Remembering Dr. Derrick Griffith

May 21, 2015

By Nayaba Arinde
May 21, 2015

“I never told him this, but he’s . . . everything I wanted to be,” said Dr. Derrick Griffith’s son, Darryus, as tears streamed down his face during a recent press conference. “My dad was everything to me. My dad was a great person. He was everything I’m not.”

Medgar Evers College confirmed last week that 42-year-old Griffith, dean of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management for MEC, was one of the eight people killed in the May 12 Amtrak Train 188 derailment. He was the fifth victim identified.

Rudy Crew, president of MEC, who is deeply affected by the untimely passing of Griffith, told the Amsterdam News, “If there were a medal of honor to be given to people who are dedicated to the well-being of our young people, Derrick would be the first candidate. He would definitely get this medal.”

“As a member of the New York City Council and the Committee on Higher Education, I would like to express my sincerest condolences and deepest sympathy to you on behalf of the 35th District in Brooklyn,” said Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo. “The neighborhood of Crown Heights and the city of New York has lost an incredible public servant who demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the betterment of our community through the academic success of his students.”

During his more than 10 years in the field of education, Griffith wore a number of hats as he worked to help others. He served as a school principal for a number of years, and in 2003, he founded the CUNY Preparatory Transitional High School. Over the course of his professional career, he has been a social studies teacher, a curriculum and professional development manager and an adjunct instructor.

In 2011, he was the executive director of Groundwork, an organization formed to support young people living in high-poverty urban communities. He joined MEC that same year as assistant provost in what was to become the first of a number of roles he would fill at the college.

“It’s not often that you meet someone as selfless as Derrick, and a fund that will help support students in their pursuit of education is the ultimate tribute to his life’s work,” stated Crew. “Derrick would be so proud if he was with us, and I’m happy that we’re able to honor him in this way.” The president of MEC added that the dedicated educator, with all his coursework completed and his dissertation approved, was scheduled have his CUNY Graduate Center Ph.D. in urban education conferred May 27. His dissertation is titled “What’s ‘Black’ Got to Do With It? An Analysis of Low-Income Black Students and Educational Outcomes.”

Crew told the Amsterdam News that he has inquired, and the “Chancellor [James B. Milliken] and his staff decided it is possible to happen on May 27, 2015.”

Griffith graduated from Clara Barton High School for Health Professions in Brooklyn, where he earned a Regents diploma and a certificate in practical nursing. While working as a licensed practical nurse, he earned a B.A. in history from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He was member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity.

In 1994, he received the Max and Dora Cohen Scholarship to attend the Margaret Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development at the University of Rochester. In 1995, he received an M.S. in counseling and human development and was named commencement marshall.

Griffith was appointed to the inaugural committee for CUNY’s new Guttman Community College, where he worked closely with the chair of the student services committee to create a template for student and academic affairs that would be user friendly and promote student success. While on the committee, he worked with the chair of the majors committee to explore health science majors for Guttman Community College.

Students, faculty, alumni and the community came together to remember Griffith at a candlelight vigil on the MEC campus.

Cumbo said, “With more than 10 years of service as an educator, Dean Derrick Griffith has touched the lives of thousands through his passion for learning and the empowerment of our youth. The life and legacy of Dean Griffith will always be cherished through his invaluable contributions to the field of education.”

The college announced the creation of the Dr. Derrick E. Griffith Memorial Scholarship Fund. To donate, go to www.mec.cuny.edu/griffith-scholarship or send a check made payable to the Medgar Evers College Educational Foundation, attn: Tara Tomlinson, 1150 Carroll Street, Brooklyn, NY 11225.

MEC is holding its commencement Tuesday, June 2 at the Barclays Center, where Griffith will be honored.

Originally published by the New York Amsterdam News