Longtime Deacon: Julie Griffin Reflects on Her Years at Wake Forest
Dec. 1, 2010
By Calais Zagarow, WakeForestSports.com
On a warm summer day in 1964, a fresh face appeared on Wake Forest University's campus in Winston-Salem, N.C. She was a rising senior in high school from Nashville, Tenn. who was on the prowl for a new place to call home the following fall. Forty-six years later, she is one of the brightest beacons of Demon Deacon pride and arguably the most faithful fan that Wake Forest will ever muster.
Her name is Julie Griffin.
Griffin's love for Wake Forest began on that fateful day in 1964. She had heard about Wake Forest from a friend from her hometown, but it was not until she came to Winston-Salem that she realized that Wake was the only place she wanted to be.
"I came over and visited Wake Forest's campus and absolutely fell in love with it," said Griffin. "I remember my parents saying that when I got to Wake Forest, they had lost me forever. I just loved it."
Griffin enrolled at the University in the fall of 1965 and began what she classifies as the perfect Wake Forest experience. She loved her hall and her roommate and reveled in being a Demon Deacon cheerleader for four years.
"I made lifetime friends," says Griffin. "The people that I met here still mean so much to me. It was four of the best years of my life."
Griffin graduated from Wake Forest with a degree in psychology in 1969 and proceeded to work in personnel for an insurance company in Winston-Salem. Two years later, Wake Forest offered her a position in the alumni office.
"They wanted me to work at Wake Forest for pay, but what they didn't realize is that I would have swept floors for free at Wake Forest just to be here," says Griffin.
In her position in the alumni office, Griffin worked with the annual fund campaign and the Alumni Committee, a group for female alumnae. She partly attributes this experience to the undying love for Wake Forest that she is known for on campus.
"I found everybody to be very special people, and they all had such a strong love for Wake," said Griffin. "It really reinforced the way I already felt about the school." After working in the alumni office, Griffin moved to Charlottesville, Va. where she worked for the University of Virginia. Fortunately for Wake Forest, Griffin could not bare to wear orange and blue for long.
One year later, she found her way back to Winston-Salem and worked for the Deacon Club, the fundraising arm of Wake Forest's athletic department.
Griffin did fundraising and prepared game programs and media guides for the university until she and her husband, Cook, moved to Charlotte.
They returned to Winston-Salem soon after and in 1985, Griffin rejoined the Wake Forest family as the Varsity Club Director.
"It was the most fun and wonderful job because I had the privilege of getting to know all of these athletes that I had heard about as an undergrad," says Griffin. "There were so many Wake Forest legends that I had the opportunity to meet."
Griffin loved the position because it allowed her to reunite people and reconnect former Deacons with their alma mater.
However, in 2001, after 16 years with the Varsity Club, Griffin was asked to run the CHAMPS/Life Skills program for student-athletes. She has held the position ever since.
Throughout her Wake Forest journey, several members of the Demon Deacon community have had a lasting impact on Griffin. One of those was Professor Jasper Memory, an education professor for whom the road through south campus is named.
"When you took his class, you just realized how much he loved Wake Forest," says Griffin. "The stories he told about former athletes and Wake Forest professors just always resonated with me. I loved that man and he made me love Wake Forest even more."
There are also several former Demon Deacon athletes that have left an impression on Griffin throughout her time at Wake Forest. Charlie Davis was enrolled at Wake Forest at the same time as Griffin and was the first of the WFU Hall of Fame players that she got to know.
Griffin has also become very familiar with athletes and coaches who were at Wake before her time like Dickie Hemric, Len Chappell and the legendary coach Bones McKinney.
"There are some people whom you meet that don't live up to their expectations because the stories about them are bigger than they are," says Griffin. "Bones McKinney is one person who was greater than the stories I had heard about him. I treasure, to this day, the relationship I have with Bones and his wife."
Then, of course, like everyone in the Demon Deacon family, Griffin was greatly affected by the story of Brian Piccolo, the former Wake Forest football player who passed away from cancer soon after his professional career began.
"I never got to meet Brian, but his story had a real impact on me," says Griffin. "I am so proud of the Wake Forest students for the Brian Piccolo Cancer Fund and the money that they have raised in Brian's name."
Along with the many Wake Forest legends she has met, Griffin enjoys spending time reflecting on how much the university has changed since she first set foot on campus 46 years ago.
"When I entered Wake Forest it was a very small private school. The entire student body could fit in Wait Chapel," says Griffin.
She remembers former Wake Forest president Harold Tribble telling her freshman class that they were all expected to speak to each other when they passed on the quad, even if they did not know each other; he insisted that they view themselves as a family.
Griffin also recalls how strict the university was socially. There were no co-ed dorms, so all of the women lived in Johnson and Bostwick Halls and the men lived on what is now Hearn Plaza.
There was also a closed study every night from 7-10 p.m. followed by a 30-minute period during which students were allowed to have visitors in the lobby of their dorm.
"I was in school in the 1960s, and they were just different times," says Griffin. "Social policies have changed a lot."
Griffin feels that a more distinctive change than social policies has been in the competitiveness and prestige of Wake Forest's athletic teams.
"During my four years at Wake, I don't think we had a winning season in football or basketball," says Griffin. "So athletically, we have become so much more competitive, and we have more sports. "
Griffin has noticed however that, with the growth of Wake Forest and its surrounding community, students have more options for entertainment besides athletic events.
"When I went to Wake, there weren't as many things to do off-campus, so everyone went to the games," says Griffin. "You went. That was part of the social life of the school. I'm not sure everybody goes now, which I think is sad. They miss out on a lot when they don't go to the games."
Griffin knows that there is a core group of students who do come to every athletic event. However, she still hopes to see the number of students who support the Demon Deacons increase.
"If I could wish for anything, I would wish that all of the students would go to all of the ball games. Students make such a huge difference," says Griffin. "I just think, these are your friends out here representing you and it means a lot to our athletic teams to have support from their fellow students."
Griffin also hopes that students realize that Wake Forest's athletic success and growth is part of what has helped escalate the small, private school into a nationally acclaimed university.
"I just think athletics is the window through which everyone else views your campus," says Griffin. "People don't hear about our wonderful chemistry department or our debate team as much. They hear about our basketball team or our golf alumni when they're winning."
Fortunately for the Wake Forest community, Griffin will continue to support her Demon Deacons regardless of how they perform in the future. She fell in love with the university 46 years ago and there is no turning back now.
"It's the relationships that I've made over the years with students from my generation, to the students behind me and ahead of me that have proved that Wake Forest is a very special place," says Griffin. "I know there are good people, students and athletes everywhere, but I can't imagine doing what I do anywhere else. This is home for me."
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