To Bob

Unlike so many of you, I only knew Bob for a couple of years.  As a member of the search committee that brought me to AU, though, he was among the very first of the future colleagues I was to meet.  I’d looked into his distinguished academic career beforehand and remember marveling on meeting him at how a past dean and provost could be so down-to-earth, so utterly unpretentious.

In time, Bob became a mentor, a valued colleague, and a dear friend.  He was unsparing of his time in helping me better to understand American University and its struggles in an era that is now, thankfully, fading into oblivion.  With his insight, his great good humor, and his furious dedication to strong academic values, he was a model for us all.

As deans and strong department chairs invariably do, Bob and I had our moments of disagreement.  But they were always profoundly substantive—driven on his side by his unparalleled passion for the work of his department—and they nearly always ended with one of his signature winks. This past week, a congressman whom my wife and I have known for many years made a familiar passing remark about the supposed ferocity of academic politics.  If those who govern us were half as wise, passionate and collegial as Bob Griffith, our union would be in a far better state than it currently is.

Early on this past summer, Bob sent me an email out of the blue telling me about an inn in Paris, Virginia to which he and Barbara made a yearly visit.  My faith in Bob’s judgment was such that my wife and I decided to visit the Ashby Inn that very weekend.  We fell in love with the place—so much so that we rented a small house nearby.  As I write this, looking over the Crooked Run Valley as Bob did so many times, I’m struck by how, for me, his spirit has come to infuse this landscape, just as, for so many of us, it infuses the campus of American University.  Bob was truly the very best of who we are as a university.  He will be sorely, sorely missed.

Peter Starr
Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
American University

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