In the days since Tuesday's horrific Amtrak train derailment, more information has emerged on the eight people who were killed in the deadly crash. One victim was a beloved educator in New York, a person who strived to improve the lives of his students, particularly those in struggling communities. Who was Derrick Griffith? The Amtrak train crash victim was most recently the dean of student affairs and enrollment management at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York, which confirmed Griffith was killed in the crash through a statement posted to its website. Griffith was 42.
Griffith spent more than a decade in education, according to his LinkedIn profile. He was the founding director and principal of CUNY Preparatory High School, a program that helps teenage high school dropouts take the necessary classes to enroll in college. From 2011-2012, he was the executive director of Groundwork, an organization that supports young people living in urban communities with high poverty rates. In September 2011, Griffith joined Medgar Evers College, a senior college within the City University of New York system, as an assistant provost before becoming the dean of student affairs a year later. Not only was Griffith an educator, he was also student himself. Griffith was granted a doctorate degree in philosophy in urban education at CUNY Graduate Center just one month ago, according to the university.
In a statement, Medgar Evers College said:
Derrick was a pillar in the community. He served the students of Medgar Evers and the greater community with passion and he will be sorely missed. He was a champion for the downtrodden and he encouraged students to pursue education with vigor.
To really understand the impact Griffith had on students, just check out this half-hour video posted on YouTube that was produced as a farewell tribute to Griffith when he left CUNY Prep in 2011. Staffers and students tearfully recalled how inspirational Griffith was and thanked him for devoting eight years to educating and improving lives through the program. Describing Griffith, one student said, "He's like the LeBron James of CUNY Prep. He's MVP — Most Valuable Principal."
The video also showed Griffith speaking at a 2010 commencement ceremony, explaining how his passion for education stemmed from his own personal life.
I would not be here today ladies and gentlemen had it not been for the opportunity to go to college and the opportunity to persevere. So my passion for my work really is about my own experiences.
Griffith's death is truly a loss. Our condolences are with his family and loved ones.
Images: Medgar Evers College