Francis Griffin:
A Bonaventure Legend
1900-1978


     From 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 Beach!"
     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 Venture.
     "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 7, 1978.
     "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 death.  "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

 

Griff (middle) with Father Dan Hurley, O.F.M. (left)

Griff and Frisky(?), November 1958

 

Links:

Pictures Bonadieu 1949

"Sir Griffin" 

"Griff recalls old Bonas"

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Created by Danielle Demetreu, History 495: Internship in History, Fall 2005 semester.

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