Mary Griffin (MA '76)

Alumna's Scholarship Builds a Strong Foundation

Mary Griffin with her parents

Mary Griffin (MA '76) with her parents.

Mary Griffin (MA ’76) thought twice before becoming a librarian. After graduating from the University of Nebraska, she worked in a high school library and found the experience disappointing. She might have changed course if it hadn't been for her father and a friend who was a librarian. They both convinced Mary to pursue a graduate degree, which would open up new opportunities. And because both of them were University of Denver graduates, they strongly encouraged her to apply to DU.

Mary was accepted to the Graduate School of Librarianship at DU and was registered to begin summer quarter until another hurdle made her reconsider her plans. On May 6, 1975, just a month before she was scheduled to start school, a devastating tornado hit her hometown of Omaha. The category F4 twister ripped through city streets and residences, causing catastrophic damage along the way. Mary and her mother hid in the basement during the storm. When they emerged, they found very little of their home left.

"I initially told my father, 'I'm not going to Denver'," said Mary. She felt obligated to stay in Omaha and help her parents recover from the storm. But her dad wouldn't hear of it. "He said to me, 'What are you going to do, rebuild the house?'"

Father of Mary

Mary's father, also a DU graduate, inspired Mary's gift in her will for endowed scholarships.

Embarking on a Journey

The insistence of Mary's father revealed the depth of his Pioneer pride. Robert Griffin (BA ’49) went to the University of Denver after serving in World War II. He graduated with a degree in marketing and enjoyed a long and successful career in public relations and fundraising. "He always talked affectionately of DU," said Mary. "I have his class ring. He wore it every single day of his life."

With her father's urging, Mary proceeded with plans to attend graduate school. "I literally got in my car with my purse, the blue jeans I had on the day of the tornado, and a few other clothing items and moved to Denver."

Those months at DU were some of Mary's happiest. She studied collection development, reference and research, classification systems, management and even computer programming with punch cards. "If I had to sum up my whole career, it was pretty much constant change," said Mary. "Technology was starting to take off, but then it just kept taking off, so we had to be open to change, embrace it and not be afraid of it."

Building a Legacy

Mary GriffinAfter graduation, Mary came home and took a job with the Omaha Public Library that lasted nearly 40 years. "The good thing about my job," said Mary, "Was that I didn't do the same thing for 40 years." She started as a reference librarian and subsequently held roles as branch manager, facilities manager and assistant director.

Mary retired in January 2016 and decided that she wanted to contribute to the greater good. To commemorate the end of a successful career that DU had afforded her, as well as her father's enduring love for DU, Mary included a bequest in her will to establish the Mary Griffin Endowed Scholarship for library students and the Robert Griffin Endowed Scholarship for business students.

"I suppose everyone goes to school with the idea that it will give them the foundation they need for a long and happy career," said Mary. "I certainly had that because of DU, and I stayed in the same place for almost 40 years."

Despite the precarious circumstances that overshadowed her start, Mary found at DU a solid footing that carried her through a lifetime of professional success. Through her scholarships, she has made it possible for future students to have the same opportunity.

Deepen Your Connection to DU

Like Mary Griffin, you can provide the foundation DU students need to build a bright future and fulfilling career. Contact Jon Kraus at 303.871.4619 or jon.kraus@du.edu to learn more.

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