In Memory of



Obituary for Jeffrey Mirel

Jeffrey Edward Mirel, PhD, died on Friday, December 21, at age 70. Beloved husband of Barbara Mirel. Loving father to Joshua, Lisa and Diana Mirel. Adoring grandfather of Edin and Adam Levy and Zoe and Zachary Schwartz.

Jeff retired in 2016 as the David L. Angus Collegiate Chair at the University of Michigan School of Education. Through his career, he was a professor at Emory University and Northern Illinois University. He was among the nation’s leaders in educational research and policy and was an elected member of the National Academy of Education, the highest honor for scholars of education. Throughout his impressive career, he wrote several books, most notably The Rise and Fall of an Urban School System: Detroit, 1907-81 (1995) and Patriotic Pluralism: Americanization Education and European Immigrants (2010). The Rise and Fall has been lauded as one of the finest historical studies of urban education, if not the very finest. He was able to combine his passion for his work with his love of travel and culture as a visiting professor at European and Asian universities, making his academic and personal impact global. He is among the most widely cited historians of education over the past 35 years and will be long remembered by other scholars who will continue to use and build upon the foundation Jeff built.

Jeff was a gifted teacher and mentor, honored with numerous awards for his teaching and the admiration and respect of his students whom he adored. He was driven by his guiding principle that the most important responsibility a teacher has is to help students find their ethical and just place in their communities and families. He did all that and more.

While his work was a huge part of Jeff’s life, his family was at the core of who he was. He enthusiastically shared his passion for history, politics, books, music, art and laughter — which influenced every aspect of their family. As a loving husband and father, Jeff gave his family everything they ever needed. His warmth, love, kindness and generosity were always present and never faltered. His wife, Barbara, was the love of his life — and the light of his life. Married for 45 years, they grew up together and built a beautiful life full of love, respect, communication and strength. As true partners and best of friends, they were each other’s biggest supporters — challenging and inspiring each other in all things big and small. He was the best father his children could ask for. He gave them unwavering love, humor, guidance, strength and support, from childhood through adulthood. He shaped so many aspects of who they are today, and they were a constant source of pride and joy for him. He taught them the value of kindness and the importance of rich friendships. Both were evident in the life-long relationships he so cherished with his friends.

He’ll be remembered as someone who loved life to the fullest, made everyone around him smile and laugh, and improved the lives of all who met him.

Jeff was predeceased by his parents Ida and Allan Mirel. He is survived by his wife Barbara Mirel, son Joshua Mirel of Wichita, KS, daughters Lisa Mirel (Avi Levy) of Silver Spring, MD, and Diana Mirel (Jody Schwartz) of Oak Park, IL, and grandchildren, Edin, Adam, Zoe and Zachary. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research,, or Cure PSP (

Memorial services will be held at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, December 26, at Oak Park Temple, 1235 Harlem Ave. in Oak Park, IL. The family will be sitting Shiva on Thursday, December 27, from noon to 7 p.m., at 739 Belleforte Ave., Oak Park, IL. All are welcome. For more information: Goldman Funeral Group,, (847) 478-1600.