Kenneth "Ramon" Griffin, a passionate and respected Talent Identification Program administrator with a love for athletics and a commitment to community service, died Wednesday evening from injuries he suffered in a motorcycle accident that afternoon. He was 41.
Griffin, associate director of TIP, reportedly drove his car to work last Wednesday, but went home at lunch to get his 1991 Honda motorcycle so he could enjoy the good weather. On his way back to work at 1:29 p.m., Griffin was riding his motorcycle southbound on Guess Road when a northbound Plymouth van suddenly turned left in front of him. The van was turning into a parking lot near Garland Street. The motorcycle struck the passenger side of the van.
Griffin suffered upper-body injuries and died later that evening at Duke Hospital. Neither the van's driver, Javier Sanchez of Durham, nor its passengers were injured. Durham's Traffic Accident Control team is investigating the crash.
In the mid-80s, Griffin worked in Duke's Public Safety division. He returned to Duke after working in the Maryland House of Delegates and had, for the last 12 years, worked for TIP.
"He was genuine. There was nothing fake about him; he didn't put on any airs," said Vicki Stocking, a TIP researcher. "He was humble. He wanted to learn about people, and people wanted to know him."
Co-workers remembered Griffin as a sensitive administrator who was devoted to working with the program's students. "He was very passionate and dedicated, and he quickly became a friend and trusted colleague of mine," said TIP Executive Director Steven Pfeiffer. "He certainly was a champion of the rights of the gifted.... Ramon was always extremely sensitive that we could serve any gifted child who was interested in coming to TIP no matter what their economic circumstances were."
Griffin was in charge of overseeing all day-to-day TIP operations and consulting on all TIP decisions. Colleagues say his commitment to TIP's mission-to foster the talents of America's brightest middle and high school students-was unending and that his attention to the details of the program made him a critical piece of the program's foundation. In his deliberations on financial aid rewards, for example, Griffin worked diligently to make sure all gifted children could participate in TIP.
"Ramon was so dedicated to the well-being of young people and students," said Stocking, also an adjunct assistant professor of psychology. "He was a pre-major adviser. He loved his students, he knew each of them personally, he knew how to guide them.... He knew every work-study student in both offices. He knew them personally, where everyone was from."
Griffin graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1981 with a degree in psychology and political science and received his law degree three years later from Ohio State University.
Outside the office, Griffin was a dedicated athlete who pursued martial arts and ran, climbed and cycled. As a member of local service boards engaged in overseeing mediation and day care services in Durham, he played a key role in several community initiatives. He also mentored local black children and volunteered for the United Way and the U.S. Olympic Festival.
He is survived by his father, John Coppage of Parmele, N.C., his sister Elaine Davis and his brother Geoffrey Taylor, both of Brooklyn, N.Y. His funeral is being held in Parmele today, and members of the TIP staff are now considering how best to memorialize him.
"I'm hopeful that... the spirit of Ramon will live on in renewing commitment to championing rights of the gifted," Pfeiffer said.
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