New Scholarship Honors Late Admissions Director
Dan Griffin ’92 M’00 could have easily skipped out on attending college. Living on a North Country farm as the youngest of 10 in a family led by a single mother, no one would have been disappointed if he hadn’t — well, no one, except Dan.
A humble hard-worker, he was a first-generation student, only one of two in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree and the only one to earn a graduate degree.
Not only did he attend SUNY Oswego for both his undergraduate and graduate degrees, he also spent his entire professional career at his alma mater, helping to recruit generations of future Lakers to study along the shores of his beloved Lake Ontario campus. In 2016, he was diagnosed with advanced stage cancer but remained in his position as director of admissions at SUNY Oswego (albeit on medical leave since 2020) until his passing in July 2022.
“He loved this place so much,” said his wife, Sharon Griffin M’22, who is a graduate admissions counselor at SUNY Oswego. Even in his final days, he was dreaming and talking about helping students at the college, she said.
He died on July 30, 2022, at the age of 51. He is survived by Sharon, and their three daughters, Hannah M’23, Natalie ’22 and Allison; his mother, Anne; siblings, Dennis, Donny, Darrin, Dean, Diane Latimer, Deena Claffey, and Darlene Nelson.
Now, his family, friends and coworkers are pooling their resources to establish the Daniel B. Griffin ’92 M’00 Memorial Scholarship to help his legacy live on at the institution he cared so much about. When fully endowed, the scholarship will support a graduate student in Oswego’s master’s in higher education leadership program.
Sharon had discussed her desire to establish a scholarship with Dan, and they decided that supporting a student who wanted to pursue a career in higher education made the most sense, especially since there are not as many funding sources available for graduate students.
“I hope that the recipients get to know a little bit about Dan and the type of person he was and use that knowledge to move forward on their own pathway and be able to assist others in pursuing higher education,” Sharon said.
His college roommate and close friend, Dan Sheehan ’92 and his wife, Kimberly Baker Sheehan ’92, were among the first people to support the scholarship established in memory of Dan.
“When we were undergrads, graduate degree programs related to ‘Higher Education Administration’ were few and far between,” said Dan Sheehan, who met Dan during their first day on campus and worked with Dan in admissions as student tour guides, although, unlike Dan, he pursued a career in the pharmaceutical industry after graduation.
“To know that SUNY Oswego has instituted an accredited program meaningfully geared toward producing student-centric professionals ready to serve the unique needs of evolving colleges and universities? Quite simply – it’s synonymous with Dan’s legacy,” Sheehan said. “We need motivated, inspiring, others-centered leaders willing to pour into and nurture the developing leaders of tomorrow. I’m beyond excited to contemplate the impact this scholarship will have, as Dan’s legacy is carried forward by worthy award recipients who will strive to inspire others in their own unique ways.”
Dozens of students who worked with Dan and his team in admissions have gone on to pursue careers in higher education, including his daughters: Hannah, who assists with recruitment as a Graduate Ambassador in Oswego’s Graduate Studies Office; Natalie, who was a tour guide and worked as a student worker in the admissions office; and Allison, who is a tour guide at LeMoyne College. Many of these individuals consider Dan to have been a mentor and personal friend.
“I knew Dan for 23 years,” said Katie Maxwell ’97 M’02, retreat and event coordinator at the Wisdom House in Litchfield, Conn. “16 of those years were spent working together in Admissions at Oswego. We had a very close relationship. He was my supervisor, and my right-hand man when it came to running Open House events. We weren’t just colleagues, we were friends.”
She sent a homemade card to Dan every week from his diagnosis to his death–hundreds of cards over the 5 1/2 years he lived with cancer, Sharon said. Maxwell was also one of the first people to support the scholarship.
“It’s very important to me that his name lives on, his legacy lives on,” Maxwell said. “He was so giving, and in this way he’ll continue to give to others. Since Oswego was his second home, this is a beautiful way to honor him … He was respected by everyone: colleagues, students, prospective students and their parents, school counselors, the list goes on. He would have been a perfect instructor for this new major. He practically wrote the book!”
Upon learning of his passing, SUNY Oswego Officer in Charge Mary C. Toale shared a message to the campus community, who admired and respected him.
“Our campus has lost a much-loved member of our community; Dan’s warmth, kindness, witty humor and Oswego pride touched so many,” she said. “An Oswego alumnus with a 1992 bachelor’s degree in English and a 2000 master’s degree in education, Griffin was a member of the Admissions team since his time as a student. In 2018, Dan earned a high honor from SUNY –- the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service –- where he was aptly recognized for his nearly three-decade career at SUNY Oswego.”
Dan made many positive contributions to SUNY Oswego, including securing record-breaking applications, enrolling more than 2,200 freshmen and transfers, and attracting the most diverse freshman class of Oswego students ever in 2017. He was instrumental in coordinating and growing the college’s scholarship program for first-year students, organizing a College Night at SUNY Oswego, expanding open houses and accepted-student days, creating an admissions counselor-in-residence program in New York City and Long Island, boosting recruitment efforts in such cities as Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., developing the Start Now program, and working closely with the Office of International Education and Programs to increase the numbers of international students.
Even more impressive than his professional accomplishments was the impact he made through his personal interactions with family, friends and coworkers. His sharp wit brought laughter and joy into the workplace, and he regularly went above and beyond to assist others, especially prospective students in their life journeys.
For example, in 2020, the Bernstein family (Brad ’89 and Liz Bernstein, their daughter, Sara Bernstein ’18 M’19, and son, Matthew Bernstein ’24) created the Dan Griffin ’92 M’00 Second Chance Scholarship because of the impression he made on them. His interactions with the family throughout the admissions process had such a positive impact that they decided to name the scholarship after him. The family said that Dan saw the potential in, and believed in young people and their abilities to improve and make the most of opportunities afforded them.
“Dan was floored when he heard that this scholarship was named in his honor,” Sharon said. “That was really unexpected and very moving for him.”
Another time Dan helped a student who was in crisis mode after he and his father showed up with a U-Haul to move into a residence hall on campus in the fall. The problem was that student hadn’t been accepted into SUNY Oswego. He hadn’t even finished his application to the college, but the student was too afraid to tell his father. Dan talked with the student and offered to help him talk with his father, which they did together. He also scrambled to help the student enroll in a community college, where he was able to take the U-Haul and move into a residence hall there for the fall semester.
Sharon continues to hear stories about the impact her husband had on so many people, many of whom are part of the Laker family.
“Everyone knew Dan,” she said, recalling how after she began working at Oswego five years ago, a custodial staff member in Culkin Hall asked her why she had a photo of Dan on her desk. “I feel very proud to be Dan’s wife. He made so many connections not only with people in his office in Sheldon but with colleagues across campus and with students and their families.”
Those who knew him, knew him.
“He was such a unique human being, most known for his humor and wit, but deeply passionate about seeing the good in others,” Sheehan said. “He showed genuine appreciation to everyone…and I mean everyone. His uncanny ability to combine his unique giftings with the highest level of emotional intelligence quickly won people over.”
“Dan had a true gift to connect with people, to make them laugh,” Maxwell said. “I can’t tell you how honored I am to have known Dan. He was a gift to the entire Oswego community.”
Gifts can be made in Dan’s memory to the Daniel B. Griffin ’92 M’00 Memorial Scholarship fund online, by mail to the Oswego College Foundation, University Development, 215 Sheldon Hall, Oswego, NY 13126, or by telephone at 315-312-3003.
Gifts can also be made to the Dan Griffin ’92 M’00 Second Chance Scholarship.
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