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Celebration of Life Set for Former WIU Professor, Trustee Donald (Bill) Griffin

November 30, 2015

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MACOMB, IL -- A Celebration of Life for Western Illinois University Geography Professor Emeritus and former WIU Board of Trustee member Donald (Bill) Griffin will be held at 1 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3 at the Macomb Country Club. Griffin, 82, passed away in Peoria Nov. 27.

Griffin served as director of the Institute for Regional, Rural and Community Studies at Western from 1971 to 1993, and also was a geography professor at WIU for 25 years. He was appointed to the rank of professor in 1972. Griffin was first appointed to Western's Board of Trustees in February 2006. He was reappointed to the Board in November 2011 and served until February 2013. During his tenure as a trustee, Griffin served as the chair of the academic and student services committee and audit committee, as vice chair and as secretary.

As a trustee, Griffin oversaw the creation of the WIU-Macomb Master Plan and the WIU-Quad Cities Master Plan, as well as the creation of several new academic programs, including liberal arts and sciences, nursing, engineering, museum studies, environmental GIS, educational leadership, environmental science and emergency management. He was also a part of the opening of the Quad Cities Riverfront Campus and the selection of Western's 11th president.

In August 2012, Griffin published "Voices of the Hennepin Canal: Promoters, Politicians, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers," which is a historical account of how this waterway, located in Western Illinois and opened in 1908, was built and operated until 1951 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The work combined Griffin's many years of research on the Hennepin Canal with the "words of the people who were part of its history."

During his time at Western and in Macomb, Griffin had served as the director of Macomb Certified Cities Projects and served as chair of Congressman Lane Evans Citizens Task Force on the Hennepin Canal. He was the chair of the editorial board of the Western Illinois Monograph Series and a member of the editorial board of Western Illinois Regional Studies. Griffin served as the president of the Illinois Association of Regional Councils, as a member of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency's Regional Advisory Committee and as chair of the Western Illinois Regional Council. He was a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, and the Loaves and Fishes food pantry. Griffin also developed a number of classes for the Learning is Forever (LIFE) program, including classroom sessions and field trips on the Hennepin Canal, Des Moines River navigation improvements, Keokuk Lock and Dam, Lock 15 and Arsenal Island, LaGrange Lock and Dam and the Illinois and Michigan Canal.

Prior to joining Western's faculty, Griffin was a geography faculty member at the University of California-Los Angeles and Rhode Island College. He had served as a senior planner for the Worcester (MA) Planning Department, was a training officer for the Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Commerce and was a military instructor for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Griffin served in the U.S. Army from 1956-1962.

He received his bachelor's and master's degrees from Illinois State University and his Ph.D. from Clark University.

Griffin is survived by his wife of 59 years, Mary Ann; one son, Mitchell, and one daughter, Vanessa. He was preceded in death by his son, Yale.

Memorials may be made to the WIU College of Arts and Sciences, in care of the WIU Foundation, 301 Sherman Hall, Macomb, IL 61455-1390, or online at

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