ForeverMissed
Frederick Numa Griffith, a visionary in corneal transplantation and eye banking nationally and globally, passed away peacefully on January 15 at Broadmead in Cockeysville, Maryland. He was 88 years old.

Mr. Griffith architected an international network making corneas available for transplant. His vision: to make the gift of sight possible for children and adults around the world. 

He was born in New Castle, PA, son of Gates Claude Griffith and Helen Lippold Griffith. He grew up in Cumberland and Baltimore. 

At the age of 17, Mr. Griffith contracted polio and was hospitalized for several months at Children’s Hospital in Baltimore including an extended period in an iron lung. He recovered, fighting the odds and prognosis of his doctors and went on to be an active sailor and golfer. He graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 1955 with a degree in Philosophy. Following his graduation, he took a job as a social worker with the Baltimore City Department of Public Welfare where, as fate would have it, he met a fellow social worker who became his wife of 61 years, Beatrice Conkling Clarke of Mount Washington. They settled in Bolton Hill where they raised their family. They were active in the neighborhood and Mr. Griffith spearheaded the creation of the Bolton Hill Swim and Tennis Club, though he could neither swim or play tennis.  

In 1960, Mr. Griffith established a low vision clinic at the Presbyterian Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital in Baltimore. In 1963, he became the assistant administrator in charge of outpatient services and, in 1965, the hospital’s administrator. In 1967, he established the Medical Eye Bank of Maryland. He was instrumental in getting a major piece of legislation passed that would permit removal of corneas during autopsies performed after unexplained deaths, provided there were no objections from the family. Similar laws were eventually passed in 22 other states, dramatically increasing the availability of corneas. At one time, the Medical Eye Bank of Maryland was supplying 70 percent of all the emergency requests for eye donations in the United States. Mr. Griffith created the first U.S. network of eye banks, Tissue Banks International (TBI) in 1984. The network included 26 eye banks across the country. 

In 1988, in association with the Saudi Eye Foundation, TBI formed an overseas division known as the International Federation of Eye Banks. During Mr. Griffith’s leadership of TBI, eye banks were organized and opened in over 20 countries including South Africa, Egypt, India, Poland, Bulgaria, Australia, Myanmar and the Philippines. During his tenure with TBI, he made over 20 worldwide trips to establish eye banks, typically in the company of his wife, Beatrice. To the many doctors and other medical professionals they worked with, the couple were fondly referred to as “Dr. Griffith and Miss Bea'' even though Mr. Griffith did not have a medical degree. Mr. Griffith retired in 1998. 

As a leader, Mr. Griffith emphasized the importance of teamwork saying “It’s the little things that make everyone feel part of a team. It’s a combination of the right people and forces coming together at the right time.” 

Mahmood Farazdaghi, a past President of the International Federation of Eye Banks and former TBI Senior Vice President of International Operations said “Frederick had an enduring passion to help the corneally blind in developing countries and eradicate corneal blindness globally. He has touched the lives of many. The world is a much better place because of his foresight and enormous contribution.” Dr. Nag Rao of Hyderabad, India said “Frederick was one of the few believers in our work and supported us unwaveringly in our early years. Without this, our eye banking effort would have never reached anywhere close to what is now. On behalf of hundreds of thousands of people whose lives his actions already touched and several times more in future, I can say that his life made a huge difference.”

Mr. Griffith was a lover and patron of the performing arts, especially opera. He held positions on the Boards of both the Baltimore Opera and the former Maryland Ballet as well as a seat on the advisory council for the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University. He supported budding performers through donations to Peabody Scholarships. He shared his passion for and knowledge of opera at his home on Park Avenue in Bolton Hill by hosting a decade-long series of weekly opera classes that included annual trips to the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. 

In addition to his wife of 61 years, survivors include his son, Frederick Clarke Griffith (Sam Cagnina) of New York City; daughter, Lydia Conkling Griffith of Richmond, VA; son, Benjamin Gates Griffith (Beata) of Harrisburg, PA; granddaughter, Siena Singh; granddaughter, Beatrice May Connell; grandson, Sumit Singh; grandson, Simon Frederick Griffith; and brother John Cavendish of Richmond, KY.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation to the Peabody Institute. Donations can be made:

  • Online: Visit https://peabody.jhu.edu/give , follow the instructions, select “Continue as Guest”, and designate in memory of  “Frederick N. Griffith” on the form
  • By Mail: Make your check payable to the Peabody Institute, note “IMO Frederick N. Griffith” in the memo field, and mail to Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, 1 East Mount Vernon Place, Baltimore, MD 21202
Posted by Mardy Glass on March 27, 2021
Every person who had the pleasure of knowing Teddy will miss the twinkle in his eye and his loving, joyful manner. I for one have never met a more unusual, bright, humorous person who brought so much love and frivolity to wherever he was. When the lord made him ======He broke the mold. Bea was the perfect straight man and let him do his thing. Bea, we love you. I only wish I could be with you at this time. xxxxxxxxxxxxx Mardy

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Posted by Mardy Glass on March 27, 2021
Every person who had the pleasure of knowing Teddy will miss the twinkle in his eye and his loving, joyful manner. I for one have never met a more unusual, bright, humorous person who brought so much love and frivolity to wherever he was. When the lord made him ======He broke the mold. Bea was the perfect straight man and let him do his thing. Bea, we love you. I only wish I could be with you at this time. xxxxxxxxxxxxx Mardy
his Life

Frederick "Teddy" Griffith's Memorial Celebration

On April 10, 2021, we celebrated his life with over 100 friends and family. To ensure everyone could join us and remain safe and healthy, we hosted--and recorded--the event online.

Frederick Leads the Charge to Eliminate the Waiting List for Corneal Transplants

In 1960, Mr. Griffith established a low vision clinic at the Presbyterian Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital in Baltimore. In 1963, he became the assistant administrator in charge of outpatient services and, in 1965, the hospital’s administrator. In 1967, he established the Medical Eye Bank of Maryland. He was instrumental in getting a major piece of legislation passed that would permit removal of corneas during autopsies performed after unexplained deaths, provided there were no objections from the family. Similar laws were eventually passed in 22 other states, dramatically increasing the availability of corneas. At one time, the Medical Eye Bank of Maryland was supplying 70 percent of all the emergency requests for eye donations in the United States. Mr. Griffith created the first U.S. network of eye banks, Tissue Banks International (TBI) in 1984. The network included 26 eye banks across the country. 
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He loved to have fun and had an Infectious laugh

Shared by Ben Griffith on March 29, 2021
Sitting next to Dad could get physical at times. If you said something amusing he would clap his hands and laugh. But you knew you achieved comedy gold when he would lean over, push the person next him and laugh. I remember one time he laughed so hard he actually pushed someone out of their chair. And that resulted in a mix of responses from everyone including "oh my, are you okay?" and more hysterical laughing, including from the person who was trying to get up from the floor.