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A Much-Honored Military Veteran and Longtime Professor Adds another Laurel to His Collection

One man and two women

On November 7, 2015, the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) presented Professor of Construction Engineering and Management Fletcher “Bud” Griffis with a lifetime achievement award. It was a fitting tribute for a man who has 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.

Griffis, a retired U.S. army colonel, has, indeed, shown an ability to pack more service into a single day than many people perform in a year. Over the course of just five months in 1969, for example, 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. 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.)

Born in 1938 in Florida, Griffis had never considered a military career until being offered a spot at West Point--reportedly, 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. 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.

He has now spent an equal time in academia and has found that work equally gratifying—inspiring countless students, writing two textbooks, and managing numerous research projects, among other activities. A highlight for him each year since 1989, when he took on the duty, has been overseeing the SAME New York City Post Scholarship Fund, which recently grew to over $3.3 million. To date, the fund has provided more than $5 million in scholarships to 5,400 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. (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. Additionally, he has 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.)

“Professor Griffis has led a life of exemplary service to our City, the nation and to our School,” said Katepalli Sreenivasan, Dean of the NYU Tandon School of Engineering. “I am thrilled that he is being honored by the Society of American Military Engineers for his multi-faceted work, and it seems very appropriate that this recognition came to him right on the cusp of Veteran’s Day.”