On December 11, Linda Smith Griffin’s colleagues, friends, and family celebrated her and wished her the best for her retirement, which will begin in 2020. Community leaders and colleagues reflected on her tremendous impact at LSU and on its students, and Dean of LSU Libraries Stanley Wilder shared the following remarks:
Thank you all for coming! This is an amazing turnout, or maybe it’s just what I should have expected. Linda Smith Griffin’s long career here touched so many people, and so profoundly. I’d like to give you a bit of a history of her time here.
Linda started at LSU back in 1986, working as a Library Associate. Now, I started my first stint at LSU in 1989, and I’ve got a vivid memory of Linda in those early years because she impressed me from the start as an unusually smart, committed person, eager to learn and with this bone-deep love of higher education, faith really in its power to change lives.
Linda was so good in those years that it was a natural thing that we encourage her to attend library school, which she did. She then proceeded to earn a tenure-track librarian position in 1996.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with our work, I can tell you that it’s never easy to go from the role that Linda was playing to the bigger role she now found herself in. But Linda just thrived, she was born for this. She immediately set about establishing a national reputation for herself, in the American Library Association and NASIG. She learned her cataloging craft to masterful levels and conducted research that she published in peer-reviewed journals. Of course, she sailed through her tenure review, becoming the first African American librarian to earn tenure under our modern, and rigorous, standards.
So yes, Linda was an emerging leader in our profession, but I have to say my favorite part of her career lay elsewhere, in her mentorship and outreach. Shortly after getting tenure, Linda invented a new role for herself that we quickly wrote into her job description. She made herself the Libraries’ liaison to African American, underrepresented, and international students and student groups. That led naturally to her establishing herself as the Libraries’ liaison to LSU’s African and African American Studies faculty, assisting with their research and teaching.
I want to stress how innovative that kind of role was in those days: today, every research library does this sort of thing, but Linda built it here herself, and I know she faced her share of challenges and doubters along the way. But in the process, she touched generations of students’ lives, and we’re going to hear from some of them in just a moment.
Now, I left LSU in 1999, and only returned in 2014, but I want to tell you about the Linda Smith Griffin I encountered at that point. Here was a professional at the apex of her career, respected for her technical mastery and her human touch alike. She served two terms as president of the Black Faculty and Staff Caucus at LSU. She also served on the Executive Board for the African and African American Studies Program at LSU, and on the Advisory Board for ESSENCES (Encouraging Student Scholarship and Excellence through Native-Centered Education). It was obvious that LSU appreciated her work, as I will relate by reading for you a list of the awards she’s won:
- 2000 LSU Black Student Union faculty member of the year;
- 2002 LSU University Volunteer Service Award;
- Black Faculty and Staff Caucus at LSU, President’s Outstanding Dedicated Service Award, 2002 recipient;
- 2011 Black Faculty and Staff Caucus at LSU, President’s Outstanding Dedicated Service Award;
- 2011 Fellowship to attend the Harvard Leadership Institute for Academic Librarians;
- LSU Black Student Union (BSU) Faculty Honors, 2011 recipient;
- 2014 Louisiana Library Association, Anthony Benoit Mid-Career Award;
- 2015 at the African American Cultural Center’s (AACC) Nia Award;
- 2018 LSU Libraries’ Carolyn H. Hargrave Senior Leadership Award;
- and the 2019 Distinction in Diversity award from the LSU Clarence L. Barney Jr. African American Cultural Center.
I may have left out some awards there, but you get the point.
I want to add a more personal note: I don’t mind telling you that when Linda Griffin retires (becoming the first African American Librarian to retire from the LSU Libraries in the process. The first but not the last!), I’m going to have lost the biggest supporter of my professional career. Linda gives me credit here for things I can promise you I had nothing to do with. I can only aspire to be as good as she thinks I am.
I know that those of you in this room have felt that same love from Linda, I’m not special! Well, Linda, that’s what we have to offer you, now and forever. We love you, we’re so grateful to know you, to have worked with you, doing the righteous work of making Louisiana and the world a better place. We’re so proud of you, thank you, Linda!