Dr. Michael Griffith
Retired Vice-President of R&D, ARCO Chemical Company
Michael Griffith received a BS in Chemical Engineering from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, in 1963. He was the first PhD student of Boyd Professor Emeritus William A. Pryor. He received his PhD in physical-organic chemistry from LSU in January 1968. He did post-doctoral studies at the University of Minnesota in 1968.
Dr Griffith started his career with duPont, and spent a total of 30 years in industrial research and development before retiring in 1998. He is the retired Vice-President (VP) of Research & Development (R&D) for ARCO Chemical Company, a position he held for 7 years. Prior to that, from 1983-1990, he was VP of R&D for Owens-Corning Fiberglas. In each position he was responsible for the company's worldwide research, development of new products and processes, and technical support for all the business units. ARCO Chemical had R&D laboratories in the USA, Europe (Paris), and the Asia-Pacific region (Singapore). Among the many achievements that occurred under Griffith’s leadership were a revolutionary new metallurgy to make glass fibers for insulation in the extremely harsh conditions the process requires, and a breakthrough catalyst to make chemicals used for flexible polyurethane foams.
Dr Griffith started a fund for a Professorship in Chemistry through the LSU Foundation in the name of his PhD thesis advisor, Professor Pryor, and made further contributions with others to create a Chair. He is a charter member of the 1860 Society at LSU, where he has created a legacy fund for a professorship in the Department of Chemistry. He is a member of the LSU Alumni Association and the Tiger Athletic Foundation.
Dr Griffith was inducted into the LSU College of Sciences Hall of Distinction in 2013. At the ceremony he said “There's no way for me to ever repay LSU for all it did to get me on my way; and there's no way to repay Professor Bill Pryor for all he did then and has done over the years to teach me and support me.”
Dr Griffith has served on the Boards of various community and professional organizations:
- Industrial Research Institute, an association of Fortune 500 R&D executives;
- Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, a renowned research institute;
- Coastal Community Foundation (CCF), a philanthropic organization in Charleston, SC;
- Newark, Ohio, School Board (President);
- Kiawah/Seabrook (SC) Exchange Club, a service organization (President); and
- Development Board of the LSU College of Science for several years.
Professor William Pryor (left) and Dr Michael Griffith (right) in the lab in 1966.
Michael and his wife, Donna, have been involved in various philanthropic and educational activities. They endowed a scholarship at the United Negro College Fund and established a scholarship fund for minority students on Johns Island, SC. Michael and Donna mentored and financially supported several inner-city Philadelphia high school students via the Philadelphia Futures organization, and followed and assisted the students through and beyond their college years. Donna and Michael created the Lowcountry Artists Endowment through CCF in Charleston, SC, in 2004, to award a grant annually to a deserving, undiscovered artist. Recently they funded a CCF Endowment for Education and Community Outreach for the Charleston Symphony Orchestra. They are major contributors to the Brevard Music Center, Brevard, NC, where they have a summer home.
Michael lives with his wife of 52 years, Donna, in Charleston, SC. They have two grown sons, two daughters-in-law, and triplet grandchildren.
He offers this advice to current LSU Chemistry graduate students: “Select an endeavor that you love, and a mentor to guide you. Listen to the mentor now and in the future. It will amaze you how much wiser he/she gets as you grow.”
Profile contributed by Carol Taylor