Thinking of Bob

A wink and a warm smile as he passed you in the hallway. Stories told by a raconteur with Southern roots.  The reassurance that a little give and a little laughter can help solve many of the problems that plague faculty. These were the gentle and generous ways of Bob Griffith that I will remember and cherish.

So many of us were the beneficiaries of this kind and generous man who knew the university and human nature so well. And, as if it were not enough to be a prize-winning author and beloved department chair, Bob Griffith’s influence reached beyond AU’s campus. He served as Treasurer of the Organization of American Historians from 2008 to 2010. He helped bail it out of its difficult times even as he often did the same for us. The OAH wished to honor him and managed to do so in the very last days of his life, awarding him the Roy Rosenzweig Distinguished Service Award. Former OAH President and Bob’s friend, Ira Berlin brought it to Bob’s hospice bedside. It will be formally announced next month at the OAH Meeting in Houston.

There are many memories, but one in particular. Of all the roles and responsibilities that filled Bob’s life, none exceeded in importance that of grandfather to Bridget, Maya, Caroline, and Rachel.  On a warm summer afternoon not long ago, I saw Bob dashing out of his office in the middle of the afternoon wearing his Red Sox cap (a flaw in judgment to the mind of this Yankee fan). I quipped, “Quitting a bit early today, aren’t we?”   “Can’t talk,” he shouted over his shoulder as he headed to the garage.  “Gotta get my granddaughter to the swimming pool. We swim together and I don’t want to keep her waiting.” Can there be any better evidence that in the last years of his too-short life Robert Griffith understood what really counts?

Alan Kraut
Professor of History
American University


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