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Larry Griggs Oral History Interview

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Larry Griggs Oral History Interview


Griggs opens the interview with a description of his early life. He mentions that his grandmother was born into slavery, and so emphasized education for her own children and grandchildren. He spent a lot of time with his grandparents when he was young because they lived with his family. He grew up surrounded by family and emphasizes the importance of that sense of community throughout his life. He describes his first jobs, including working at a restaurant that was owned by his neighbors. Throughout his childhood he lived in predominantly African American communities, which contributed to his feelings of belonging to a community and he thinks sheltered him somewhat from the effects of segregation. His favorite subject in school was math up until he had to take algebra, and then his favorite was social science.

He then talks about his university experiences. He was motivated to go to university by a high school friend who encouraged him to attend community college. Griggs was involved in sports and played on the school’s basketball team, although he eventually gave up basketball to focus full-time on his studies and to support his family, as his wife had recently had their first child. Griggs originally studied business but switched into sociology after discovering his interest in group behavior, which he believes stems from his childhood experiences with his mother being a teacher and his father a minister. He then talks about the jobs he did while attending university, and then about graduate school at Oregon State University, where he had an assistantship with the Educational Opportunities Program. His research focus was on group learning community environments. He studied liberal learning centers in Michigan and enacted some of the things he learned at OSU. His theory was that having a smaller, close-knit community of people from similar backgrounds would help students of color feel more comfortable entering OSU and would make them more likely to perform well academically and complete their degrees. After earning his PhD, Griggs became the director of the EOP program at OSU.

Griggs then describes his activities and goals as EOP director. He identifies five categories of underrepresented students that his department sought to recruit to OSU, including impoverished students of color, older students, students from rural areas, students who struggled in high school, and single parents. He laments that faculty and administrators often do not understand the needs of these students and emphasizes the importance of recognizing the disadvantages these students have faced and recognizing their academic strengths which they may not have really had the chance to develop prior to coming to university. He describes his role in creating developmental math courses to remedy lack of exposure to concepts for students that could not advance to the higher levels of math. It was his department that originally instituted placement tests for math so that students could be placed into the proper math class for their level. He says that hearing from students that he worked with as they moved on to other things in their lives is the most rewarding part of his work with OSU, knowing that he has been able to help people and seeing them succeed. The interview ends with him talking about his family and his children’s careers.

Dr. Lawrence Griggs was born in 1944 in Meridian, Mississippi. He attended community college and studied sociology in Tacoma, Washington, while working to support his wife and child. He worked for a few years before returning to university, this time to Oregon State University to pursue a PhD. He worked for the Educational Opportunities Program during his studies and then was hired on as EOP director after earning his degree. Throughout his career he focused on working with students of color and other underrepresented student demographics. In this, he emphasized the need to understand the experiences of these students and work with their life experiences in order to create a university atmosphere that is easier for them to adjust to. He retired from OSU in 2008.


Larry Griggs


Voices of Oregon State University Oral History Collection (OH 09)


Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Oregon State University Libraries


February 16, 2011


Dani Mazzotta


Born Digital




Oral History



Oral History Item Type Metadata


Dani Mazzotta


Larry Griggs


Corvallis, Oregon

Original Format

Born Digital



OHMS Object

Interview Format


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