponding change in enrollment? If a school shows signs of improvement, does that attract families?”

“What impressed me about Jeff was his work with the early childhood community and could be a researcher and dad at the same time,” said Faith Connolly, former BERC executive director, who is now research director at McREL International, a Denver nonprofit education research and development organization.

“He was a very approachable person and researcher who played both roles beautifully,” said Ms. Connolly, a former Federal Hill resident. “He also was an adviser and taught doctoral students classes on research methods.”

Ms. Connolly said Dr Grigg was gifted with an outgoing personality.

“The word I would use would be gregarious to describe his personality. He was well-liked by his colleagues and students,” she said. "Everyone really liked him a lot. He will be greatly missed."

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Dr. Marc L. Stein was a close friend and an associate professor in the School of Education at Hopkins and is also currently the interim executive director of BERC.

“Jeff had that wonderful combination of being a serious and thoughtful researcher who also cared deeply about the life course of Baltimore City’s most vulnerable children,” Dr. Stein explained in the Hopkins profile. “He was committed to teaching the next generation of educational scholars.”

He also worked with researchers from the Hopkins Schools of Arts and Sciences, Business and Public Health. His work also focused on how dangerous and lengthy commutes for students in city public schools resulted in absenteeism, and the effects of lead exposure in educational development.

Dr. Grigg, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2017, was on leave from Hopkins at the time of his death.

“Jeff was very generous and kind and loved entertaining and making people feel welcome,” said his brother, Eliot Grigg of Seattle.

Plans for a memorial service are incomplete.

In addition to his brother, Dr. Grigg is survived by his wife of 16 years, the former Lael Axtell, a senior evidence analyst at the University of Wisconsin; three daughters, Margaret, 7, Celia, 5, and Linnea, 2: and his parents, of San Francisco.

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