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Our Beloved Dean

Greg started life in the care of Home for Little Wanderers. Then he “won the lottery” when he was adopted by Theodore L. and Laura A. (Johnson) Ricks. From day one, the large Johnson family embraced him as “their chosen one.”

He carried the stories of his boyhood town Brockton, Mass. with him all his life, especially those involving Ed and Yvonne. Equally precious was Martha’s Vineyard, which he introduced to his son in July 2019. He was always a New Englander.

Greg’s insightfulness and intellect were hard to miss. His mom and Amy Cohen of the local NAACP chapter organized for him to attend school on Brockton’s west side, then at Worcester Academy. He excelled at Hampton University, MIT, and Harvard, and won many academic accolades, including the Salzburg Fellowship.

Greg became the youngest dean at a major American university at 23. He was deeply grateful for the loving support of mentors, including Mel King and Hubie Jones. He served as dean at Northeastern, Sarah Lawrence, Dartmouth, and Stanford Universities. He also cherished his time at the Masters School and the Taft School. He was also a proud Beacon Academy advocate! He remained a dean and advocate for students until the end of his life.

Greg’s fulfilled his dream to live in Africa after being a delegate to the World Conference on Racism. He traversed South Africa on behalf of President Clinton and President Mandela to find the country’s most inspiring leadership for City Year South Africa and the Clinton Democracy Fellowship. He served the Oprah Winfrey Academy for Girls in the same way. He cherished his involvement in the African Leadership Academy and University. Through all of these institutions he was honored to show the world the genius of the continent at large.

Greg became a Fellow in Residence at Stellenbosch University and served residence provider, Respublica, at the universities of Pretoria, Cape Town, Witwatersrand and Johannesburg, among others. As his friend Pieter Kloppers remembered, “[H]e was simply himself. Generous with his friendship, incisive in his analysis … His belief in you would bring out the best in you.”

A student, Taamba Ithete, remarked about this time:

“Contrary to a convenient narrative this is not the story of one man, but the story of how a generation of student leaders, students, staff and administrators gathered the courage to deal with the behemoth that is ‘change.’ Greg did not bring this change … He called it out of us. He made us grapple with, grind, fight and work for it. He made us find it within ourselves.”

Greg was a driver of the service movement in cities and campuses across America. He was National Fellow for the dean of Campus Opportunity League and fellow of the National Service Commission, the forerunner of AmeriCorps.

He assisted activists and social entrepreneurs realizing their dreams for their communities through programs like Echoing Green, Danforth, Mandela-Rhodes, Allan Gray/Orbis and SAWIP. For 12 years he was vice president and dean of City Year, geographically expanding the organization.

Greg leaves behind his wife Feriel, sister Wendy, daughters, Keija and Chayla, and son Ethan. Along with countless best friends, they are deeply grateful to the God who gifted the world this man. Feriel looks forward to resuming a relationship with him—fully perfect and fully restored.

Memorial Service

October 17, 2020 3:55 pm - 4:30 pm

Service will be broadcast from Epworth United Methodist, Gaithersburg, MD

You will be able to see as well as hear the service.

To listen from your telephone (landline or mobile), 

please dial 1-646-558-8656 

and enter Meeting ID 756 284 167 

and Password 20877 when prompted.

You may also join us for worship on Facebook Live.

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