The Magazine of the University of Minnesota Duluth

Volume 17 • Number 1 • Winter 2000


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A Remarkable Twosome

Two Extraordinary Duluthians Remember UMD

Karen and Len Griffith never attended UMD and neither did their three children, but that doesn't stop them from having a strong connection to the university overlooking Lake Superior.

Karen said, "We spent the major part of our lives in Duluth, that is where we raised our family; that is where we connected to a community; and UMD was a part of our lives."

Karen is a native Duluthian. Her connection to UMD started early. She attended the Duluth State Teachers College lab school. Many times her grade school class was taught by DSTC student teachers. Sometimes an entire college class or two would stand in the back of the room. And on very special occasions, Karen and her pint-sized classmates would travel through the tunnel to the Old Main auditorium for presentations.

After she graduated from Duluth Central, Karen went off to the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. It was there that she met Len who had returned to school in Minnesota after serving in WWII. They were married in 1948, but their time together didn't last long. Len was off to serve in the Korean conflict; he was stationed in Japan for six months.

Back stateside, Len and Karen packed up their babies, one born while Len was out of the country, and moved to Duluth. Len began his profession in banking; his entire career was spent at the same company. It began as an American National Bank, then changed to First American National, then Norwest Bank and now Wells Fargo.

Both Len and Karen dove into Duluth civic and community activities. Len worked to establish the Arena Auditorium and Spirit Mountain. Karen took on projects with Polinsky Rehabilitation, Northwoods Children's Home and the American Field Service where she worked with 14 schools and chapters from Duluth to Grand Marais.

The three children eventually took flight. Now their oldest, David, is an attorney in Connecticut; Margaret has moved to Wheaton, Illinois and Tom, the former East High School hockey player, is working in real estate in Minneapolis.

With an empty nest, Karen had time to reach out. She worked with Bruce Stender at St. Scholastica for a time, but UMD eventually pulled her away to help run a summer festival of the arts in 1980 and 1981. She was no stranger to UMD. The Griffiths often held UMD season hockey tickets,and they attended dozens of functions at UMD.

When the remarkable twosome took a flight of their own to retire in Arizona, they didn't forget UMD. They gave slide shows about the UMD summer seniors residences to groups all over Arizona. They still keep in touch with their friends from UMD. They still keep UMD in their lives.

Karen and Len Griffith have made a gift annuity to UMD. It is a method of giving that has a lot of advantages. By using a gift annuity, the donor receives a designated percentage of the value of the gift for his or her lifetime.  

Karen said, "We considered dozens of organizations when we decided to make the gift annuity but we kept coming back to the flyer from UMD." So they made the commitment to UMD and remembered a university that is very much part of an active community.

-- Cheryl Reitan

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