Charles James Grant Griffin

Charles James Grant Griffin, 67, of Manhattan Kansas, passed away Wednesday, April 21st 2021. He died peacefully at home, surrounded by his wife and daughters. Charlie was raised in Evanston, Illinois. After graduating from Northwestern University, Charlie served for 4 years in the U.S. Navy. Upon his return, he earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Missouri, before becoming a faculty member of the Department of Communication Studies at Kansas State University. His primary research interests were rhetorical criticism, the history of American public address, and the rhetoric of religion in American life. In his 33 years at K-State, he was a beloved professor and colleague to many.

Charlie would not have wanted to list his achievements, which perhaps is the best way to summarize him. He was the very definition of humility and sacrifice. His compassion, generosity and kindness were abundant. He was the devoted husband of Dorothy Griffin (née Morse) for almost 40 years, and the dedicated, loving, and often exasperated father to Marion Marie and Elizabeth Frances; and welcoming father-in-law to Will and Justin. Last year, he became ‘Grandpa’ to Charlie Eleanor, and was excited to welcome another grandchild this summer. Further, he was a cherished brother, son-in-law, and uncle to an extended family who all admired him deeply.

Charlie fought hard against Multiple System Atrophy for many years, but on Wednesday, finally succumbed to it. MSA robbed Charlie of so many things, but what it could never take from him was his quick wit, sharp intellect, and infectious charm. We choose not to dwell on what this disease took from us, but instead remember our Dad as the goofy, caring, and hardworking man that he was: a man who could so often be found standing in the kitchen late at night eating ice cream and popcorn, who could not say ‘no’ to his daughters and thusly was caregiver for many pets he claimed he didn’t want. We remember how easily he could forgive. We remember his selflessness and wisdom. We remember his beautiful way with words, spoken and written. We remember his cheerful laugh, and gentle demeanor.

Survivors include his wife, Dorothy CM Griffin, daughters; Marion (Will) Heck, Elizabeth (Justin) Wheatley, brother, Andrew (Wendy) Griffin, sister, Dorty Nowak, granddaughter, Charlie Eleanor Griffin Heck.

Charlie joins his parents, Leland and Dorothy, in death. Those of us that he has proceeded will feel his absence always. We are all so thankful to have known him and been loved by him. A memorial gathering will take place in May for his Manhattan, KS friends, followed by a small family gathering in his hometown of Evanston, IL later in the summer.

17 Condolences

  1. Ramona Wheatley on April 22, 2021 at 6:17 pm

    I am so sorry to hear of the passing of Charlie. I first met him in 2013 at the wedding of Elizabeth and Justin. I was drawn to him immediately because he was so personable and easy to talk with. My sincere condolences to Dorothy and his children. This is just a goodbye for now, Charlie. We will meet again.

  2. Karen Knox on April 23, 2021 at 10:44 am

    My condolences and prayers to Dorothy and the family. I am so saddened to hear of Charlie’s passing. It was a blessing and my honor to work with Charlie in CSTD at KSU. Charlie was a true leader – a leader by example. Those who did not recognize this missed an opportunity to learn and become better individuals. I saw Charlie making a difference in the world. I saw him working to make the world a better place. Humble – yes. Extremely insightful – yes. Compassionate – yes. Forgiving – yes. Classy – yes. Brilliant – yes, yes, yes. Charlie was an absolute “teacher” – students didn’t have to adapt to him, he adapted to them. And that was because he cared. I was so fortunate to experience a man always looking for the best in people, cultivating them and continually working towards win-win solutions. The world needs more “Charlie’s”. I will forever remember him with such deep respect and admiration and gratitude.

  3. George Wame Matthews on April 23, 2021 at 11:16 am

    I was fortunate enough to have Charlie as the Head of my department when I was first hired at K-State. I could not have asked for a better Head. I am so sorry to hear of his passing. He was a good colleague and a good friend. He will be dearly missed.

  4. Sally Bailey on April 23, 2021 at 11:58 am

    Charlie was one of the kindest, fairest, and most open people I’ve known at K-State and backed up many ideas I had as Director of Graduate Studies in Theatre, which at the time was within the Communication Studies, Theatre and Dance Department. Without his willingness to support the creation of a separate theatre master’s degree (separate from the Communication Studies MA) we would have lost our MA when Theatre was moved to be part of the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance. He was always willing to listen to faculty and students and to work towards a better way of working together. I will always think of him in the same category of person as Fred Rogers.

  5. Dana Pinkston on April 23, 2021 at 12:08 pm

    This is heartbreaking news. Charlie was always such a good, kind man and colleague. He was warm, beyond generous and friendly. I am fortunate that I was able to work with him for so many years.

  6. Wendy Anderson on April 23, 2021 at 2:11 pm

    I am so sorry for the loss of Charlie in this world. Charlie was my advisor during my masters’ degree in the early 2000s. Charlie was the kindest, most gentle advisor I’ve ever had the honor of working with during my academic career. Charlie was gracious and understanding and gave so much to his students. I hope to continue on his legacy by carrying on with my students with similar generosity.

    I wish you all love, peace, and grace during this time of transition.

  7. Sarah Schwartz on April 23, 2021 at 4:17 pm

    I remember Charlie’s classes more than any of my other classes at K-State. His kindness and generosity were well known through out the Communication Studies program, and I am so happy I got a chance to know him. Even years after I graduated, I was able to reach out to him for a reference, and I believe he is one of the reasons I’m where I’m at now. My condolences to Charlie’s family for their loss, he will be dearly missed.

  8. Joyce Meredith Thornburg on April 23, 2021 at 6:47 pm

    Joyce Meredith Thornburg,My sweet little red head cousin. Always fun and funny. Remember family trips to Evanston. Elizabeth Frances named for my mother Frances Ellen Griffin Meredith. He was very important to her and he so considerate to her. He will be greatly missed by family!

  9. John Hoellen on April 23, 2021 at 8:02 pm

    I was a fraternity brother of Charlie’s (we called him Chuck) at Northwestern University, Phi Gamma Delta, known as Fiji. Chuck was president of the chapter his senior year. News of his passing has elicited an outpouring of sadness among those of us who knew him then — along with the recollection of many fond memories. In sum, he was beloved. I forwarded this morning Chuck’s obituary, which summed up so well the friend we knew and loved. As one brother put it, he “obviously remained exactly the same guy for the next 45 years.” High praise.

    Conversations with Chuck were easy, fun, comfortable, and comforting. He had a philosophical bent, which fit just fine with his impish side. You could talk with Chuck about life, things big and small, serious and silly (ok, back then, often more silly than serious).

    Chuck did not have to say a lot. He measured his words and his moments. From the ridiculous to the sublime — and everything in between — he was impactful. And everything he did or said always was layered with a profound decency. Equanimity and warmth were his calling cards. At least that is how I remember it and him.

    We, his Fiji fraternity brothers, will miss him greatly.

  10. Suzy Auten on April 23, 2021 at 8:29 pm

    I’m very sorry to learn of Charlie’s passing. He was such an inspiration to so many and I’m honored to have had him serve as my major professor. His wit and charm were central to his teaching and in his everyday life. He helped his students to appreciate rhetorical criticism and he pushed me to always try harder—finally earning an A in the last class I took from him. I’m more proud of that than I am of my MA! Wishing you comfort, strength and peace in the days ahead.

  11. LeAnn Brazeal on April 24, 2021 at 12:21 pm

    What can I say that has not already been said? Charlie was a gifted scholar and an extraordinarily kind and compassionate human being. I spent the first half of my career at K-State, and I learned so very much from Charlie. I feel very fortunate to have been his colleague. His example – as a scholar, teacher, and person of faith – will always inspire me.

  12. MaryJeanette Smythe on April 24, 2021 at 12:43 pm

    Charlie was a delightful presence in the classroom, a seminar, or at a social gathering at the University of Missouri. Clif Cornwell and I used to argue about whether he and Dorothy first met in my Persuasion class or one of his courses, but I remember the two of them sitting beside one another in 125 Switzerland Hall vividly. Charlie’s warmth and wit were, as the foregoing memorials attest, invaluable assets throughout his career and life. Though he would drop his chin and shake his head in embarrassment, Charlie embodied the Quintilian ideal of “the good man, speaking true.” Godspeed and rest well.

  13. Keith Miller on April 25, 2021 at 10:22 pm

    Charlie was the reason why I decided to get my masters degree. He was a wonderful teacher, one of the best I have ever had. May he rest in peace.

  14. David Procter on April 27, 2021 at 10:04 am

    I am truly saddened by the news that my good friend, Charlie, has passed away. When I came to K-state in 1987, Charlie and I were assistant professors together. i feel like we grew up together. We used to walk to the K-State Student Union and buy coffee and just talk about everything – family, sports, K-State, and politics. I loved hearing about Marion and Elizabeth and Dorothy. My time with Charlie always made me feel better about life.

    As others have said, Charlie was among the most kind, the most humble, the most gentle people I have ever known. When you talked with Charlie, he always made you feel special, like you were the most important person in the room. I liked Charlie very much and value the time that I spent as his friend and colleague. It is a true loss that he has passed away.

    Condolences to Dorothy, Marion, Elisabeth and your families.

  15. Mike Messick on May 6, 2021 at 8:58 am

    Chuck was a fraternity brother and a friend of mine at Northwestern. We spent countless hours doing all things that young men do when thrown together at university. It was a fun, enriching, and learning time and everyone enjoyed Chuck’s friendship and participation in collegiate pursuits.

    In the very early 1970’s my family built a fishing camp/ cottage on Manitoulin Island, Ontario Canada. I invited Chuck to go with me to drive a truckload of furniture to this cottage and help with getting things organized. Must have been the summer of ‘72 or ‘73. We had a great time unloading the truck, working on the cottage, fishing, and yes…enjoying the odd Molson and Labatts.

    I am saddened to learn of Chuck’s passing. The world has lost a good man.

  16. John Jasso on June 14, 2021 at 3:19 pm

    I’m just now in June learning of Charlie’s passing. Although these words might not be read by anyone, I thought them worth recording. After switching schools and switching majors, the first rhetoric class I ever took was Charlie’s “Rhetoric and Western Thought,” in which I gained my first exposure to both the Sophists and to Plato. It starting me on a path of learning that I am still on to this day – through a graduate education and academic career that Charlie supported and encouraged at every step. So, I can say truly of Charlie that I would not be where I am, or who I am, today without his influence at key moments in my life. For that, I am sincerely and eternally grateful. Thank you and may God Bless you, Charlie.

  17. Christina Foust on July 5, 2021 at 1:04 pm

    Charlie was such a caring, bright teacher and scholar. He influenced me first as my professor at KSU in the 1990s. I still remember when he took our class (Rhetoric of Western Thought) to the library to look at the paintings early in the class, and to talk about what the liberal arts means and why we should study it. He was the first person who I had ever heard use female pronouns (she/her) as generic–so if there was a bird outside, he might say, “look at her go.” It was such a remarkable and simple thing to get us to question why we take the masculine as the normal/natural state. My own work on social movements is greatly influenced by his article looking at “movement as memory” with the Eyes on the Prize documentary series. I love teaching and citing this piece, and consider myself so lucky to have studied with such a wonderful teacher and person. Condolences to Charlie’s family and all who are mourning him.

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