Jeramy Dedrick '18 has been obsessed with weather for as long as he can remember. Thanks to a scholarship from the late Joan Griffiths in honor of her late husband Dr. John Griffiths, Dedrick can pioneer a new future in meteorology.

The fascination started with thunderstorms.

“I was obsessed with severe weather events as a child,” said Jeramy Dedrick ’18. “During the summer of 2005, I was glued to the television watching hurricanes Katrina and Rita unfold. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before.”

Dedrick’s childhood interest in meteorology eventually led him to Texas A&M University’s College of Geosciences, where today he’s learning about the intricacies of weather forecasting, thermodynamics, air pollution, oceanography and climate patterns as a graduate student.

He is one of three students supported by a scholarship established through a planned gift by the late Joan Griffiths, the widow of internationally respected Texas A&M scholar Dr. John Griffiths, an expert on climate change who passed away in 2003.

Eye of the Storm

Dedrick became seriously interested in Texas A&M after he was selected to participate in its iGeo summer program as a high school student. He stayed in a dorm, spent time with a mentor and participated in scientific experiments, including launching a weather balloon and viewing weather radars. “Beyond the amazing staff and opportunities, I liked the camaraderie and how everyone at Texas A&M was a family,” he said.

Dedrick eventually enrolled in a five-year program that allows him to simultaneously complete his bachelor’s degree in meteorology and master’s degree in ocean science and technology. “Being here changed my ideas of meteorology and what I was interested in,” he said, “because I’ve studied a broad expanse of all the disciplines in atmospheric sciences.”

Today, he works part-time in the Office of the Texas State Climatologist, founded by John Griffiths in 1973 and housed in the College of Geosciences, to provide accurate climate information to the public and to better understand climate impacts on Texas.

Not only did receiving this scholarship provide an extra boost of motivation, but it allowed me to focus on pursuing leadership and study abroad opportunities that helped enhance my college experience.” Courtland Keith ’18
Meteorology and Ocean Science & Technology

 

He also recently completed a summer research internship at the prestigious Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, where he worked with top scientists to study how the interactions of the atmosphere and the ocean affect climate. “I fell in love with this aspect of atmospheric sciences and want to continue gaining a better understanding of what is happening to our planet,” he said, adding that he hopes to return to California to earn his Ph.D. at the institution.  

The Griffiths: Citizens of the World

Friends describe the Griffiths as citizens of the world. John was born in London, England, and earned degrees in mathematics, physics, meteorology and climatology from Imperial College, London. His early work took him to Ethiopia, Somalia, Saudi Arabia and East Africa.

Joan and Dr. John Griffiths on their wedding day in 1962.

Joan hailed from Wigan, Lancashire, England, and graduated from the Gloucestershire College of Domestic Science, where she specialized in cookery and nutrition. She taught home economics at several schools in Lancashire and Oxfordshire in England.

The couple’s courtship began in Kenya, where Joan was a home economics teacher and John was involved in an experimental atmospheric project. They returned to London to marry in 1962 before moving to College Station, where John joined Texas A&M and helped build the university’s atmospheric sciences program into an international leader.

He was named the first Texas State Climatologist in 1973 and served as chief consultant to many United States agencies, the World Meteorological Organization, and the Food and Agricultural Organization. John had a sterling reputation and was known to question claims about climate change if the data didn’t concur.

“He had a love-hate relationship with many in his field because he was an absolute truth teller and an expert in statistics,” said Dr. John Junkins, a distinguished professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and director of the Hagler Institute for Advanced Study. “He was very direct in his work and would question people’s assumptions, results and conclusions if he didn’t think they were justified by the data.”

While he loved to complete statistical calculations—especially regarding the connection between climate and agriculture—he was equally committed to his students. “One of John’s greatest passions was teaching, and he was very popular with his students,” said David Woodcock, professor emeritus of architecture and a fellow Brit who joined the Texas A&M faculty the same year as John. “He maintained an extraordinary connection with his former students, who now literally span the globe.”

John taught a variety of courses in tropical meteorology, agricultural climatology, architectural climatology and statistics, and received Texas A&M’s Distinguished Achievement in Teaching Award in 1990.

Thoroughly British

While the couple called College Station home for the remainder of their lives and eventually became U.S. citizens, the Griffiths never lost their British accent, manners or values. They regularly served high tea and celebrated Boxing Day, while their home boasted a Queen Victorian-era British mailbox. John remained committed to the “civilized sport” of cricket and even helped found Texas A&M’s first cricket team.

This scholarship helped relieve financial stress, which is even greater for an out-of-state student. It helped make me eligible to receive an in-state tuition waiver, allowing me TO worry less about costs, focus on my classes and enjoy my life as a Aggie.Synclaire Truesdale ’19, Meteorology and Ocean Science & Technology

 

The Griffiths were also known for fostering a sense of community and serving as a major source of support for Texas A&M’s international community. Ex-pats could count on the couple for a supportive ear, a place to stay and an invitation to celebrate the holidays. “Living in a different country and culture, ‘Joanie,’ knew exactly the heartache, homesickness and cultural obstacles that international students like me experienced,” said Loela Barry ’98, a lifelong friend who first met the Griffiths when she was a landscape architecture student from South Africa. “Her attention to each student made her a mother figure to many. There was no better place to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter.”

The Griffiths also supported the Brazos Valley arts community. Joan served on the Opera and Performing Arts Society’s Board of Directors (now called MSC OPAS) and volunteered as a docent for the Forsythe and J. Wayne Stark Galleries. The couple also generously donated to Texas A&M’s public radio station, KAMU.

Formalizing Their Legacy

Joan created the couple’s scholarship endowment by naming the Texas A&M Foundation as beneficiary of her retirement account. This flexible way of giving provides significant tax advantages, and offered her peace of mind since she could continue to take IRA distributions. Upon her death in 2015, the remaining portion of her retirement account transferred to the Texas A&M Foundation.

Today, the couple’s scholarships support the next generation of meteorologists. “This scholarship has really motivated me,” Dedrick said, explaining that he struggled during his freshman year. “During the application process, I expressed the challenges I was experiencing and how I was trying to get through college. Receiving this scholarship has gotten me on track and affirmed that I am headed in the right direction.”

To learn how a retirement account beneficiary gift can benefit you, your family and Texas A&M University, contact Angela Throne ’03, gift planning officer, at athrone@txamfoundation.com or (979) 845-5638.

5 Ways A Retirement Account Beneficiary Gift Helps You

For many people, a retirement account may be the largest asset they own. It can also be the most heavily taxed when passed on to individuals. Instead, your retirement account could be used to support future Aggies. Making a retirement account beneficiary gift like Joan Griffiths is a simple, flexible and affordable way to support Texas A&M. Benefits include:

  1. You can continue to use your IRA account.
  2. You may receive an estate tax charitable deduction.
  3. You can support a cause you care about as part of your legacy.
  4. You can change your mind at any time in the future.
  5. The full amount of your retirement account benefits Texas A&M.
Contact:

Angela Throne '03

Business Operations Manager
Office of Gift Planning
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