JAMES HERBERT ("HERB") GRAFFIUS, 85, born June 8, 1928, to the late Mr. & Mrs. John Cowder (Edna Farley) Graffius at home in Pitcairn, PA, succumbed to his 9-year courageous battle with metastatic colon cancer on Monday, September 2, 2013, at The Laurels.
Herb grew up in Pitcairn (a suburb of Pittsburgh), graduated from Pitcairn High School with honor in 1946. Following his high school graduation, he diversified his life experiences by joining the US Army Signal Corps during World War II as an electronics repairman. He was honorably discharged in 1948 at the rank of Corporal. He then took a position as a structural iron worker with the U.S. Steel Corporation in Pittsburgh from 1948-1949. During 1950-1951, he was employed both as a carpenter and a deep-sea fisherman. He also was a volunteer fireman for the city of Pitcairn.
As he began to consider his future education, in 1952 he enrolled in the School of Pharmacy at the University of Pittsburgh through a grant provided by his military service. On-the-job training with a certificate in Pharmacy proved disappointing, and he decided that his true educational interests were in the teaching field, especially history and biology. He transferred to the School of Education, majoring in biological sciences, with minors in physical science and history. In 1954, he received a Bachelor of Science degree, graduating summa cum laude. He then continued his graduate education at the University of Pittsburgh, eventually obtaining a Master of Science degree in 1958 in biological sciences. He pursued his Doctor of Philosophy degree in botany, with an emphasis on phycology (the study of algae) at Michigan State University, and was awarded his Ph.D. in 1963. He was awarded a postdoctoral traineeship in aquatic ecology from 1966-1968.
In 1962, Herb joined the Department of Botany (now the Department of Environmental and Plant Biology) as an Assistant Professor. Although his primary teaching areas were phycology (the study of algae) and general botany, he taught many courses within his department, including botanical pedagogy, plant biology, morphology, taxonomy, and theories on the origin and evolution of life. He was considered one of the country's leading experts in the study of algae. He excelled in teaching both undergraduate and graduate students, and was honored in 1979 as a University Professor, and in 1983 with the College of Arts and Sciences Dean's Outstanding Teacher Award. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1968.
Herb's teaching philosophies were based on his memories as a student who felt that the learning experience could have been more enjoyable. His philosophy was shaped by a math professor who believed that "the most important thing in life is to know what you don't know." He also adhered to the dictum of Alexander Graham Bell that the best way to gain knowledge is to "observe, remember, and compare." In this statement he found the essence of the scientific method of investigation -applied to knowledge in general-attempted to follow it himself, and encouraged his students to do the same.
Two other thoughts that shaped his teaching philosophy were quotes by Elbert Hubbard: "If I give you a thought, you may remember it, and then again, you may not. But if I can make you think a thought for yourself, then I have indeed added something to your stature."; and by Confucius: "If I give a student three corners of a subject, and he cannot see a fourth, then I do not repeat the lesson." Two ideas were of greatest value to his teaching philosophy. The first is the definition of an educated person which defines one of the most essential characteristics of any teacher. One of Herb's history professors proposed that "an educated person is one who can define words and express ideas so that others can understand them." After hearing that proposed definition, Herb was always careful to define every significant word he used in the classroom in the exact context in which it was used in that class. Additionally, he tried to explain new ideas to his classes in ways they could understand, based on their level of ability. At the same time, he expected his students to be able to define words as used in class and to be able to express their ideas so that he could understand them. The second valuable idea defined for Herb what he considered to be one of the most essential characteristics of any teacher, yet often overlooked in the definition of a teacher. After being "taken to task" by a student for not knowing something that had happened on the stock market the day before, one of Herb's economics professors remarked, "Well, at least I know it now, and that's the important thing." Herb learned something from his students each and every time he entered the classroom. He believed that "a teacher who ceases to be a student also ceases to be a teacher." Each time he would enter a classroom, he would always remember that he was a part of all he had met. He taught for 34 years, retiring in 1996, at the rank of Associate Professor Emeritus.
During his teaching career, he held memberships in the following professional organizations: Kappa Phi Kappa, Phi Sigma Biological Society, The Society of the Sigma Xi, American Microscopical Society, International Phycological Society, Ohio Academy of Science, and the Botanical Society of America.
He served on the following University and College committees: the Ohio University Academic Advising Council, the Ohio University Library Archives and Special Collections Committee, the Ohio University Teaching Academy, the Ohio University Arboretum Advisory Council, the ad hoc committee for the selection of the Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Committee for the Convocation Center (Faculty Associate), Arts and Sciences Committee on Undergraduate Advising, Arts and Sciences Committee on Instructional Development, Arts and Sciences Undecided Student Advising Coordinator, Saturday Visit Programs for prospective freshmen and their parents, Ohio University Advisory Group to the Board of Regents Teacher Enhancement Project, Precollege academic advisor for Arts and Sciences, and as faculty advisor to the Ohio University men's soccer team.
Within his own department, he served as Chair of the Curriculum Committee; the Awards, Publicity, and Recruitment Committee; as Chair and Co-Chair of the Undergraduate Advising Committee; and as the coordinator of three IOO-level courses. He also served as liaison to the branch campuses, and was a tutor for the Honors Tutorial College.
He also participated in community services: Department of Botany's representative to The United Way, the Regional Science Olympiad at Ohio University in March 1988, and as a judge for several years at the District Science Fair held at the Athens Middle School.
During his tenure at Ohio University, he was awarded 2 research grants from the University and 1 from the Ohio Geological Survey.
He was the author or co-author of research publications in learned journals such as Ecology, Dissertation Abstracts, Transactions of the American Microscopical Society, and the Ohio Journal of Science.
In 1954, Herb received the Phi Sigma award as the outstanding undergraduate in biological sciences at the University of Pittsburgh, and was a member of Pi Tau Phi, a scholastic honorary. He was honored by the Society of the Sigma Xi at the University of Pittsburgh. In 1958, he was selected as the Class Representative of the graduating class, Master of Science candidates, Division of Natural Sciences, University of Pittsburgh. At Michigan State, he was selected for membership in the Phi Kappa Phi honorary in 1961. He also held consulting positions to the community of Crooked Lake, Michigan regarding identification and control of unwanted aquatic vegetation; to Aquatic Ecology Associates for algal communities of Presque Isle Bay, Lake Erie; and to Aquatic Ecology Associates regarding the effect of a steam generating station on the aquatic communities of Presque Isle Bay, Lake Erie. He held graduate assistant and research assistantships at both the University of Pittsburgh and Michigan State University. He also held positions at the Mountain Lake Biological Station at the University of Virginia in the summer of 1964, and as an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Pittsburgh from 1966-1968.
A member of The Plains United Methodist Church, Herb was a dedicated Sunday School teacher, and served with his wife as co-superintendents of the Sunday School programming. Additionally, he served his church as Chairman of the Administrative Board, Chairman of the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee, Lay Leader, and was a member of the church choir. He served on two church building committees, and served as chair in the burning of the church's sanctuary mortgage.
An avid sports fan, Herb was a true Pittsburgh team follower - especially the Pirates and the Steelers. In his later years, as his heart couldn't take the stress of actually watching a Pittsburgh sports team play, he would tape or record a Pittsburgh sports event to be watched later - if Pittsburgh won. He also thoroughly enjoyed watching and recording many of the Olympic sports events, as well as the locale scenery. He was an amateur photographer, with professional ambition, and had a photographic darkroom laboratory set up in the basement of his home. He 'enjoyed taking photographs of all types of landscape scenery as well as the gamut of fauna and flora. Although urged to submit photographs for display purposes as well as in contests, Herb was not interested in any accompanying fame. Any project that Herb undertook was done until completed, and to the best of his ability. It has been said that Herb was a "Jack-of-all-trades," enjoying to the utmost tackling new and different projects. One summer, he and his father built a house in Buck County, PA, for his parents. He built cabinets, did remodeling, fixed plumbing and electrical problems, built model airplanes and space vehicles. He gardened and, he loved to go fishing, In the "new age" of computers, he was one of the first to own one and to figure out its intricacies; he was always eager to discover how things worked, and when they didn't work the way he thought they should work, he labored until they did. He was noted for never allowing anything to get the better of him. If it needed to be figured out, he figured it out, often taking these challenges into the wee hours of the morning.
All of his life-time accomplishments wither in comparison to the void felt by his passing. Even during his lengthy illness, it was noted that he never lost his sense of humor. Although shy by nature, it was a joy to be with him; to learn about his philosophies; to listen to his poetry, singing, and whistling. Every day was a new educational experience for Herb, and he always shared that new knowledge with those within hearing distance. When asked the definition of any word, although he could tell you, he would always go to the dictionary, hand it to the person who had requested the definition, and asked that the definition be read aloud - a teaching method he used frequently, which had lasting effects.
In addition to his parents, Herb was pre-deceased by a brother, Donald "Chick" Graffius, of Fairmont, WV; a brother-in-law, Robert Johnson, of Melbourne, FL; his father- and mother-in-law, Clyde and Eleanor Reighard of Springfield, OH; and nephews Donald Graffius, Jr., and David Graffius, both of Monongah, WV. His beloved dog, Joy, also pre-deceased him by only 6 months.
He leaves to mourn him his loving and devoted wife of 45 years, Judith Ann Reighard Graffius; a son, Jeffrey Graffius, of The Plains, OH; a daughter, Erica Graffius (and fiance Robert Rife), of Salem, OR; a sister, Dorothy Johnson, of Melbourne, FL; a sister-in-law, Helen Graffius, of Monongah, WV; a brother- and sister-in-law, Donald and Cynthia Reighard, of Sun Lakes, AZ; nieces Brenda Graffius (Chuck Barna) of Bluffton, SC; Jennifer Reighard-Walker (Aaron Walker) of Tempe, AZ; Julianne (Dylan) Garrison, MD, of Centennial, CO; nephews Edwin (Brenda) Graffius of Pleasant Valley, WV; Roy Johnson of Melbourne, FL, and Jonathan Graffius. He is also survived by several great-nieces, great-nephews, great-great nieces, and great-great nephews.
Funeral services will be held Saturday 1:00 pm at Jagers & Sons Funeral Home, Athens, with Pastor Denver Dodrill officiating. Interment will be in Athens Memory Gardens immediately following the funeral service. Friends may call Friday 2-4 and 6-8 pm at the funeral home. Military rites will be conducted by KT Crossen Post 21 American Legion, VFW Post 3477 and VFW Post 9893 Honor Guards at the cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, family members request that donations be sent to the Athens County Visiting Nurses Association and/or Hospice, 30 Herrold Ave., Athens, Ohio 45701.
Please share a memory, a note of condolence, or sign the online register book at www.jagersfuneralhome.com.