Funeral services for state Superintendent Brian J. Whiston, who died Monday after being diagnosed with cancer, will be Friday in Oakland County. Whiston was 56.

Visitation is from 2-8 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday at the Riverside Chapel, Simpson-Modetz Funeral Home, in Waterford Township, and at St. Perpetua Catholic Church, also in Waterford, from noon until the funeral mass at 1 p.m.

The family said memorials may be made to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund, the Waterford Foundation for Public Education or to the Dearborn Foundation. The online guest book is at

Whiston is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Petrusha Whiston; children, Scott (Amanda), Ashley (Jeffrey) Koch and Kristen; five grandchildren; brothers, Rick, Daniel and Bob (Gina) and a sister, Marie Maguire.

He was proceeded in death by two of his children, Kathryn and Ryan, and his brother David.

Whiston was a member of the Michigan Association of School Administrators and was a member of the Rotary and Optimist Clubs and the Knights of Columbus, as well as many other organizations.

Whiston died several months after being diagnosed with cancer, and just days into a cancer-related medical leave. He announced in March that he would be taking a long-term medical leave within 30 to 60 days. On Friday, officials with the Michigan Department of Education announced Whiston had begun his leave.

Whiston was superintendent of Dearborn Public Schools before being appointed state superintendent by the State Board of Education in April 2015.

As state superintendent, Whiston set a priority to make Michigan a Top 10 education state in 10 years, working with educators, students, parents, businesses and policy leaders in Michigan.

The state board gave Whiston a rating of outstanding on his annual evaluation and extended his contract by one year in March.

In a statement released by the Michigan Department of Education, State Board of Education co-presidents Casandra Ulbrich and Richard Zeile said Whiston “was a wonderful person who devoted his life to serving others. He was always focused on doing what is best for the children of Michigan.”

Gov. Rick Snyder said, in a statement, that Whiston was “an outstanding partner who understood that, just as teachers work every day to challenge their students to do better, we all need to challenge ourselves to do better for students.”

Before becoming the state’s top education official, Whiston was superintendent of Dearborn Public Schools from 2008 to early 2015. He also was director of government and community services for Oakland Schools and a local school board member for 17 years.

“Brian was a great son, husband, father and grandfather and I am very fortunate to have been able to call him my friend,” Dearborn Superintendent Glenn Maleyko said. “Professionally he was a mentor but it was the times I was able to spend with him outside of work that I will always treasure and will miss.”

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