Presidents of Reed

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Frank Loxley Griffin


Born on August 19, 1881, in Topeka, Kansas
Died on November 9, 1969, in Portland, Oregon

Frank L. Griffin was hired as Reed’s first faculty member by Reed’s first president, William Trufant Foster, in 1911. As head of the mathematics department, Griffin had helped to write the college’s faculty constitution; he was also a member of the college’s administrative committee for 2 years, served on the faculty council for 29 years, and taught mathematics for 41 years, until his retirement in 1952. During his tenure, he was revered for teaching mathematics as a whole language rather than as a subject consisting of disjointed topics.

The board of trustees called upon “Grif,” or “F.L.,” during his retirement in 1954 to serve as acting president, following Ballantine’s departure. With the goal of repairing Reed’s reputation—both internally and externally—in the aftermath of the Velde Committee, Griffin sought to restore the position of the faculty in the legal governance of the college. He reinstated what had been the faculty council, renaming it the “faculty advisory council,” and expanded its membership to ten; five council members were to be elected by the faculty at large, and five were to be appointed by the president. Griffin also worked to strengthen the college’s tenure policies, hoping to better secure academic freedom and setting in place policies and procedures to be followed when it might be necessary to break tenure.

Griffin came to Reed from Williams College in Massachusetts, where he was an associate professor. The University of Chicago granted him baccalaureate, master, and doctoral degrees. Scientific American lauded his first book, Introduction to Mathematical Analysis, with this statement: “If we had our way, every teacher of mathematics would be obliged to read this book, and every person with responsibility for laying out mathematics instruction in any of our colleges would be obliged to read a chapter from it every morning before breakfast.” His mathematics textbooks were widely used at many institutions of higher education.

Griffin was vice president of the Mathematical Association of America from 1952–53, governor of the City Club of Portland, fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and was active within the American Association of University Professors. Reed honored his commitment to the community by presenting him with an honorary LL.D. in 1956; the University of Oregon noted his accomplishments and distinguished service at their charter day in 1957.