Age is just a number for 80-year-old BYU alum

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Gary Griffin, 80, runs across a basketball court in the Richards Building on Oct. 19. Griffin, a retired faculty member, plays basketball on the BYU campus three times a week with BYU faculty members half his age. (Sam Bigelow)

Basketball is not just a hobby for 80-year-old Gary Griffin — it’s helped him form years of memories, friends and good health.

Griffin, a retired BYU staff member specializing in digital publishing, said he has played basketball every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the Richards Building on the BYU campus for the last 40 years without fail.

“I have never had a blue Monday and am never down on Sunday afternoon because I think: ‘Basketball,'” Griffin said during a match-up on Oct. 17 in the Richards Building.

BYU computer science professor Ryan Farrell said he has known Griffin for about 30 years and has enjoyed Griffin’s example and positivity.

Gary Griffin stays focused in a basketball game with faculty and friends last Friday, Oct. 19. (Sam Bigelow)

“He is a great guy on and off the court,” Farrell said. “It’s just amazing that he keeps up with everything physically and always says, ‘Good try,’ or things like that to lift people up.”

Griffin said he has been around long enough to see many changes at BYU, from the construction of the new Richards Building in the ’60s to the teammates he has played with over time.

“I played with his father, Howard Christensen,” Griffin said, pointing out Devin Christensen — a computer support representative at the Kennedy Center — on the basketball court. “I played with his dad 30 years ago, and I’m on the second generation of players here and keep up with a lot of these guys who are the same age as my seven children.”

Griffin said his active lifestyle might be a blessing from genetics since his mother lived to be 104 and his aunt lived to be 102. He said he also thanks his grandmother, Maude Amy Mae Davis, for moving from Ohio to Missouri with her family in a covered wagon in the late 1880s.

“My grandmother was the 15th child,” Griffin said. “I have wondered, ‘Where might I be had the Davis family only had 14 children?'”

BYU alum and building care staff member Kenneth Stillwell said Griffin is passionate about the sport and has played with BYU basketball players like Tyler Haws and Elijah Bryant when they were still undergraduate students.

“Many people decided they’ve aged out of their hobbies, but he’s determined that age is just a number and doesn’t determine what you can do,” Stillwell said.

Stillwell said Griffin has taught him how to live a healthy, joyful lifestyle.

“What I have learned from him is endurance,” Stillwell said. “That balance is healthy and you can keep going if you have something to look forward to in life.”

Griffin’s “Jimmer basketball” has signatures from past BYU basketball players, including a more recent one from Tyler Haws. (Gary Griffin)

Griffin also said he owns a “Jimmer basketball” signed by former BYU basketball players, including a more recent signature from Tyler Haws.

Griffin said being chosen in February 1992 for a basketball halftime shootout was another highlight in his BYU basketball fandom.

“I had 30 seconds to shoot three shots and half-court attempts to win two snowmobiles,” Griffin said. “I missed both half-court shots, but received two tickets to fly anywhere through Southwest Airlines, plus a cellphone and dinner for two at Chuck-A-Rama.”

From left: BYU basketball players Alan Hamson, Kyle Collinsworth, Nate Austin, Jamal Aytes and Corbin Kaufusi gather around Gary Griffin on BYU’s 2015 team photo day. (Gary Griffin)

Griffin said the fellowship of a friend helped direct his path towards coming to BYU, where he worked in prepress and later digital publishing.

“A friend of mine baptized me in end of my junior year in high school,” Griffin said, mentioning that he worked for his friend’s mother at a small newspaper. “I’ve worked in printing my whole life since then. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the church, and that’s the important thing.”

Griffin said he and his wife’s 2008–09 mission in Palmyra was one of the most memorable moments of his church service. He said making the most of the time given is another reason he has enjoyed a fulfilling life.

“People are concerned about going on a mission or their son going on a mission for two years — two years fly by,” Griffin said. “If you’re here on campus, make use of that time. You may regret going on to other things and not taking advantage of what you have here.”

Griffin said he values the time he has placed into basketball and feels lucky to be part of the basketball community at BYU.

“It’s quite a brotherhood — a fellowship,” Griffin said. “I played with a lot of BYU basketball players, coaches and even some of the former athletes have played with us here. For a little guy like me, it’s a special privilege.”

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