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Larry Griggs, OSU leader in educational opportunity, has died
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Larry Griggs, OSU leader in educational opportunity, has died

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Larry Griggs, who spent decades working in educational opportunity programs at Oregon State University, has died at the age of 76, the university has announced.

Information on the cause, date and site of his death was not immediately available.

Griggs, a native of Meridian, Mississippi, whose grandmother was born into slavery, earned his doctorate at OSU and later headed the university’s Educational Opportunities Program.

“It’s so very sad,” said Steve Clark, the university’s vice president for marketing and university relations. He called Griggs “a great man.”

Throughout his career, according to a summary of information he provided for an OSU oral history project, Griggs focused on working with students of color and other underrepresented student demographics. He sought to emphasize the need to understand the experiences of these students and work with their life experiences in order to create a university atmosphere that is easier for them to adjust to.

Griggs also served on OSU’s Board of Visitors, which assisted the university president and OSU’s senior leadership team in carrying out “the university’s mission in ways that enhance access, retention and opportunity for traditionally underrepresented and underserved students, faculty and staff.”

Griggs, in the 2011 oral history interview, identified five categories of underrepresented students that his department sought to recruit to OSU, including impoverished students of color, older students, students from rural areas, students who struggled in high school, and single parents.

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One of his frustrations, he said, was that faculty and administrators often did not understand the needs of these students. Griggs worked to emphasize the importance of recognizing the disadvantages these students have faced and recognizing their academic strengths, which they may not have really had the chance to develop prior to coming to the university.

Although he retired from OSU in 2008, Griggs still remained involved with the university. He was on hand April 15, 2015, for the opening of the Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center, which was named for the individual who started the Educational Opportunities Program.

During his remarks at the opening, Griggs noted the racial turbulence that roiled OSU in the late 1960s and stressed the importance of Harris’ work: getting students internships, recruiting and organizing job fairs.

“A lot of this was the vision of Mr. Harris,” said Griggs at the event, while also noting that the fact that such programs were needed showed a lack of foresight.

“It was embarrassing for the state of Oregon,” said Griggs of the dearth of programs to help Black and other under-represented students succeed in college.

Griggs also was on campus May 21, 2019, for a 50th anniversary re-enactment of a historic walkout by Black students. The May event symbolized both how much has changed and how much remains the same for students of color at OSU.

On March 5, 1969, 47 African American students, virtually the school’s entire Black student body, marched from the Memorial Union through the east entrance of campus to Avery Lodge on Southwest Madison Avenue.

The Black Student Union organized the walkout to protest football coach Dee Andros’ threat to remove Black linebacker Fred Milton from the team for refusing to shave his goatee, which violated a team rule against facial hair.

Griggs was in the front row for the silent march, along with Terrance Harris, assistant director of the Black Cultural Center, and Dorian Smith, a former OSU football player who is now coordinator of Black student access and success at the university.

Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@gazettetimes.com or 541-812-6116. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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