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Griggs, Katharine C. : Home

Written by Jaime Bradley

Katharine C. Griggs

Katharine Charlotte Griggs (23 August 1877 - 16 November 1960) served as College Secretary from 1929 to 1943, then as Historical Recorder from 1943 to 1947.

Katharine Charlotte Griggs
Photograph of Katharine C. Griggs, 1923

Education and Early Career

Born in Terryville, Connecticut to Cornelia and Leverett Griggs, a Congregational minister, Griggs attended elementary school in Clinton, Connecticut, then Smith College from 1896-1900, graduating with a B.A. degree in 1900. She served as a teacher in Philadelphia at the Wissahickon High School from 1900-1902, at the St. Margaret’s School in Waterbury, Connecticut 1902-1906, and the Westover School in Middlebury, Connecticut 1908-1912.

In 1912 she began working in New York as Assistant Secretary to the Trustees of Canton Christian College (now Lingnan University), then as Executive Secretary of the College from 1923-1926 in Canton, China. From 1926-1928, Griggs continued to serve with the Canton Christian College as a solicitor of funds.

At Berea College

In the spring of 1928, Griggs was offered a temporary position as Secretary of Berea College, to fill in for Miss Boye, then Secretary, who had taken ill. In 1929 Griggs was offered the Secretary position on a permanent basis; her Commission is dated for 1 September 1929. Thus, between 1929 and 1943, Griggs served as the College Secretary.

Beginning around 1936, records indicate that Griggs began experiencing some kind of intermittent illness and for the next several years she periodically traveled to Connecticut and West Virginia to be with family while under a doctor’s care, and often became unable to complete her full-time duties. In the meantime, Berea College underwent a major reorganization on both the academic and administrative offices. In 1942 it was recommended that the Office of the Secretary be eliminated, and the duties be combined into the Office of the Registrar. It appears that this consolidation removed up to 2 full-time staff positions.

From Board of Trustees Minutes, 12 November 1943, p7:
“The Prudential Committee approved of the abolishment of the Secretary’s Office, which had lost some of its importance with the establishment of the Admission’s Office. Miss Griggs, formerly Secretary, who had been on leave of absence for reasons of health for a year, has returned to act as collector of historical materials.”

With the elimination of the Secretary position in 1943, William Hutchins offered Miss Griggs the opportunity to serve in a new position as Historical Recorder, sometimes referred to as College Historian. The position’s responsibilities included the collecting of historical documents of importance scattered in offices around the campus, with the intention of housing them for safe keeping and future use. These documents were eventually deposited with the College Library. Thus, the creation of the Historical Recorder position served as an early stepping stone in the later creation of the Special Collections Department in Hutchins Library, and the basis for the establishment of the College Archives.

Between 1943 and her retirement in 1947, Griggs researched and wrote articles for the Berea Alumnus on Berea College history, corresponded with Berea alumni who attended during the 19th century, and collected letters from early African American graduates of the college, many of whom were well-advanced in age.

During retirement, Griggs eventually returned to Connecticut and spent many years living with her sister, Mrs. Henry Graybill. In early December 1960, Henry L. Griggs Jr. writes to Berea College President Francis Hutchins, informing the campus of Ms. Griggs death on 16 November 1960. Ms. Griggs was laid to rest in the Griggs family portion of the Hillside Cemetery in Terryville, Connecticut on 20 November 1960.

Works Cited

  • Letter: Henry L. Griggs to Berea College, [1] December 1960, RG 9a - Faculty and Staff, Personnel Files (Restricted), Folder: "Griggs, Katharine C.," Berea College Archives. 

  • RG 2 - Board of Trustees (Restricted), Minutes: 12 November 1943, Berea College Archives. 

  • RG 5.30 - Registrar's Office, Folder: "Historical Recorder," Berea College Archives. 

  • RG 9a - Faculty and Staff, Personnel Files (Restricted), Folder: "Griggs, Katharine C.," Berea College Archives. 

  • RG 9b - Faculty and Staff, Biographical Files, Folder: "Griggs, Katharine C.," Berea College Archives  

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