From the first day that a young Craig Griffing began attending school in his hometown of Picayune, Miss., he took his education seriously, heading into his bedroom to start his homework immediately after arriving home and not coming to dinner until he had finished. He never delayed starting any important paper and strove to always finish well before the deadline. Any time he made a bad grade he committed to studying harder and to ensuring he performed better the next time.
As the son of a radiologist father and public-school teacher mother, Griffing says he grew up in a family where the pursuit of higher education was an assumed fact of life for both his brother, Ward Griffing, and himself, which motivated his intense desire to succeed academically.
Griffing’s mother, Zoe McGovern Griffing, had worked as a teacher in New Orleans, La., since the 1950s but left her job after Griffing was born and became a stay-at-home mother. His father, Joseph Griffing, had started working as a radiologist at the now-closed Crosby Memorial Hospital in Picayune and later worked for Poplarville Hospital, Lumberton Hospital, Richton Hospital, the Biloxi V.A. Medical Center and the Louisiana State Charity Hospital in Bogalusa, La.
“I was never much of a partier and truly wanted to make something of myself growing up,” Griffing says. “My father wanted me to be the next doctor in the family, so that was the path I found myself on when I headed to Poplarville to enroll at Pearl River Community College.”
Griffing received a diploma from the junior college in 1977 and went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1979. He later began his medical studies at Tulane University, and though he managed to graduate in 1983, Griffing ultimately concluded that the medical profession was not a good fit for him after all.
“To be honest, part of me felt from day one that I was in the wrong place in college, but I found myself trying to stick with it even through times where my grades would be terrible or I struggled in trying to pass my licensing exams,” Griffing says. “Eventually, I had to tell myself the truth that what I was doing just wasn’t for me and that I needed to find success elsewhere.”
Griffing enrolled at Loyola University in New Orleans, where he received a master’s degree in business administration in 1986. His medical studies did not go to waste, however, as he combined his business and medical experience by pursuing a career in medical and nursing-home administration.
After his mother passed away in 2015, Griffing found himself with a sizable inheritance. His commitment to the pursuit of higher education remained strong even decades later, so Griffing decided to use the money to help pay the way for others and began establishing a series of scholarships at Pearl River Community College.
Griffing Family Scholarships at PRCC
Earlier this year, Griffing donated $30,000 to PRCC to establish the Griffing Family Tech Scholarship, which supports a number of career and technical education programs at the school. Programs that the scholarship covers include occupational therapy, massage therapy, biomedical-equipment repair, computer networking, coding, industrial electronics, heating and air-conditioning repair, precision manufacturing and more.
To qualify for the scholarship program, a student must demonstrate financial need, be a Mississippi resident, have a high-school diploma or equivalency, and maintain a 2.0 average while taking at least nine credit hours per semester.
“My goal in establishing these and other scholarship programs is to get the word out so people investigate, ask questions and take the steps to seek out an education,” Griffing says. “A lot of people nowadays shout about jobs and the job market, but it’s necessary to get access to training to make those jobs happen. When people enter four-year universities and have the funding, they’ll more than often stay, but when they don’t the universities will lose people.”
Griffing has previously funded two other scholarships at PRCC, the Craig Griffing Nursing Scholarship and the Zoe McGovern Griffing Teachers Scholarship. He has also made donations to the PRCC Foundation and the college’s food pantry, The Market, and has donated art pieces to the college’s Brownstone Center for the Arts. Griffing has also established three academic scholarships at Loyola University.
“Craig Griffing is a perfect example of a donor seeing a need and helping to fill that need,” Delana Harris, executive director of PRCC’s development foundation and alumni services, says. “A lot of traditional students coming out of high school benefit from programs like these, but we also have a lot of adult learners who may not be able to receive traditional financial aid for various reasons. That is why it is so important to have these scholarships in place so we can both get them enrolled and help them complete their credentials to find success in the workforce.”
‘The Jobs Are Out There’
Griffing worked in health-care administration from 1987 through 2000, when he moved to New Orleans and became a property manager. He owned a set of four old houses that contained nine apartments among them, one of which he lived in while renting the others. Griffing managed the properties until 2017, when he retired and moved back to Picayune. His experiences there opened his eyes to the importance of many of the jobs his scholarships now support.
“Managing those properties, I found myself needing to work with everything from roofers and plumbers to contractors and carpenters,” Griffing says. “Even when I was still in healthcare administration I was working with professions I’m now funding, like biomedical technicians, dieticians, electricians, housekeepers and so many more. Even my brother, who now works as a dentist out in Picayune, is working with dental technicians who get their training from PRCC.”
“The jobs are out there if people can get the education they need, but in a poor state like Mississippi, many can’t afford it,” he continues. “I can only do so much, but it’s worth it if I can spur people on and help them out by letting them go to college for free for a year or two.”
A current list of career and technical education programs is available at prcc.edu/academics/career-technical-education with links to each program’s information page.
To learn more about the Griffing Family Tech Scholarship and other PRCC programs, contact the appropriate campus’ CTE department. For PRCC’s Forrest County Campus, call 601-554-5539, email [email protected] or visit the FCC on U.S. 49 South. Call the Hancock Campus at 228-252-7000 and the Poplarville Campus at 6010-403-1101.
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