Distinguished Alumni

Phil Grigsby, Class of 1965

After graduating from Hamburg High School in 1965, Phil Grigsby attended Oberlin College where he met his future wife, Jan. They married in May 1969 and spent the next two years serving in the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone, West Africa.  In September 1971, Phil pursued the Master of Divinity degree at Yale Divinity School and was ordained a minister in the United Church of Christ. For the rest of the decade, Rev. Grigsby directed Christian Community Action, a New Haven nonprofit.

In summer 1981, the couple moved to Davidson, NC, and Phil began working for CROP-Church World Service developing CROP hunger walks in the Carolinas. The Charlotte CROP Walk became the largest in the country. In 1986, they moved to Schenectady where Grigsby began a 33-year tenure as Urban Agent (aka, Executive Director!) of the Schenectady Inner City Ministry (SiCM), leading the organization that helped feed thousands of local residents.  Phil grew SiCM from nine churches to over 50 area churches, all working together to assist the underserved population of Schenectady.   According to friend and colleague Rabbi Matt Cutler, SiCM is one of the strongest not-for-profit organizations in the community thanks to the dedication and leadership of Phil Grigsby.

In addition to his commitment to the SiCM food pantry, Grigsby also worked diligently to abolish racial divides in Schenectady County. As the executive director of SiCM, he fostered a program dedicated to providing a safe environment for youth and adults to challenge issues relating to race and diversity called “Schenectady County Embraces Diversity.” He worked hard to help others be heard, treating everyone he met with dignity, regardless of what their situation was.  When it came to these issues, Phil Grigsby truly was man ahead of his time.  He left a legacy of commitment to justice, equity and peace that will continue to be a significant foundation for SiCM’s work,” said current SiCM Executive Director and CEO Amaury Tanon-Santos.

Phil was also a frequent presence at City Council meetings, never shying away from controversy and “speaking truth to power” on behalf of citizens whose voices are rarely heard. Collaboration with the larger Capital Area religious community was a persistent theme in his work. He was a core force in the founding of the Capital Region Theological Center.

In his spare time, Phil studied and taught the work of Father Henri Nouwen, a Dutch priest he’d worked with at Yale. Phil and Jan were dedicated fans of Tanglewood to which they made annual pilgrimages to hear their favorites from James Taylor to Ludwig van Beethoven. An active member of Emmanuel Friedens Church, Phil chaired the church Council for several years. Phil passed away in November 2021. He leaves his wife Jan; sons, Matthew and Christopher; a brother, Bill, and numerous nieces and nephews.