In Memoriam: Professor Emeritus Bud Griffis

The entire NYU Tandon community mourns the passing on March 20 of Professor Emeritus Fletcher H. (Bud) Griffis, a beloved and respected figure at our school for more than 20 years.   

Born on April 22, 1938, in Florida, Griffis held a bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point (‘60), and two master’s degrees (’65, ’72) and a Ph.D. (’71) from Oklahoma State University. He was also a graduate of the U.S. Army War College (’80).

He had reportedly never considered a military career until being offered a spot at West Point — recruiters had targeted him because of his skills on the gridiron — but once assigned to the 82d Airborne Division at Fort Bragg after graduation, he realized that he had found something of a calling. Over the course of just five months in 1969, he supervised the construction of a 27-mile highway that was used as a supply route from the southern Mekong Delta to Saigon, and in 1980 he helped lead a project to build air bases in the Negev, which were required for the Camp David Peace Accords to meet the schedule negotiated by President Jimmy Carter between Egypt and Israel. Although some insiders had predicted that the latter work could take a decade, Griffis needed less than a third of that. (The road project in Vietnam earned him a Legion of Merit, and his many other military honors include a Bronze Star, a Meritorious Service Medal, and a Vietnamese Honor Medal First Class.)

Becoming head of the Army Corps of Engineers’ New York District in 1983 and working on such important projects as early-warning radar systems and flood-prevention programs, he ultimately spent a quarter-century in the military.

On November 7, 2015, the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) presented him with a lifetime achievement award. It was a fitting tribute for a man who had been a national director of the organization, which unites its members in both the public and private sectors to prepare for — and overcome — natural and manmade disasters; a past president and director of its New York City Post; and a longtime head of his Post’s Scholarship Fund.

A highlight for him each year since 1989, when he took on the duty, was overseeing the SAME New York City Post Scholarship Fund, which has provided millions of dollars in scholarships to thousands of engineering and architecture students at colleges, universities and service academies across the country — including a large cohort from the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, whose faculty he joined in 2000 after teaching at Columbia University for several years. 

Griffis served as Provost, Dean of Engineering, and Vice President for Academic Affairs here from 2002 to 2006, and at one point he oversaw all capital construction projects for the school. Under his leadership, the Othmer Residence Hall was finished on time and under budget, a rarity in NYC construction. Additionally, he helped make NYU a hub of research on emergency preparedness, as director of the New York State Resilience Institute for Storms & Emergencies, known as NYS RISE.

In addition to his service to the nation and to our school, he maintained a distinguished record of service to the professional community, and his many posts included: fellow and member of the National Board of Directors of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), director and president of the ASCE Metropolitan Section, chair of the Construction Division of ASCE, member of the National Committee for Infrastructure Research and Policy, member of the New York Building Congress, member of the National Academy of Construction, and board trustee of SAME and the ACE Mentor Program.

He was the author of two highly regarded books, New York City Infrastructure: A Policymakers’ Guide (1996) and Construction Planning for Engineers (2000), as well as numerous technical papers and reports

Griffis retired from NYU Tandon in December 2020 and was named an  Emeritus Professor. He will be sorely missed by everyone lucky enough to have worked and learned with him, including the many doctoral students he graduated.

Our deep condolences go to his wife, Nancy, and the rest of his family.