Professor Robert “Bob” Griffith was well known for his kindness in the history department and throughout AU.
Griffith died Jan. 25 at the age of 71 due to complications from Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
He came to AU in 1995 and served as provost for two years. Before that, he was the dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Maryland, College Park.
In 1997, he joined the History Department.
“He was initially going to be provost of the University, not just a member of the history department,” said History Professor Allan Lichtman. “It was like being a kid and starting all over again.”
After a few years in the History Department, Griffith served as the department chair for six years.
“He was a model department chair,” said Professor and Acting Department Chair Richard Breitman. “He did everything a department chair could possibly do and more.”
He wrote many books about American history, including “The Politics of Fear: Joseph R. McCarthy and the Senate.”
Shortly before his death, the Organization of American Historians awarded Griffith the Roy Rosenzweig Prize for Service for his dedication and passion to history.
Griffith was best known for his kindness and willingness to help others, in addition to his academic successes as a provost, department chair, professor and author.
Griffith helped Lichtman improve his 1,000-page book on American history and conservatism, “White Protestant Nation: The Rise of the American Conservative Movement,” which later became a finalist for the National Book Critics’ Circle Award.
“Bob Griffith went over every single line of that book and actually had comments on every single page that made it a much better book,” Lichtman said.
While he devoted a great deal of time to academics, Griffith loved to spend time with his family as well.
“He would always be talking about the accomplishments of his children, and his wondrous times with his grandchildren,” Lichtman said. “I think he was a family man extraordinaire.”
Griffith brought this sense of closeness to work with him as well.
“He treated the History Department like his family too,” Lichtman said. “His door was always open, you could talk to him about anything. He was always interested in bragging about what you were doing and helping you advance your career. You were one of his kids.”
Breitman and other people in the History Department, along with Griffith’s friend David Thelen from Indiana University, designed a website in memory of Griffith. Students and faculty can leave “Notes for Bob” at http://notesforbob.wordpress.com.
“I knew there were literally hundreds of people who wanted to talk and share their feelings and their memories about Bob,” Breitman said.
A memorial service will be held in February in the Kay Spiritual Center to honor Griffith.
“Bob did it all,” Lichtman said. “He was a great scholar who produced a path-breaking book about the McCarthy era in American history, produced many articles, he was a major administrator that helped advance two institutions. That’s quite a set of accomplishments.”