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February 26, 2013 10:13 am

NWC scholarship endowment honors fallen soldier and former wrestler

Written by Ilene Olson

Six months after his death in Afghanistan, a Northwest College scholarship endowment has been established to honor Army Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin J. Griffin, who also was a former NWC wrestler.

Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, the endowment will provide one scholarship annually in Griffin’s memory, with the scholarship going alternately to a wrestler or a veteran studying at the college.

The scholarship is the brainchild of Steve Walker, NWC assistant professor of political science, who also is a veteran.

“I did not know Army Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Griffin,” Walker said in an email, “but I was moved by the stories in the Military Times and the Powell Tribune of his death, and the death of three others, in August 2012.”

Upon hearing of Griffin’s death, Walker started reading as much as he could about Griffin’s life.

“He entered the Army the year before I went into the U.S. Air Force,” Walker said. “There is a good chance that, had I stayed in the Air Force, I would have been the same rank with many of the same experiences as him. I was once again reminded of the sheer randomness of death during combat.

“I felt a personal connection that is hard to explain. The more I learned about him — his dedication to his country, his love of his family, his love of the military, and his love of wrestling — the more I wanted to do something to honor his memory. The Veterans of Foreign Wars has a saying, ‘Honor the Dead by Helping the Living.’ It is a motto that I try to follow.”

Walker decided the best way he could honor Griffin’s memory would be to establish a scholarship that would help two groups that he believed Griffin would have liked to have seen get some help: veterans and military members, and wrestlers at Northwest College.

Walker contacted Floyd Young, who was Griffin’s wrestling coach at Northwest College, to ask for his help. He also asked for guidance from Shelby Wetzel, executive director of the Northwest College Foundation, about how to establish a scholarship fund.

“The three of us met, and we agreed that Floyd would start contacting some of Kevin’s old wrestling teammates and I would start contacting veterans’ groups around the area to see if we could get the ball rolling to develop the endowment,” Walker said.

Young said he provided a list of wrestlers who were at Northwest College when Griffin was there.

“This is a way to remember Kevin, who was very successful, and a lot of fun,” Young said.

Young recalled his memories of Griffin in a Tribune story after Griffin was killed on Aug. 8, 2012. Young described him as a good student and a talented wrestler.

Griffin’s brother, Dustin Griffin, told the Military Times, “He was all about the Army ... He lived it.”

Wetzel said the “Command Sergeant Major Kevin J. Griffin Scholarship Endowment” now stands at $11,500, and will begin funding one scholarship annually beginning in the 2014-15 school year.

Wetzel said the next step is to increase the endowment to $20,000, at which point it will meet the larger goal set by Walker and Young to fund two scholarships annually — one for a wrestler and one for a veteran.

Donations can be sent to the Northwest College Foundation at 231 W. Sixth St., Powell, WY 82435, with a designation notation to Kevin J. Griffin. All gifts will qualify to be matched by the State of Wyoming, Wetzel said.

Walker said Northwest College employees can choose to donate by payroll deduction if that is their wish.

“I would personally like to thank all those individuals and the groups who have donated money to the endowment,” Walker said. “We often talk about honoring our military and veterans. This is one way that we can put this into action. I think it is great that the community has been so generous in helping us honor CSM Griffin.”

3 comments

  • Comment Link February 26, 2013 8:12 pm posted by SSG Richard Teal

    Do you happen to know if this Scholarship will be listed on the Army donation list. We have the opportunity to donate directly out of our paychecks to a large list of organizations and causes, and I know there are many soldiers including myself that are ready and willing to donate. CSM Griffin had a huge impact on my Army career and my life, he was like a father to me. He truly was a great American and an inspirational person. Myself, and many other soldiers he lead into war, would be honored to support this scholarship that has been created in his name.

  • Comment Link February 27, 2013 1:06 pm posted by Ilene

    Someone commented yesterday on the CSM Kevin Griffin Memorial Page on Facebook that they had sent an email requesting that the scholarship be added to the Army's donation list. I don't know whether that has been accomplished yet, but it looks like it's in the works.

  • Comment Link March 21, 2013 4:12 pm posted by Jessica Corbaley

    How do I donate to this endowment?

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