ROCK HILL, S.C. - Mary Roland Griffin – Winthrop alumna, professor emerita, athletic director emerita and a pioneer in women’s sports – passed away Monday, Jan. 3, 2011, at the Wayne T. Patrick Hospice House in Rock Hill, S.C.
A graveside service is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 6, at 2 p.m. at Mount Hope Cemetery in Florence, S.C. Arrangements are being handled by Belk Funeral Home in Darlington, S.C.
A celebration of life service will be held at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 21, in the West Center. It will be followed immediately by the dedication of the Mary Roland Griffin Human Performance Lab, also in the West Center.
Winthrop President Anthony DiGiorgio called Griffin a "Winthrop icon" as he noted her passing to faculty and staff. "Mary Roland Griffin was ahead of her time in many ways. Not only was she in the vanguard of educators who realized that the scholarship opportunities and many skills learned by student-athletes were just as useful and meaningful to women as men, she also raised awareness of the importance of physical education for each generation," the president said. "Her dedication to Winthrop continued into her retirement, and she will be sorely missed."
Griffin served as a member of the founding committee of the South Carolina Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women and as state president, regional president and a member of the national board. She held leadership positions in the South Carolina Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, & Dance, the Southern Academy for Women in Physical Activity, Sport, & Health, and the Officiating Services Organization. She was recognized with the Pathfinder Award from the National Association for Girls and Women’s Sports (NAGWS) and as a NAGWS Honor Fellow, the highest award given by that organization.
After graduation from Winthrop in 1950, Griffin taught public school in South Carolina and at Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Va. She earned both her master’s and doctoral degrees at Louisiana State University before returning to Winthrop in 1966 to teach physical education. She served in nearly every faculty leadership position at Winthrop including chair of the Graduate faculty and Faculty Marshal. She became Winthrop’s first athletics director in 1970 and served in that position until 1977 when she became head of the physical education department, retiring in 1994. As head women’s basketball coach, her teams in the early 1970s still hold the record for most wins and the architect of Winthrop’s only 20-game winning season.
She was part of a tight-knit group of faculty members and alumni who make up the physical education department. "She was an incredibly gracious human being but under that graciousness was a fierce competitor who truly loved students, coaching, Winthrop and basketball," said Stevie Chepko, professor and chair of the Physical Education, Sport and Human Performance Department. "She was at the forefront of the battle to get Title IX passed in order to give women the right to play sports at the high school and college levels."
Griffin's name sets a high standard for Winthrop students. The Mary Roland Griffin Award in Athletics is given to the female athlete with the highest grade point average and the Mary Roland Griffin Award for graduate study is given to the outstanding graduate student in the Master of Science program in sport and fitness administration.
Other honors include:
• In 2004, she was inducted into the Winthrop University Athletic Hall of Fame.
• In 2003, Griffin was recognized as one of the 10 women with S.C. ties who have had a major impact on women’s athletics in the state and nation since Title IX was adopted in 1972.
• In 2001, she was deemed a National Girls and Women’s Sports Honor Fellow.
• In 2000, Griffin was named the first Athletic Director Emerita at Winthrop. She was the first athletics director at Winthrop and helped build the men’s sports program after Winthrop went co-ed.
• In 1993, she was honored with a "Woman of Achievement Award" by the SC commission on Women.
Memorials can be made to the Winthrop University Foundation, 638 Oakland Ave., Rock Hill, SC 29733, designated to the Mary Roland Griffin Graduate Scholarship Fund.