Making Innovation Possible: Steve Griffin
An alumnus of Mechanical Engineering, Griffin and Tami, his wife, recently gave COE a gift to help improve a thermal and
fluid science lab
Steven Griffin believes in the power of hard work. A graduate of The University of Texas at San Antonio Mechanical Engineering program, who by his own admission, basically lived in the lab while he was pursuing his degree, completed his master’s in one year and one semester, graduating in 1993. Now, 20 years after his graduation from UTSA, Griffin and Tami, his wife, are giving back to the College of Engineering with a gift that will be used to enhance the college’s thermal and fluid science lab.
“I have always felt extremely fortunate in terms of opportunity,” said Griffin. “I have more than I require, and my kids are taken care of. Those aspects of my life are managed and I feel like I am in a position to give back. It makes sense at this stage in my life to do that. Generally, I think that I owe the university and my professors far more than I could pay them in gratitude or kindness or in gifting.”
Over the past 20 years, there have been 63 master’s degree graduates from the zip code where Griffin grew up, on the southwest side San Antonio. Griffin, his twin brother and his sister were three out of 63 graduates.
“I have been lucky to have been able to stay in one place,” said Griffin. “I was born and bred in San Antonio, and have an investment in my property, my home, and my neighborhood.”
In 2002, just about 10 years after graduating from UTSA, Steve founded Carnot Emission Services with his twin brother Tim Griffin, and their older sister, Holly Schmidt, with a small business loan. The company is located at Port San Antonio, and since opening its doors, Griffin and his siblings, all UTSA graduates, have built the company into one of the most recognized engine emission test labs in the world. In 2007, the three of them sold the company assets to public company Intertek Group, PLC in the United Kingdom.
Griffin and his wife Tami have three daughters, and Griffin says he sometimes wonders if his daughters would be better off at magnet school, like John Jay Science and Engineering Academy or a private school.
“At some stage you have to believe that your public education is just as important and just as valuable as Rice or Trinity or MIT or Stanford,” said Griffin. “You get out of school what you put into it. Do you have more doors that might open up if you graduate from Harvard? Yeah, maybe. But at the same time, I don’t know if those schools prepare you more [than a public university]. I didn’t graduate from those schools so I have no basis for that, but I think I have done quite well; a public education hasn’t held me back. Could more doors have been opened, maybe? Everyone talks about a UT Austin ring or a Texas A&M ring and how it carries its weight like gold. Maybe its gold, or silver or platinum, but for me, those things didn’t add value. I generally thought that when I was coming here [UTSA], there were no shortcuts from my professors. There was no worrying about the school teaching to the lowest common denominator. I didn’t feel like there were any free rides. I thought everyone was sweating and we all were pretty smart.”
Steve is married to Tami (Damon) Griffin. Tami is also a UTSA graduate, earning a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies in 1994; she is a counselor at John Glenn Elementary School in the NISD.
—Deborah Silliman Wolfe