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April 3, 2008

Obituary: Beatrice E. (B.J.) Grier

Beatrice E. (B.J.) Grier of Homewood, an administrator in the Department of Africana Studies, died March 26, 2008, of complications from lung cancer. She was 54.

Grier had been employed at the University since 1971. She initially worked in the College of General Studies then joined the staff of Africana studies in 1981.

Known for her cheerful disposition and helpful attitude, she was a favorite among students and colleagues in the department and beyond. “She was an incredible woman,” said co-worker Monique Howze. “She lived to help people.”

Department chair Cecil Blake, who arrived at Pitt in 2004, commended Grier’s help in familiarizing him with the department and the University. “She walked me through the intricacies and vagaries of the department without sowing a particle of discord that would disorient me, yet very honest with the facts. Her honesty was a wonderful source of motivation for me to succeed in my new position,” he stated.

“Superbly dedicated, hard-working, competent, fiercely loyal and highly disciplined, she did everything to project a highly positive image of the department during my four years with her, by her exemplary performance. She was committed to excellence and availed herself of opportunities to improve upon her skills through workshops and seminars. I consider her passing not only as a loss to the University and the Department of Africana Studies, but of more significance from my standpoint, a personal loss.”

Grier was a deaconess in her church and regularly visited the sick and shut in, Howze said. She also was active in the community organization ACORN.

Grier’s service to others was recognized with several awards. She was a 2007 recipient of the School of Arts and Sciences’ Felice Kappel Award for Staff Leadership and in 1996 was among the recipients of the University Senate’s first Community Service Recognition Awards, presented by the Senate’s community relations and commonwealth relations committees. That award recognized her service as an active member of the Nazarene Baptist Church, where she taught Sunday school and worked on a wide variety of projects.

In 1995, Grier arranged for Pitt professors and artists to participate in a cultural learning program for Homewood youth that included a lecture series held on 10 consecutive Saturdays.

She is survived by her husband, Charles A. Grier Jr., a retired Pitt police community relations sergeant; her mother, Varade Jackson; a daughter, Lisa Cotton, and three grandchildren.

A memorial service is planned for 1:30 p.m. April 17 in Heinz Memorial Chapel.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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