Remembering Joan Griffis, 1938-2022

February 1st, 2023 , Posted by Marty Brown

We are saddened by the news that Joan Elizabeth Griffis, a loyal OSU Libraries and Press benefactor, died last month at age 84. A lifelong champion of libraries and learning, Joan was a founding member of the Library Advisory Council and created an endowed internship at OSU Press to introduce students to scholarly book publishing.

Joan grew up in Portland, graduating from Grant High School and Willamette University. She taught school in California before being recruited in 1966 by the National Association of Broadcasters to work as an on-air teacher in American Samoa. For two years, she worked in Pago Pago teaching English as a second language, with her recorded lessons being broadcast to high schools on all of the American Samoan islands. She spent an additional two years at the Feleti Teacher Training School, where she and a small staff worked closely with Samoan high school students, helping them to prepare for college on the mainland, while also conducting teacher training classes. This immersion in Samoan life and culture led to what Joan called her “itchy feet,” a lifetime passion for travel.

Joan Griffis in 2015 with Larry Landis, author of A School for the People: A Photographic History of Oregon State University

Joan led a full and fascinating life. She was a respected ice skating judge, an accomplished photographer, a diligent genealogist, a dedicated rose grower, and an ardent fan of Beaver football. Friends describe her as kind, funny, humble, and possessing a serious sweet tooth.

To honor her father, a long time promotions manager for the Oregonian and advertising executive, Joan in 2010 created an endowed internship at OSU Press. The year-long George P. Griffis Publishing Internship allows OSU students to gain hands-on experience in the general operations of a university publishing house and the opportunity to work closely with publishing professionals. Interns have attended book festivals, scholarly conferences, and the annual meeting of the Association of University Presses. The paid interns also learn about general work topics, including career development, networking, and resume writing.

Joan took great delight in meeting the interns, often inviting them to Portland for coffee and pastries at her favorite bakery. Several of the students were surprised when she advised them to start setting aside money as soon as possible for future travel. An unfulfilled wish of Joan’s was to circumnavigate the globe as a passenger on a small ship, recreating a trip her grandmother had taken years before.

Thanks to Joan’s kind generosity, the Griffis internship program will continue, benefiting OSU students for years to come. Tofa (goodbye in Samoan) to our friend!


Gifts in Joan’s memory to the Griffis Publishing Internship Endowment may be made online. Under “I want to give to” enter “Griffis” and then select “George P. Griffis OSU Press Internship Endowment Fund.” You may also donate by check. Please make your check payable to “OSU Foundation” with “Griffis Publishing Internship Endowment” in the memo line. Mail to:

OSU Foundation
4238 SW Research Way
Corvallis, OR 97333

[photo: Joan Griffis in 2015 with Larry Landis, author of A School for the People: A Photographic History of Oregon State University]

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