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Anonymous Gift to Fund New Memorial Vietnam War Archive

November 11, 2020

Angelo State University hosted a special Veterans Day Luncheon today (Nov. 11) to announce an anonymous grant that will fund the formation of a new William and Don Griffis Vietnam War Oral History Archive in the ASU West Texas Collection.

Donated through the San Angelo Area Foundation (SAAF), the initial grant of $50,000 to the ASU College of Arts and Humanities is part of a $250,000 commitment to provide for the Griffis Archive.

Matt Lewis Matt Lewis“It’s important that we record the history of veterans who served our country during the Vietnam War,” said Matt Lewis, SAAF president and CEO. “Many Vietnam veterans have incredible memories to share, and this archive will be a tremendous resource for future generations of students, historians and the public. This whole process has been a wonderful example of how public and private entities like ASU and the SAAF can work together on a project that benefits everyone involved. We are thankful for our wonderful anonymous donor who has made this endowment possible.”

Ronnie Hawkins Jr. Ronnie Hawkins Jr.ASU President Ronnie Hawkins Jr. said, “There are so many Vietnam veterans and families of veterans living in West Texas; I happen to be a dependent of a Vietnam veteran who spent two tours of duty here. This new memorial archive will be a wonderful tribute to their service and sacrifice, as well as those of their families. We are grateful to our anonymous donor for entrusting us to build the archive here at Angelo State and for recognizing the importance of such a project. This is a proud day for the entire Ram Family.”

Facilitated through the ASU Department of History, the project will involve faculty and students from all the academic departments within the College of Arts and Humanities, who will collect the items that will make up the Griffis Archive, including:

  • Oral histories of Vietnam War veterans and their families
  • Photos and documents
  • Artifacts and other memorabilia

As work on the archive progresses, periodic exhibits are planned for the West Texas Collection and in the new ASU Mayer Museum that is in the final stages of construction.

Dr. John Klingemann Dr. John Klingemann“This project will provide faculty and staff in the College of Arts and Humanities the opportunity to do collaborative research and recover an important part of America’s history,” said Dr. John Klingemann, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities. “The project will also provide ASU students critical training to develop their marketable skills. As a historian, I am thrilled at the prospect of recovering the oral histories and material items of an important group from our country’s past that will afford future researchers and archive visitors the means to learn about our Vietnam veterans. We have been provided a wonderful gift that will enhance the educational experience of our students at ASU.”

The archive is named in honor of two San Angelo brothers who both served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. William A. (Bill) Griffis III was killed in action on Jan. 24, 1970. Don Griffis completed his tour of duty and returned to San Angelo, where he fashioned a 50-year legal career as a top trial lawyer until his retirement in 2019.

Also during the Veterans Day Luncheon, former ASU athletic director Phil George was introduced as ASU’s 2020 Remembering Angelo’s Military (R.A.M.) Veteran of the Year. A veteran of both World War II and the Vietnam War, George spent 36 years at ASU as men’s basketball coach and men’s athletic director. He led the Rams basketball team to the 1957 NJCAA National Championship and won over 500 games. He was also instrumental in forming the ASU Ram Club fundraising organization for ASU athletics. (L-R) ASU President Ronnie Hawkins Jr., Phil George, Susan Williams (L-R) ASU President Ronnie Hawkins Jr., Phil George, Susan Williams

“Many San Angelo-area residents know of Coach Phil George, but few know of Lt. Col. George and his astonishing story as a pilot in both World War II and Vietnam,” said Susan Williams, ASU director of affiliated military and veteran services. “His record of service to our nation is as amazing as his record of service to ASU, and we are extremely happy to name him as our R.A.M. Veteran of the Year for 2020.”

Video of an in-depth interview with George, including comments about his military service, is available at angelo.edu/philgeorge.

For more information on the Griffis Archive, contact Klingemann at 325-942-2162 or john.klingemann@angelo.edu.

For more information on the R.A.M. Veteran of the Year program, contact Williams at 325-486-8387 or susan.williams@angelo.edu.

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