Ernest Wynne "Joe" Griffiths

On Campus News, 29 November 1996

 

In the spring of 1951 a University of Saskatchewan institution retired after 31 years as the focal point of athletics and physical education and the friend and mentor to thousands of U of S, Saskatoon, and Saskatchewan athletes and students.

Born in Port Talbot, Glamorganshire, Wales, Ernest Wynne ("Joe") Griffiths accompanied his family to a homestead at Patience Lake, Saskatchewan. After a youth of varied activity, Joe, as he was known to everyone, joined the Royal North West Mounted Police prior to going overseas with His Majesty's forces in 1915. After his discharge in the fall of 1920, he came to the University as its entire Physical Education Department. During his tenure, Joe's personal coaching and guidance in swimming and track and field helped a number of teams and individual athletes garner national and international acclaim.

Some will remember the 1925 hockey team that went to the Allan Cup and the other fine squads of the mid-1930s, or the great football teams of the early and mid-'30s, or the very successful basketball teams of the late '30s.

Others will recall Phyllis Haslam breaking the world record in the women's breast stroke in 1933 or Ethel Catherwood winning the high jump title for Canada at the 1933 Olympics in Berlin.

The facilities for athletics and physical education also improved during Joe's tenure: a new gymnasium replaced Qu'Appelle Hall's common room; Griffiths Stadium superceded the sport field on the northern-most limits of the campus; and Carson, Pyne, Neale and Leicester augmented the orginal staff of one.

Joe also gave generously of his time and ability to the City. He served as member of the Public School Board for a number of years, assisted the Playgrounds Association, was vice-president of the Music Festival Committee, and president of the Symphony Orchestra.

Joe was honoured at special dinners hosted by the Faculty Club and the Men's Athletic Board in 1951 and the Alumni Association in 1964, was granted an honorary degree in 1965, and was named to the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 1967.

He died on July 22, 1967.

Stan Hanson

Photograph: Griffiths leading a college cheer in Convocation Hall, 1940 (Archives photo A-6263)