the 1930s until 1978, St. Bonaventure students and faculty could count
on one thing at the first snowfall.
That was Francis Griffin, a maintenance worker, more commonly known as
"Griff," greeting them with, "Just like Miami
However, he was much more than a University employee.
"Griff developed into a tradition at Bonaventure. He became a
campus legend," said Robert Conroy, a University planned giving
consultant and 1948 graduate.
Griff, born in 1900, was a life-long resident of the Allegany area.
According to notes by Fr. Irenaeus
Herscher, Griff received a St.
Bonaventure High School preparatory diploma in 1919 and attended St.
Bonaventure College immediately after. But, he never graduated
from the college.
Griff turned down a teaching job at another school to stay on at the
University, according to the October 16, 1953 issue of The Bona
"Immediately, he went to work on the University's farm, which is
currently the location of McGraw-Jennings Field. After the farm
closed, Griff stayed on to drive a team of horses and pick up
trash," Leo Keenan, chairman of the English department and
professor of English, said.
"Every spring, Griff said he was preparing his horses to run in the
Kentucky Derby. There was a group of administrators who didn't
like the horses. They felt the horses were unbenefitting for a
college campus," Keenan said.
"One morning, Griff went to work and the horses were gone.
They had been sold by the University. Their sale somehow
diminished him in his own eyes, but not in the eyes of other
people," he added.
Griff lived across the highway from the University, (near the current
location of UniMart), in a two story farm house, Robert Conroy said.
"The thing I remember about Griff was his phenomenal memory.
He always remembered the names of students, who their best friends were,
and where they were from. He was the greatest living asset to the
alumni association. Alumni always asked for Griff when they
returned," Keenan said.
"Griff had a kind of mysticism. He was very knowledgeable
(of) everything about Bonaventure," Finbarr Conroy, associate
professor of modern languages, said.
Every day, Griff would "hold court" in the Reilly Center
Cafe. It was a Bonaventure tradition, Finbarr Conroy said.
"He'd sit in the back and eight or ten people would sit down and
have lunch with him," Robert Conroy said.
A portrait of Griff,
hung in 1979, is still in the RC Cafe.
"Griff devoted himself to others and to the University," Fr.
Alphonsus Trabold, assistant professor of theology, said.
He died of cancer at the St. Bonaventure Infirmary in the friary on May
"When he died, I was asked to translate a poem about Griff written
by Fr. Aguilar, poet laureate of Columbia, entitled 'Sir
Griffin' and I read it at his funeral," Finbarr Conroy said.
According to the September 15, 1978 issue of The Bona Venture, Griff
gave the University the first option to buy his property after his
"Griff told me he would never want anyone to live in that
house. I don't know why," Robert Conroy added.
"To me, Griff was a living example of what St. Francis would
be. He lived up to Franciscan values. He treated all people
the same, gave completely of himself, and tried to bring joy to people's
lives," Father Alphonsus said.
-"Spirit of St. Francis seen in Griff's Life," by
Marsha Ducey, The Bona Venture, 11/16/90