Reflection on the Laura Griffin Memorial 5K

I got an email recently from someone who knows quite a bit more about Laura Griffin than I did. I really only knew what I heard around the CofC campus and what I read in brochures and things, and in retrospect it seems like a limited stockpile of information. Fortunately, a guy named Jason Lawandales was able to tell me much more.

I’ve written about the Laura Griffin run before, but I think it was the last article that drew Jason’s attention. I was a bit angry about current events at the time, which seems strange to me now that I have some distance. I suppose I was mostly reacting to the vibe around campus, and thinking about my own encounter with a moving vehicle. Looking back on things now, I’d rather that my last post about the race contain some better information. So I’m posting what Jason wrote me, with his permission. The rest of this post is from him.

The Pig is the mascot of Piggly Wiggly grocery stores, one of the main supporters of the race when I put it all into motion in 1996. There was a particular student who really made it all come together, Jill Robbins. She has never been recognized for her extraordinary work on this project. When I was still an undergrad Laura taught me how to write grants and had a great deal of faith in the power and influence of students dedicated to the well being of their peers. The grants won from the US Dept of Ed, FIPSE, were the catalyst we needed to establish the Office of Substance Abuse Prevention. The program eventually suffered from budget cuts and the grants became harder and harder to get. Research universities were preferred over Liberal Arts schools like CofC, despite our implementation of student-faculty research projects being published in peer reviewed journals. The College decided to fund the programs with the loss of grant funding.

I took over the position that Laura’s death left vacant at the age of 26. I left in 1999 after receiving an MA in Clinical Psychology. One of many lasting testaments that Laura represented is the fact that she was instrumental in taking under her wing a 21 year old recovering addict and giving enough of herself to that student that he eventually became the Clinical Director and Supervisor of Inpatient Treatment in the Wyoming prison system in 2008. Her leadership and passion also endured past her death and produced students who were to become physicians, oral surgeons, engineers, educators, architects, psychotherapists, and psychologists.

Hers was an extraordinary and tragically short life. Still, after 13 years, it was time to end the race. Time to heal. Time to recognize that even the best of us can make tragic mistakes and still deserve the opportunity for redemption. There is no time for bitterness and resentment. We should all be fortunate enough to have a “Laura” in our lives.

Thank you Brian for taking such an interest.

Jason P. Lawandales, MA LPC, CAC II,
Comorbid Disorder Treatment Specialist, Inpatient Level
Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist
Speaker and Educator
EMDR Trauma, Grief, Anxiety, and Substance Abuse therapist