The cool guys scurried to get the most popular girls as the tune countdown ticked away. I was the last girl left. Left footed, Lainey. Yep. Giff chuckled a little, looked at the two boys left as they backed into the wall like frightened wallflower turtles.
Move their feet to the beat of a George Giffin Memorial Fund is exactly what Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School (RFH) alumni, in partnership with high school’s Education Foundation, have done. The foundation was created to honor and advance the passions of the iconic longtime RFH biology and dance teacher.
George, or “Giff,” as his students affectionately called him, garnered iconic status in his 35 years, from 1956 to 1991, at RFH. The Class of 1991, the last class for which Giff taught, dedicated its senior yearbook to him.
For a stint during his RFH tenure, Giff served as chairman of the high school’s Science Department. He also taught an elective ballroom dance class at RFH that quickly became a must and was known to keep students on their toes, dancing with class in any social setting. Post high school, Giff showed up at many an RFH reunion or wedding to get the dance party started and going all night. If you saw him around the towns in his retired years, he’d gladly tell you all about the joy that dancing in and out of those high school years gave him. And he wasn’t alone. For RFH alumni, a dancing Giff appearance always made the celebration complete at any event.
For that reason, the money raised for the new George Giffin Memorial Fund will be used to support RFH programs for which Giff held a deep commitment — those with which he aimed to empower students at RFH to achieve their goals and develop a true love of learning and living.
Remembered by countless students for his quirky, enigmatic personality, Giff was known to pepper his lessons with a lot of laughter, cheer, soft-shoe steps and jokes in and out of the classroom.
In addition to teaching, Giff was, at different times, both the girls’ and boys’ basketball coach as well as the RFH Golf Team coach. Known as always the fearless pioneer, while looking for an opportunity decades ago for girls to be more involved in school activities, Giff created and directed the RFH Girls’ Drill Team.
The girls on the team practiced twirling rifles Giff-choreographed routines at football halftimes. At one time, the team was comprised of 100 girls; and, in addition to football game performances, marched, for years, in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in NYC.
Word among RFH alumni spread recently when members of the RFH Class of 1973 spearheaded the effort to create the memorial fund in Giff’s honor.
“We had many outstanding teachers at RFH,” said Class of ’73 grad Bill Davidson. “Mr. Giffin was not only an outstanding teacher but an energetic, spirited, and talented individual who was admired and remembered by so many.
“Giff taught students over four decades which saw so much change but he never lost his ability to connect with students over those years! He was a gift!”
Classmate Cindy Sherman elaborated, saying, “George Giffin saw something in me that I did not see in myself … for that, I am forever grateful.”
Along with Davidson and Sherman, Steve Farely and Ellen Spears comprise the four-member Steering Committee for the Fund.
The RFH Education Foundation, a charitable organization with the mission of enriching the high school curriculum by funding projects and grants that fall outside of the school system’s mainstream budget.
George Giffin died in 2014 at the age of 85. He was a longtime Fair Haven resident. His wife, Marcia, a former Knollwood School English teacher, still lives in Fair Haven. Prior to his time at RFH, he served as a captain with the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean War. A 1951 graduate of Colby College in Waterville, ME, he earned a master’s degree from Colby as well as from the University of Vermont.
Outside of the RFH halls and grounds, Giff was an active member of various local religious, social and charitable groups. He was a founder of the Fair Haven Fields Committee and the director of the Fair Haven Recreation Commission for several years.
The popular Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School science and dance teacher and coach passed away last year. In finding a fitting way to memorialize him and garner some money for Monmouth Day Care Center, his daughter Debra Schluter and a committed group of volunteers set the dance-a-thin in motion — literally.
Take a look at the slideshow above for a glimpse into the event, and remember George Giffin.
“When you get that beat, you have to moooove your feet!” — George Giffin.
The time is drawing near for all Rumson-Fair Haven area people to remember, honor and dance in the name of RFH’s ever-famous George Giffin, science and dance teacher extraordinaire who died last year.
The George Giffin Memorial Dance-a-thon is set for next week — Saturday, April 18 from 5 to 10 p.m. in the RFH gym.
With proceeds benefitting the Monmouth Day Care Center, people, in the name of Mr. Giffin, are invited to dance or just be a spectator at the event, which is being sponsored by the RFH Dance Troupe.
So, in preparation of the event and to remember the magic that was George Giffin, the Retro Pic(s) of the Day gives a glimpse into the last day this editor saw Mr. Giffin dance.
It was 2012 and he was at Fairwinds Deli in Fair Haven. It didn’t take much for Mr. Giffin, or Giff, as he was called, to launch into a routine no matter where it was.
He talked about how he loved to still show up at RFH grads’ weddings and teach them a few steps. He also said he was not too fond of the way in which the English language has been slaughtered “these days.” We agree.
Brown paper sandwich bag in hand, Giff then rhythmically chanted, “When you get that beat, you’ve got to move your feet!” as he did his own little dance right in the deli line.
What a treat.
There were popular teachers at RFH, all cherished, but George Giffin just had what theater professionals call “it” — personality, stage presence, that special something that makes people’s eyes twinkle when they’re around.
Always equipped with a passel of jokes, a smile and a “five, six, five six, seven, eight and one, two, cha, cha, cha” it’s a sure bet that he’d love to marathon dance at this event.
Though we’re not sure if he would be out teaching some classic ballroom dance moves, try a few of the newer moves or both, but we know he’d at least give it a “cha, cha, cha, dip, twirl” and maybe a cartwheel … just to throw people off — or not.
Dancers for the event must be 12 and up. Cost to dance is $50, while admission is $10 for spectators, and $5 for spectators age 12 and under.