TEA Connect Blog

05 January 2017

Appreciating Kathryn Griffiths - in memoriam

We mourn the loss of Kathryn Griffiths of Universal Creative, who was a vital presence on the International Board of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA).

Kathryn passed away January 2, 2017 at age 62. She was born August 7, 1954. 

We extend heartfelt condolences to her family, friends and colleagues.


Kathryn Griffiths was Director of International Project Integration, Universal Creative, NBC Universal, and based in Orlando. As a TEA International Board member Kathryn helped TEA in its global mission to expand and improve the attractions industry worldwide. She was a key figure in the relationship between TEA and Universal Creative, a Global Partner to the association, and helped facilitate numerous events, sponsorships and other activities. She was a reliable participant at TEA meetings, conferences and events.  





"TEA was fortunate to have Kathryn Griffiths, such a familiar and welcome presence. She was the one who made our first President’s Forum happen, linking together our vendor/supplier membership with our owner/operator membership, to everyone’s benefit. Always present with a voice of reason, quick to collaborate and act. Thank you, Kathryn." -- Steve Birket, Birket Engineering, Immediate Past President of the TEA International Board of Directors

"Kathryn Griffiths was one of the most accessible and even-keeled persons I have ever met in this industry. Her calm manner, engaging smile and total willingness to listen and assist were her hallmarks. I always was glad to see her and was proud to count her as a friend. We have lost a true champion and leader." -- Bob Shreve, Herschend Family Entertainment, TEA International Board


"Kathryn was one of the most caring and empathic people that I had the good fortune to know. I was proud to call her my friend and in fact one of my best friends. In an industry where we all feel like family, Kathryn was a sister to me. She was a caring and compassionate person concerned with the welfare of others. She was a strong advocate for Universal, the TEA, and for young women in our industry. She will be missed." -- David Aion, Rethink Leisure & Entertainment, TEA International Board


"Kathryn was an absolutely amazing woman. I am honored to have called her my friend and colleague. Her commitment to her work and TEA was overwhelming, but one of the things I appreciated the most about Kathryn was her dedication to supporting young women in the design and engineering fields. Now matter how busy, she always made time to support, educate and network with women in our industry. She will be greatly missed and never forgotten." -- Traci Klainer, LUCE, TEA International Board Member

"Kathryn represented what is best about the themed entertainment industry. She was genuinely interested in the health and well-being of the entire industry. From the large corporations to the entrepreneurs who are the backbone of the TEA, Kathryn focused her energies on making the association a strong representative for all during her years on the TEA International Board. Kathryn’s spark and upbeat attitude will be greatly missed by all who worked with her." -- Monty Lunde, Technifex, TEA Founder and Past President

"Kathryn was an early adopter and staunch advocate of the TEA NextGen Initiative to help students and recent grads build careers in themed entertainment. Her wisdom, guiding hand and unfailing belief in the program and TEA as a whole will be missed." -- Clara Rice, JRA, TEA International Board


"Kathryn Griffiths was a loyal and hard working member of the TEA. Serving on the TEA International Board, her professionalism spoke for itself in everything she said and did. Kathryn would listen, consider, then speak, and everything she said was worth taking note of. I was lucky enough to have dinner with her during the TEA SATE conference in October 2016 and very much enjoyed our discussion about the industry. She was a very perceptive individual and she will be sadly missed." -- David Willrich, DJ Willrich Ltd., TEA International Board President

"Kathryn Griffiths' service and dedication to TEA as a Board member were exemplary. She was key in the creation and planning of many successful TEA gatherings and events. Her vision and advocacy were factors in Universal Creative's role, as a TEA Global Partner, and a generous sponsor and hospitable host to our association. Kathryn understood that what we do to create community affects our industry as a whole. She was one of those people who really stepped up. As a person, she was warm, caring, frank and always equipped with a sense of humor and irony. I am going to miss her very much." -- Jennie Nevin, TEA COO


"Kathryn Griffiths loved the TEA: its mission, influence and its raison d'être. I saw Kathryn’s personal mission in TEA as twofold: First, she loved to help TEA NextGen members make meaningful connections, and she continued to mentor many of them after they landed their dream jobs. But her biggest passion was helping women navigate this male-dominated industry. She was a guiding light for many women by generously giving her time to support, counsel and to help provide networking opportunities.

"Universal Creative is a unique workplace. On one of my first days here, Kathryn Griffiths introduced herself. She became my guide and helped me learn to be successful. She became my friend and confidant. I loved Kathryn. Her spirit and drive to always create something new, and her desire to be the best of everything inspired me to reach further than I thought I could.

"Kathryn wore many hats at Universal Creative but the one I treasured was the guru of consumer insight. Somehow she knew what every potential customer needed and expected. Her opinions were listened to and valued at the highest level of our company. She and I spent a lot of time in Asia thinking about the Universal Beijing Project. We would spend all day in a consumer research session and then, over a bottle of red wine, argue about what the results meant.

"Kathryn and I shared a love of red wine. She and I would conclude a day of work and share a bottle of Cabernet (her favorite) no matter where we were. She had this uncanny ability to know where the best wine bar was in whatever city we were in. During this time we would solve all the problems of the world. These will be my fondest memories of Kathryn.

"The last time Kathryn and I shared a bottle of red wine was at the TEA SATE conference in New York in October 2016. She steered us to a nearby burger bar with an exceptional wine list. We spent the afternoon solving the problems of the world, but more so, she was helping me cope with the challenges I was facing, and in her own way giving me the support and guidance to be a better person. That was Kathryn. I will miss her more then anyone will know." -- Paul Osterhout, Universal Creative


After publishing the above, we also heard from the former head of global recruiting at Universal, who shared the following tribute:

"I am so saddened by the loss of my dear friend Kathryn Griffiths, whom I knew since 1994. We developed a program in Universal Creative to recruit non traditional leaders to infuse diversity into the organization and I recruited Kathryn and we hired her into IOA...she did great and moved to Orlando. After the project, I hired her onto my team in the Recruiting team and she became one of the very first employer branding professionals ever. I left Universal and joined the highly innovative Idealab organization in Pasadena where I recruited Kathryn to join me again in a similar employer branding role. We had a blast in these teams and it really was fun... Kathryn was our rock... she was the mature, professional, and level headed leader who also was super creative... and always learning. After the dot com implosion, Idealab had layoffs and Kathryn went back to Orlando and rejoined the outplacement industry... but when Universal Creative was looking for someone like her... I reminded my friends at Universal Creative about KG and she was reunited into the theme park industry she loved. I remember long conversations with KG about working in a creative environment and how to spark innovation, which she was so thrilled about. She loved her home refurbishment projects and always invited me into her homes to see her amazing creativity. I remember her homes in California and Orlando. I never missed an opportunity to have a meal or drink with her throughout the years when I was in Orlando even though I am in California... she was a joyful person and I thoroughly enjoyed her energy about politics and gossiping about old colleagues and friends. I will so greatly miss her and her energy. The world has lost her far too early. All my personal love to her family and friends... of which she had so many. Peace to all of us." -- Jeremy Eskenazi, Riviera Advisors Inc.

Posted by Judith Rubin



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