The ceremony at the intersection of Montgomery Street and Bedford Avenue was held two years to the date that Griffith and seven others were killed when an Amtrak train derailed outside of Philadelphia.
“Dr. Dean Derrick Griffith was an inspiring educator, trailblazer, mentor, colleague and friend, who will forever be known for his profound love of education and unwavering commitment to the educational advancement of our youth,” said Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo.
Griffith earned a degree in history from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and a master's degree in counseling and human development from the University of Rochester. He received a Doctorate of Philosophy in urban education from CUNY posthumously.
“It sounds like I’m reading Barack Obama’s biography,” Cumbo said.
Dr. Rudy Crew, president of Medgar Evers College, said the co-naming brings a tremendous amount of joy, but also hurt as his passing is still difficult.
“This is a bittersweet moment,” he said. “All of us knew Dr. Griffith, all of us saw him bounce around this campus with a student in hand, smiling with that beautiful smile that always invited you into his life.”
Student Lascel Parkinson said Griffith always challenged students, and shared a story about the former dean confronting a group of new students.
“He would break off conversation and just stop and say ‘pull your pants up young man,’ and some of these kids looked rough,” Parkinson said. “All of them turned around and respected everything he said.”
Cindy Spector, an assistant director at the Dr. Derrick Griffith CUNY Preparatory School in the Bronx, which Griffith helped found, said he always responded to the question “how are you” with the answer “blessed and highly favored.”
“When I think about Dr. Griffith’s life, that phrase keeps coming to mind,” she said. “It was so him, a reflection on how he approached everything. He really did feel blessed and highly favored and he was.”
The 2015 crash also killed Queens native Justin Zemser, who was similarly honored last fall in the Rockaways.
On the same day that Griffith was memorialized outside Medgar Evers College, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced that his office is charging the train’s engineer, Forest Hills native Brandon Bostian, with eight counts of involuntary manslaughter.