Corey Griffin, 27; his riches were family, friends, philanthropy
Corey Griffin loved working for Bain Capital Ventures, a job he landed after an impressive showing during a coveted internship, but he loved his family even more, and he wanted to give his younger brother a chance to work there, too.
While trying to get him hired as an analyst, Mr. Griffin heard that his bosses had misgivings about letting brothers work closely in the same area of the venture capital firm.
“He came in my office one day and closed the door and said, ‘I just want to tell you right now, if that’s the case, I’ll quit tomorrow and you can hire my brother,’ ” said Jeffrey Schwartz, former managing director of Bain Capital. “Knowing what the job meant to him, the fact that he was willing to walk away so his brother could have that opportunity . . . well, that’s Corey.”
In what could have turned into an oft-told family anecdote about the first-born giving his little brother a leg up in the financial world, Bain ended up keeping Mr. Griffin and hiring his brother, but “the greatest part of that story is he didn’t even tell us what he did,” his brother, Mike, said Monday. “We just found that out yesterday. He wasn’t trying to be the hero. He did it because he was the most loving brother.”
Philanthropic at an age when most focus solely on launching careers, Mr. Griffin solicited $100,000 in donations late last week for research into amyotrophic lateral sclerosis on behalf of a friend who has Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Then at around 2 a.m. Saturday, he climbed to the roof of the “Juice Guys” building on Straight Wharf in Nantucket, a popular diving perch for locals, and dove into the harbor. After resurfacing once, he disappeared beneath the waves and drowned. Mr. Griffin was 27 and divided his time between New York City, where he helped found a company that will soon launch, and Scituate.
“I’ve never seen him happier than he was in his last few days,” said Anthony Aiello of New York City, a friend since boyhood hockey games. “Corey was always happy, and that was easy to see, but in the last couple of weeks he was telling his family that everything was falling into place. Of his 27 years, I’d say the last few weeks were the best.”
Mr. Griffin left Bain to become director of strategic initiatives in New York at Risk Assistance Network + Exchange, or RANE, but his involvement in charities remained constant. He was on the board of the NHL Alumni Pro-Am charity hockey tournament and worked with Champions for Children’s, an annual fund-raiser that his father, Rob, helped found for Boston Children’s Hospital.
“He had an uncommon maturity about himself and understanding the responsibility of philanthropy,” said Bryan Koop, senior vice president-regional manager of Boston Properties. “A lot of people in life watch the world spin by. He was someone who was making the world spin. This boy was really special.”
Said Schwartz: “I don’t know a lot of guys like Corey. It was a gift to be able to work with someone like that for as long as I did.”
Of late, Mr. Griffin helped turn the “Ice Bucket Challenge” for ALS into a fund-raising sensation after his friend Pete Frates was diagnosed.
“There’s an old saying: You learn, you earn, and then you return,” said longtime friend Joe Zink, chief executive of Atlantic Management. “Most people get the first two and they never figure out the third part. Corey picked that up at a young age and ran with it. He gave from the heart.”
Possessing natural warmth and a laugh that quickly got a whole room laughing, Mr. Griffin was so generous with his affection that after he died, scores of acquaintances visited his family in Scituate to share stories.
“I’d say 40 or 50 of them pulled me aside and said, ‘Corey is my best friend.’ They were being completely sincere, and he made them feel that way,” his father said.
“And what’s crazy is he would say the same thing,” said Tom Greeley of Boston, a friend of Mr. Griffin since childhood. “He would tell every one of them, ‘You’re my best friend,’ and he meant it. To have 50 best friends is tough to pull off, but he did it.”
The oldest of three children, Corey Christopher Griffin grew up in Hingham and was an accomplished athlete, playing hockey at Thayer Academy, the Taft School, and Babson College, where he studied finance and entrepreneurship.
Though 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, he still played above his weight, matching talents with friends who became National Hockey League players, including Brian Boyle, now a forward with the Tampa Bay Lightning. “You can’t really compare him to anyone. He was a very magnetic guy, a unique guy,” Boyle said.
“He was that rare individual who could lift an entire room,” added Rob Hale, president of Granite Telecommunications.
Mr. Griffin did so with an energy level that didn’t lend itself to staying still long.
“He was a night owl and did not need a lot of sleep,” said his mother, Cathy. When she drove him to games, Mr. Griffin often asked when they would arrive. “If I said ‘in 10 minutes,’ he’d stay awake. If I said ‘15 minutes,’ he’d say, ‘OK, Mom,’ and within 10 seconds he would be asleep, and he would take this knock-out nap and you couldn’t wake the kid up until you got into the parking lot. Literally 10 seconds. Amazing.”
The oldest among the grandchildren in his extended family, Mr. Griffin “was the pied piper for all those kids,” said his father, who added that he “had one of the highest EQs I’ve ever seen, the most emotional intelligence. Corey always could sense whoever was in pain, whoever needed attention in whatever part of the room.”
“His biggest gift was that he didn’t just make you feel like you were the only guy in the room. He made you feel like you were the only guy in the world,” said Mr. Griffin’s brother, who lives in Boston.
Their sister, Casey, also of Boston, said the three were “probably just the closet group of siblings I’ve ever met, and it all started with him. He was the first and we looked up to him.”
Four years older than his sister, Mr. Griffin drove hours to attend all her games in three sports as she became a high school All-American in lacrosse.
“I always wanted to be him, literally every single day,” she said. “You’d think at 23 you’d want to be your own person, but I wanted to be with him, I wanted to be him, in everything he did. He had something about him that was just so special.”
She paused and added, “I’ve never in my whole life met anybody like him. We were so blessed, the three of us, to have been so close.”
In addition to his parents, brother, and sister, Mr. Griffin leaves his grandparents, Frances Griffin and Russell and Carol Bishop, all of Scituate.
Family and friends will gather to celebrate Mr. Griffin’s life at 2 p.m. Wednesday in St. Anthony Church in Cohasset, where a funeral Mass will be said at 11 a.m. Thursday.
With his gift for connecting with everyone, “you felt a deep friendship almost instantly with him, and when he saw people, he made it feel like he had been looking forward to seeing you for weeks,” said Michael Greeley of Boston, who, like his brother Tom, was a friend since childhood.
“There are thousands and thousands of people mourning Corey Griffin right now, and he’s just a regular guy, not a public figure,” Greeley added. “There will never be another person who had as many real, sincere, genuine friends as Corey Griffin.”