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Dr. Ivor Griffith: A Man of Many Hats
Written by Dan Flanagan
Published on July 1, 2016
In 1907, the family of IVOR GRIFFITH PD’1912, PhM’1921, ScD, FRSA, emigrated from Wales to Bangor, Pennsylvania, where, at the age of 16, he took his first steps toward a career in pharmacy. After a few years under the wing of his local druggist (EDWIN KEMMERER EISENHART PhG’1890) Griffith enrolled at PCP. Once he graduated, he quickly found work in the Kensington section of Philadelphia in 1913 as a pharmacist at the Stetson Hospital, a component of the John B. Stetson Hat Company.
The Stetson Company was reaching its peak at the time, built up from a small 1865 workshop into a massive nine-acre industrial plant that employed roughly 5,000 workers. Access to free healthcare was provided through a dispensary that had grown by 1905 into a fully accredited hospital open to the general public.
After eight years in the hospital pharmacy, Griffith’s responsibilities at Stetson began to multiply. He became director of (hospital) laboratories (1925–1941), chairman of the hospital’s training school for nurses (1930–1935), and director of research (1925–1941) in the hat manufactory, specializing in color control.
What made Griffith’s employment at Stetson so remarkable, however, was that it wasn’t his primary occupation, only a sideline. Griffith’s real job was at Philadelphia College of Pharmacy — where he specialized in “burning the candle at both ends.”
Griffith began his academic career about the same time he started at Stetson, when he became an assistant to one of the rising stars on the faculty, associate professor of pharmacy CHARLES LAWALLPhG’1893, PhM’1905 in 1913. Three years later, Griffith entered the faculty as an instructor in pharmaceutical arithmetic, and when LaWall replaced the late JOSEPH P. REMINGTON PhG’1866 as dean and professor of pharmacy in 1918, Griffith stepped into LaWall’s shoes as instructor in pharmacy. Griffith’s promotion to assistant professor duly followed in 1923, and in 1931, he became an associate.
There were times, however, when Griffith’s exhausting schedule got the better of him. In the summer of 1932, he fainted and fractured his skull at work. Griffith’s stay in the hospital lasted nearly a month:
Ivor Griffith [is] recovering at Stetson Hospital [from] the results of an accident suffered June 21 in the laboratories of John B. Stetson Company [where] he is the chief chemist. While attending a conference, Dr. Griffith was overcome by a spell of dizziness which caused him to feint (sic). In falling, his head struck a tile floor, resulting in a slight skull fracture. It is expected that he will have to remain in the hospital until about July 15....Dr. Griffith’s collapse was brought about by the strenuous application he gives to his many duties. In addition to his connections with John B. Stetson Company and Stetson Hospital, he is associate professor of pharmacy, at the College.” – PCPS Bulletin, July 1932
Griffith was hospitalized yet again in 1936, but his problems paled in comparison to those of Dean LaWall, whose health collapsed that summer. To lighten his mentor’s load, Griffith was asked to become an assistant dean while simultaneously stepping up as professor of pharmacy. Sadly, these precautionary measures proved to be all too necessary. Dean LaWall never made a full recovery from his illness, and he died of pneumonia on December 7, 1937, whereupon Griffith was named dean of pharmacy.
Griffith’s next promotion as the 12th president followed the retirement of President WILMER KRUSEN in 1941. Henceforth, Griffith served as both dean and president until 1959, a distinction that’s unique in the history of the University.
Naturally, the demands of these heavy responsibilities required a few sacrifices on Griffith’s part. Several months into his presidency, he resigned from the Stetson Company.
As routine as it had been for Griffith to hold down multiple jobs, he finally realized that he needed to slow things down in 1959. That year, at age 68, Griffith decided to let somebody else take over as dean while he focused his energy on the presidency. Even in this instance, it took two people to replace Griffith. A dual structure that hadn’t existed since 1943 was restored whereby LINWOOD TICE PhG’1929, BSc’1933, MSc’1935 became dean of pharmacy and ARTHUR OSOL PhG’1925, BSc’1928, MSc’1930 became dean of science. Griffith planned to retire at the end of the school year in 1961 but on May 16 — just a few days shy of retirement — Griffith failed to show up at a board of trustees meeting. A few colleagues dispatched to his home quickly discovered that he had died overnight in his sleep.
On January 3, 1966, PCP celebrated the 75th anniversary of Griffith’s birth by naming the main college building after him:
Of all the buildings on campus only the original one remains unnamed. It should bear a name, and to whom may it be better dedicated now than to Dr. Ivor Griffith... the only man in [our] history who over a period of fifty years has served as student, alumnus, president of the alumni association, instructor, professor, head of the department of pharmacy, dean and president.... His memory, which we shall always hold in deep affection, shall be our pilot light. He will be forever revered, and we are the richer for his having been with us.” - Remarks from the dedication of Griffith Hall, 1966
Ivor Griffith commonly ended his correspondence with an expression that was as distinctive as his signature. It serves here as a fitting conclusion to this memorial: “All hail affection.”
A display honoring the memory of Ivor Griffith, featuring photos and artifacts from his manuscript collection, is currently on view in the J. W. England Library.
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