To learn more about Mike's work, passion, and contributions to the world and our oceans, visit these links:
Dear SBMS family,
We lost a dearly loved member of our SBMS community on Friday, February 3.  Parent, husband, teacher, dreamer, explorer and friend, Mike deGruy died in a helicopter crash in Australia while working on a new film project. 

Mike, who helped find the new campus for SBMS, annually keynoted 9th Grade Leadership Day and inspired every 9th grade student and staff on our Channel Islands Expeditions. Mike was also known around the world for his photography, documentary film making, and passionate defense of nature, animals and of our oceans.  

Mike had an incredible sense of adventure, wicked sense of humor, and the knack for telling stories that became larger than life. Michael's contributions to our community and planet were only eclipsed by his love for his wife Mimi, and his children Frances and Max.
Being in Michael's company and watching him work with kids, capture the world on film, or share his life's passions and adventures, was like laying on the grass looking up at 4th of July fireworks raining down epiphanies, possibilities, laughter and light.
e.e. cummings wrote,

"For whatever we lose (like a you or a me), it's always ourselves we find in the sea."

I cannot picture Michael without thinking of the ocean, laughing out loud remembering his latest joke or prank. I can't help feeling that because Mike showed us how to live an inspired life, there is hope for us all.
We'll be keeping our SBMS community posted on how we can best take care of Mike's family, including delivering meals to the family starting the week of February 13. If you'd like to be part of this, please email Lilli Doner at 

Also, we are dedicating the upcoming Friday Sunrise Swim at 6:45 a.m., Leadbetter Beach on February 10, to his memory. A memorial service and celebration of his life will be held in the rotunda at the Fess Parker Double Tree Resort on Sunday, February 12 at 3pm.

Because Michael loved the ocean and beach walks with his family, we have placed a basket outside his front door and one in the SBMS office. We invite you and your family to collect shells, beach rocks, and ocean treasures and leave a special ocean memento and/or note for the deGruys.
With much love and sadness, 
Brian McWilliams

Monday, Monday, February 4, 2012   

Good Monday evening, dear moms and dads,

I first really met Mike deGruy on a fall morning in his son’s first year at SBMS. Mike, Mimi, and I were going for a walk to check in and see how he was growing. We walked down the driveway and were on our way to the Rose Garden. We had just turned onto the Garden Street, when Mike suddenly stopped, dropped to his knees, and reached for a tiny lizard that had washed onto the sidewalk. I’ll never forget watching him gently caress the once living creature with his calloused and gentle hands. He held it in his palm, studying it up and down, marveling and wondering at the stories that little life could tell. Mike’s genuflection there on that sidewalk was automatic and it was awesome, my first of many such moments with him. His childlike spirit and reverent insistence on life was infectious. He was one of those good fairies Rachel Carson wishes for us all.

Mike had many stories to tell us in his life. Not enough minutes, hours, days or seasons to share them. For those of us who knew him, may those stories and lessons wash up on our shores. For those of us coming upon him for the first time, may you bend down and take time to listen. Drop a knee to the earth and the sea and sky. Bow your head, and cup your ear. If you’re lucky, you’ll hear his voice enthusiastically weaving a story. One most likely splashed with water. One most definitely filled with wonder.

Mike was a big part of the Santa Barbara Film Festival. The Reel Nature sidebar, Field Trip to the Movies, and the David Attenborough Award owe their magic and magnitude to Mike. On the morning after we got the news, the Teen Press got to as many Film Festival folks as we could to gather their Memories of Michael and collect messages we could relay to the angel with water wings — the one we thought was already leading Field Trips in Heaven.

Here are those recollections:

Public Statement from the deGruy Family

Mike deGruy
December 29, 1951 – February 4, 2012

Mike deGruy, husband, father, son, brother, friend, mentor, teacher, and global inspiration, died in a tragic accident on Saturday February 4 while working on a film project in Australia.
 If desired, contributions in honor of his life may be made to the Santa Barbara Middle School (805.563.9781), Heal the Ocean (805.965.7570), and the Mobile Bay Keeper (888.433.4460).

Donations made to Santa Barbara Middle School will be used to support Channel Islands education and curriculum and a scholarship fund in honor of Mike deGruy.