Former Eastern Bank executive Bob Griffin, of Swampscott, died suddenly last Friday at 72.
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Bob Griffin was always in it for the greater ‘good’

The consensus opinion within the North Shore banking community is that Bob Griffin was the most influential factor in putting Eastern Bank on the map as a commercial lending institution.

"I had the pleasure of working alongside Bob for 20 years. Eastern (whose slogan is now "Join Us For Good") would not be the bank it is today without his effort and leadership," said Mark Primeau, who was president of consumer and business banking at Eastern. "He really made an impact in the bank and in the community."

Griffin, who lived in Swampscott, died suddenly last Friday at the age of 72. He was an executive vice president at Eastern, in charge of the commercial division. And, said Stan Lukowski, who was the CEO for much of Griffin's tenure at the bank, "Bob really helped grow us into a significant player in Massachusetts banking."

Bob Rivers, Eastern's current CEO, echoed Lukowski.

"He built our commercial banking business into one of the most respected in Greater Boston, a legacy that has endured and become even stronger today," said Rivers. "It was Bob who led our expansion into Boston, establishing our original office here at 53 State St. in 1991." 

Lukowski said that Griffin was part of a tight-knit management team that worked together as well as they socialized. 

During his time as an executive vice president at Eastern, Joseph Riley, who now holds the same title at Salem Five Bank, rubbed elbows with Griffin often. 

"He was a phenomenal guy," said Riley, "A real gentleman. And he appreciated being around people who were polite, and who showed a lot of decorum."

But at the same time, Riley said, "He had a great sense of humor. I'd characterize him as 'delightfully reserved.' You had to get to know him, and he had to get to know you. But when Bob determined you were genuinely nice, and were a well-intentioned person of good will, regardless of what your opinions were, he was very engaging."

Riley told of his interview with Griffin for the position at Eastern. 

"He was the first one I interviewed (with), and he had my resume in front of him. I'm a Holy Cross guy. He's a Boston College guy. I had the good sense to refrain from my usual comment — delivered in humor, of course — that some people can't make it into Holy Cross. 

"I'm also a Catholic Memorial guy, so when he asked me where I went to high school, and I told him, he said he'd gone to BC High and that he was a 'double Eagle.' At that point, I asked him whether there was any point in continuing the interview."

But they connected anyway.

"He sought out the acquaintance of people with high morals and ethics," Riley said. "I thoroughly enjoyed developing my relationship with Bob over the years."

Another person who appreciated Griffin's strong moral compass was Ed Hardiman, headmaster at St. John's Prep, where Griffin was on the Board of Trustees and became, in his retirement, one of Hardiman's most trusted advisers.

"He was incredibly loyal to St. John's Prep," Hardiman said. "He was a strong believer in Catholic education. Both his sons (Sean and Michael) went to St. John's, and he saw what a Prep education did for them, and he wanted to be a bigger part of the school.

"As a trustee emeritus — as I called him — Bob was always advocating that we stay true to our mission, to give access to people who couldn't afford a Prep education, and remain true to our Xaverian Brothers ideals.

"His banking experience helped us overcome a couple of challenges we had, and really set us up for success in the future," Hardiman said.

At the time Griffin was hired at Eastern, the board was looking to establish a commercial division. 

"His name came up to me via a recruiter," Lukowski said, "And immediately I wanted him to join us, and he decided to do that. He headed up our commercial division."

Not only did he head it up, Lukowski said, he staffed it with knowledgeable people who helped turn it into what it's become today.

"He had a reputation as being one of the best commercial bankers in the business," he said. "He took charge. He brought in great people, and trained a lot of the people we still have. 

"He built our business into a substantial institution with a great reputation," Lukowski added. "He had great skills in a number of areas."

It wasn't all business, Lukowski said. Griffin, a member of Tedesco Country Club in Marblehead, loved golf. And golf loved him.

"Not only did he like it, he was good at it," Lukowski said. "He whipped my tail every time we played against each other. It was fun to play with him. They all loved him at Tedesco. He had a lot of friends there."

Former Tedesco club pro Bob Green said that both Griffin and his wife, Janet, were active not just in local golf circles, but throughout the state and country. Both were poised to part of the team next year at The Country Club in Brookline when it hosted the U.S. Open. Both were rules experts in the sport.

"He loved this place," said Green of Tedesco. "It was like his second home. And, of course, once he retired from the bank he was here even more, and loved it even more. He was always happy when he came here. This is a big loss, and he'll be missed."


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