Tom Griffiths, director of aquatics at Penn State
University, will leave his position at the State College,
Pa., institution after 23 years. He is also the president
of advocacy organization Aquatic Safety Research Group.
“I was spread too thin and was away from Penn
State so much,” he said of his decision to retire.
“Now I will be able to focus on traveling for my
advocacy group, investigating accidents and drownings and
teaching seminars,” in both the residential and
commercial arms of the industry.
While this marks the end of Griffiths’
“day job,” as he calls it, his work with
water is far from over.
“People don’t realize how quickly and
silently a drowning can happen,” whether at a
commercial aquatics facility or in a backyard swimming
pool, said Griffiths. “We need to educate
An author of many water-related books, such as the
Complete Swimming Pool Reference and Better Beaches for the
National Recreation and Park Association, Griffiths is
planning continue his work in industry education and
improved water safety technology. Both areas will be a
major focus of his post-retirement career.
Griffiths concerns for water safety stretch across the
board. Among other notable achievements in his long
aquatics career he spearheaded the five-minute scanning
strategy, which helps lifeguards assess danger in the
He is currently writing his seventh book, Safe Swimming
Beaches, with Champaign, Ill.-based Human Kinetics, which
provides aquatics and fitness education resources. He hopes
to release it next spring.
“Writing and publishing a book is like the
birth of a baby,” he said.
Griffiths himself was just a youngster when he got
started in commercial aquatics. He began helping the
maintenance at a New Jersey lake around age 10, and went on
to become a lifeguard.
He will officially retire on August 25 — his
60th birthday — and until then he is working
closely with Penn State to ensure a smooth transition.
“They have been really great about working
closely with me, going over everything I do with a
fine-tooth comb to put together a list of qualifications my
replacement should have,” Griffiths said.
There is also the possibility that he will stay on as a
consultant for the school to help train the new director.
“Everyone has a time [to retire] and I
don’t mind stepping down and helping someone else