Mike DeGruy ’75, whose passion for the ocean and the various species that make their home there led him to an award-winning career as a documentary filmmaker, died Saturday in a helicopter crash in eastern Australia. He was 60.
Mike DeGruy filming along Bayou La Batre, Alabama, in 2011
DeGruy was featured in a cover story in the summer 2011 issue of NC State magazine. The story looked at DeGruy’s return to the Gulf Coast, near where he grew up, to document the aftermath of the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
DeGruy grew up in Mobile, Ala., exploring the labyrinth of streams and channels that flow throughout the lower regions of Alabama into Mobile Bay and then into the Gulf of Mexico. He made his professional home in Santa Barbara, California, but returned to the Gulf Coast last year to explore the scientific and cultural impact of the Gulf oil spill.
“I’m emotionally connected to this place, and that’s what’s driving me,” DeGruy said in the article. “I care about these people. Kids I grew up with are running things around here now and, as a consequence, they’re being hurt by what’s happening.”
The Gulf project was a bit of a departure for DeGruy, who rose to fame as an underwater photographer who traveled the world to make films for the likes of Discovery Channel, the BBC and PBS. He won multiple Emmy and other awards for his cinematography. DeGruy was the director of underseas photography for James Cameron’s 2005 documentary “Last Mysteries of the Titanic.”
DeGruy was working on a project for National Geographic when a helicopter he was flying in with Australian television writer-producer Andrew Wight crashed soon after takeoff. Wight, who was piloting the helicopter, also died in the crash.
Cameron, in a statement to National Geographic, described DeGruy as “one of the ocean’s warriors. A man who spoke for the wonders of the sea as a biologist, filmmaker, and submersible pilot, and who spoke against those who would destroy the sea’s web of life. He was a warm, funny, extremely capable man and one of the world’s top underwater cinematographers. His passion for exploration and for the wonders beneath the sea was boundless.”
DeGruy majored in marine zoology at NC State (where he was a member of the diving team), and went on to pursue a Ph.D. in marine biology at the University of Hawaii. But he was introduced to underwater photographer before completing his doctorate, and a different sort of career was born. Because of his education, DeGruy was comfortable talking with the scientists — and them with him — who were often featured in his films.
While DeGruy made his mark with amazing films from the depths of the ocean, including one incident in which he almost died after suffering a vicious shark attack. The Gulf project forced DeGruy to do much of his work above ground, talking with the people who were devastated by the oil spill.
“I used to make real pretty programs,” DeGruy said during his time along the Gulf Coast. “I would spend extraordinary amounts of time doing everything in my power to make things look as good as they could.
“Well, I’m not sure that was effective. People were still bulldozing forests and building shopping centers and dumping crap into the ocean and into the rivers. Maybe what I should be doing is showing people the way it is and maybe they’ll get disgusted by it.”
Michael Hanrahan, an independent film producer who worked with DeGruy on the Gulf project, said Monday that DeGuy was in the process of seeking additional funding to be able to make the film he wanted about what had happened in his home region.
“Mike was determined to continue with that project,” Hanrahan said. “He felt that what we came home from the Gulf with was not a complete enough story. The oil-spill project was the one he cared most deeply about.”
Hanrahan said DeGruy was one of the world’s best underwater cinematographers.
“He was driven by his love of nature,” Hanrahan said. “He loved and appreciated the natural world and wanted to share that with people.”
DeGruy is survived by his wife, Mimi, his son, Max, and his daughter, Frances.
Read More >
The Alumni Association recognized some of NC State’s greatest stars this weekend, honoring 18 alumni and friends of the university for their professional and personal accomplishments and their continuing support of NC State, the Alumni Association and the Wolfpack Club.
“Their light, ignited by their NC State education and fueled by their own successes, reflects upon their alma mater, enhancing NC State’s reputation around the world,” Chancellor Randy Woodson said during the “Evening of Stars” at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary. “They unequivocally add value to an NC State degree.
“These are alumni who have made impacts around the globe; through television broadcasts and comprehensive websites, on Main Street and Wall Street; through rhyme and reason; in factories, laboratories, classrooms and boardrooms.”
The honorees at the 8th Annual NC State Evening of Stars were:
COLLEGE DISTINGUISHED AWARD RECIPIENTS
S. Elizabeth George ’81 MS, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: As director of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Directorate for the U.S. Department of Defense, George is recognized as one of the nation’s leading authorities on chemical and biological warfare.
H. Connor Kennett Jr. ’54, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: Kennett was the longtime director of the poultry division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture before he retired in 1988. He was the first North Carolinian inducted into the National Poultry Hall of Fame.
David W. Evans ’84, College of Design: Evans is an award-winning creative director, photographer and filmmaker who has worked for clients such as the National Geographic Society, Discovery Channel, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Nations Foundation.
Carl E. Harris ’98 EDD, College of Education: A former superintendent of Durham (N.C.) Public Schools, Harris was named in 2010 as deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. He also served as superintendent of the Franklin County (N.C.) Public School System.
Marshall D. Brain ’89 MS, College of Engineering: Brain founded HowStuffWorks.com, an award-winning website that offers easy-to-understand explanations of how the world around us functions. Discovery Communications purchased the site for $250 million in 2007.
William H. “Bill” Dean ’88, College of Engineering: Dean is president and CEO of M.C. Dean Inc., a company founded in 1949 by his grandfather. The company is the nation’s premier electrical design-build and systems integration firm, with 3,300 employees and clients that include Fortune I000 corporations, universities, high-tech companies and government agencies.
Robert R. Womack ’59, College of Engineering: After working as a partner at McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, Womack went on to serve as chairman, chief executive officer or president of four New York Stock Exchange companies.
Nora H. Shepard ’05 MFA, College of Humanities and Social Sciences: Shepard is an award-winning poet who teaches creative writing and poetry at NC State. A longtime advocate of the arts, Shepard was the founding president of Arts Together, Raleigh’s only nonprofit multi-arts school.
Jon W. Bartley ’69, Poole College of Management: Bartley is a professor of accounting at NC State who served as associate dean of the college from the time it was founded in 1993 until 1998, when he became dean. He served as dean until 2004, when he returned to the faculty.
Ed Leigh McMillan II ’62, College of Natural Resources: McMillan is the managing trustee of the D.W. McMillan Trust and the D.W. McMillan Foundation, managing 40,000 acres of timber in Alabama and Florida, as well as the mineral rights and drilling sites for newly discovered oil reserves associated with the property.
David B. Montgomery, ’68, ’81 PhD, College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences: Montgomery worked for 30 years as a plasma physicist at Becton, Dickinson and Company (now known as BD), developing new technology that resulted in 15 U.S. and five European patents.
F. Dale Hayes ’78, College of Textiles: Hayes is vice president of global public relations for UPS, and was responsible for developing the company’s award-winning, memorable slogan about what “brown can do for you,” and redesigned its iconic brand mark to give UPS one of the most recognizable brands in the world.
Dr. David E. Anderson ’88 BS, ’90 DVM, College of Veterinary Medicine: Anderson is a professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University, where he is head of agriculture practices in the Department of Clinical Sciences. He is the founding director of the International Camelid Institute at The Ohio State University and the International Academy of Farm Animal Surgeons.
WOLFPACK CLUB AWARD
E.J. Poindexter ’58, Ronnie Shavlick Award: Poindexter worked for more than 40 years for Barnhill Contracting Co., where he eventually became the company’s first vice president. Poindexter has been devoted to NC State athletics for more than 55 years, never taking a vacation that didn’t revolve around an NC State sporting event.
ALUMNI ASSOCIATION AWARDS
Dennis G. Howard ’67, Meritorious Service Award: Howard served for 14 years on the Alumni Association Board of Directors, serving on every board committee and providing leadership as the board’s president during a critical year of transition for the Alumni Association and its Caldwell Fellows program.
David S. Jolley ’70 and Celia G. Jolley ’83 MS, Meritorious Service Award: David, vice president of commercial lending at C&F Bank in Williamsburg, Va., was a founding member of the NC State Board of Visitors and has served on the NC State University Foundation and its endowment board. David and Celia, a retired educator, are members of the C.W. Dabney Lifetime Giving Society and the R.S. Pullen Society.
Ada B. Dalla Pozza, Award of Merit: As a NC State extension agent, faculty member, mentor and volunteer for more than 70 years, Ms. Ada (as she is known) provided leadership to improve the quality of life for families and helped create leadership institutes for rural women, many of whom became elected officials.
Daniel C. Gunter III ’00, Outstanding Young Alumnus: Gunter, an associate attorney with DLA Piper, serves on the Alumni Association’s Young Alumni Council and is a member of the association’s board of directors as a representative of the Council on Athletics.
Read More >