Buckeye for Life extraordinaire
Read about and hear from Archie Griffin as he moves into the new role of special advisor.
Ten years. That was about as long as Archie Griffin figured he’d serve as president and CEO of The Ohio State University Alumni Association. Much more, he reasoned, and he wasn’t leaving the door open for someone else to make his or her mark.
He stayed 11 and a half. And on July 1, he moved on to the role of special advisor in University Advancement, a position that will give him more time with his family (which now includes three grandkids) but still allow him to serve the university he loves.
“Archie lives his values,” said Chris Ito, chair of the association’s board of directors. “The one thing about him personally that I’ve come to appreciate … is that his constant focus, in terms of his decision-making, is always, ‘What is the right thing to do?’ His style is to lead by example. He’s fostered an organizational culture that is really a pay forward culture, an organization that really lives its values of serving the university.”
Planting Buckeye roots
On August 21, 1954, Archie Mason Griffin was born in what is now The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. His first Ohio State memory: Listening to football games on WVKO radio with his family. In junior high, he and his friend Bobby walked to campus from their Linden neighborhood on football Saturdays. Once the games started (and ticket takers purposely turned their backs), they'd slip in to watch the “Super Sophomores” of 1968 and other players of the day.
His senior year of high school, Ohio State contacted him late in the recruiting process, after his final football season at Eastmoor High School. By then, he had narrowed his college choices to Northwestern, the Naval Academy and Michigan, thinking he wouldn’t hear from Ohio State. Woody Hayes closed the deal over dinner, giving Archie the opportunity to play close to home so his parents could attend his games.
In his second game as a Buckeye, he ran for a school record 239 yards. Over four seasons, he amassed an OSU record 5,589 yards and earned two Heisman trophies, making him the only player ever to do so. With Archie at tailback, the Buckeyes go 40-5-1 and appear in four consecutive Rose Bowls.
Graduating a quarter early, the industrial relations major helped fulfill his parents’ expectation that all eight of their children earn college degrees.
"Pay forward," as alumni well know, was the familiar mantra of Griffin's coach, mentor and friend Woody Hayes.
Lessons he learned from Hayes reinforced the Griffin family's strong work ethic, providing Archie with the foundation for what he proudly calls his "life's work" with the university.
"Life's work" begins at Ohio State
After playing seven years in the NFL (and off-season work in the HR department of Columbus-based Shoe Corporation of America), he joined Ohio State in 1984 as assistant director of staff employment in what was then Personnel Services. The following year, Ohio State Athletics hired him as special assistant to Athletic Director Rick Bay, a role that included fundraising to build the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. He worked his way up to associate athletic director, with responsibility for half of Ohio State’s sports program.
In 2004, Archie accepted the position of president and CEO of The Ohio State University Alumni Association. “The people we have here are what make up the alumni association. They are the ones who have allowed us to do the job we’ve done."
"Whoever takes this job will have a great staff to work with, a very smart staff, a staff that’s in tune with what’s going on in alumni relations and wants to make sure we engage our alumni in ways that they want to be engaged. Hopefully that will allow for a great relationship between the university and its alumni. That’s what it’s all about.”
The next chapter
After more than 11 years in the role, Archie moved on July 1 to the role of special advisor in University Advancement, a position that will give him more time with his family (which now includes three grandkids) but still allow him to serve the university he loves. On May 10, 2015, he presented the spring commencement address to Ohio State’s largest-ever graduating class, which includes his youngest son, Adam, calling it “one of the biggest honors I can ever think of.”
“Just about everything,” Archie said when asked what Ohio State means to him. “The university is part of me. I guess that’s the best way to say it. I just feel that it’s part of who I am. I found that there’s no better place for me than Columbus, Ohio, working for The Ohio State University.”
It’s what he’s done for 31 years — first in what is now Human Resources, then for 19 years in Athletics and since January 1, 2004, as head of the alumni association.
What others have to say about Archie's commitment to Ohio State
“Archie’s name is synonymous with The Ohio State University. He has devoted his professional career to the university and has inspired us by his example of a life well lived. The university community is grateful for his leadership and contributions, and we are excited that he will continue to be part of Buckeye Nation.”Buckeye football coach Urban Meyer ’88 MA:
“Archie was my idol growing up. Every year in football I wore No. 45, because that was my guy. As a player, he was just the best running back in America, but he was much more than that. You’d hear Woody talking all the time about what a great person he was and how hard he worked. That really stood out.”Marchelle Moore, ’95, ’98 JD, vice chair of the alumni association board:
“As an alum, I’m grateful that he is staying on in this new capacity, because I know that ultimately it benefits my alma mater, which I love. It’s a very selfless act. He really is a wonderful, gracious person, and I think the university recognizes the asset it has in him.”Jack Park ’62, Ohio State football historian and author:
“He was a very talented athlete, but I think his work ethic and attitude were most important. He has always had such a positive attitude. I’ve known him 40 years, and he has never changed. He is still the same modest, humble guy that he was back then.”
“I’ve had people ask me, ‘Is he always that nice?’ And I say, ‘Yes. There’s no plastic in Archie Griffin.’ He wasn’t just a good football player. He’s a good human being. Anybody he can help — young, old and in between — he will.”Janet Porter, ’75, ’77 MHA, alumni association board member:
“Archie is a tremendously value-driven leader. The value of ‘We’re going to invest in students.’ The value of ‘Everyone gets treated with respect.’ The value of ‘Do the right thing.’ I just think about how proud his parents would be, because he has such a strong and clear moral compass. And that, in tough times, is one of the incredible characteristics that he’s brought to the alumni association.”Former Buckeye football coach Jim Tressel, president of Youngstown State University:
“I’m so excited for Archie and so proud of all that he’s done in every role that he has ever played. He was a great football player, as we all know, he was a great athletic administrator, he was a great development guy and he was an extraordinary ambassador for The Ohio State University Alumni Association. He’ll be great in his next chapter.”