Janice C. Griffith '62: Colby Overseer

Janice Griffith '62
Janice Griffith will never forget the day she opened a letter from Colby offering her a full scholarship. “Little did I know then the journey for which Colby would lay the foundation and provide direction,” she said. Because generous donors to Colby made it possible for her dream of a college education to come true, she is showing her appreciation by endowing a scholarship that will help to realize the dreams of future Colby students. “I also wish to thank Colby for believing in me and my potential as a prospective student. My single-parent mother never tired of telling the story of our first visit to Mayflower Hill and how amazed she was when President Bixler greeted us and interviewed me in his office.”

Janice became interested in political issues early in life. Attending town meetings in her small New Hampshire town, she saw local government working firsthand. At Colby she majored in government and enjoyed it so much she wanted to become a lawyer. But at that time women were anomalies in the profession. Her Colby professors were divided as to whether she should apply to law schools, but Janice took the leap. Colby again proved to be a fortunate choice, as she received a scholarship from the University of Chicago Law School that was available for a Colby graduate.

“Every lawyer aspires for some extraordinary experiences in which creativity and hard work can produce results,” said Janice, who was named one of the Outstanding Young Women in America in 1971. “I was privileged to have that kind of opportunity in the 1970s when I worked with New York City’s Corporation Counsel to craft a city financial recovery plan at a time of great financial crisis. The possibility of a city bankruptcy loomed over us, and I would often think of its impact on millions of people if we could not find ways to prevent it.”

In 1979 Janice took her career in a different direction. Having served as a camp counselor in her teens, she realized later in life that she was a teacher at heart, and she began teaching state and local government law. As a professor of law, she also enjoyed writing and publishing articles on federalism, municipal finance, land use, home rule, and other issues in local government law.

“I didn’t plan to become a higher education administrator—I fell into it naturally because I like to create new programs and institutional structures. It was an extraordinary privilege to have served as dean of the Georgia State University College of Law for eight years. I am equally excited about my current position as vice president for academic affairs at Suffolk University,” said Janice, whose accomplishments also include a stint as chair of the American Bar Association’s Section of State and Local Government Law. “None of these opportunities would have come my way without the education I received at Colby. Every day I use the communication and analytical skills I developed at Colby. My life and career continue to be enhanced by the emphasis Colby placed upon lifelong learning. I can say without reservation that I learned a great deal from my classmates, who often encouraged me to move beyond my comfort zone.”

Outside of work Janice particularly enjoyed adventuresome sailing with her late husband, Dick Perles, also an attorney. When the couple married, she agreed to learn to sail and he agreed to learn to ski. “We often joked about who got the best bargain, but whenever I faced challenges he was always there to lend support and advice if needed,” she said.

To establish the Janice C. Griffith Scholarship Fund, which will provide financial aid to students studying in any field, Janice designated Colby as a beneficiary of her retirement plan. “My retirement plan assets are subject to income tax and may also be subject to estate taxes, so using them to fund a scholarship at Colby—and pay no taxes—is a very attractive option,” she said. In fact, combined income and estate taxes on retirement accounts can be as high as 85 percent.

As a Colby overseer Janice has chaired visiting committees for Colby’s departments of German and Russian, Sociology, Chemistry, and Religious Studies. She has served as a class agent for the Colby Fund and is currently on her class’s Anniversary Gift Committee.
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