Griffin Plattner
The beginning of Griffin Plattner's UF career was marred with the loss of his father. Plattner's dedication to his studies and community service helped him through that difficult time.

Hard work and heartbreak inspire Heavener student in pursuit of degrees

The past few weeks of Griffin Plattner’s UF undergraduate career have been surreal in that he’s actually had some free time. Instead of the usual 18-credit semester, he took a “relaxing” 12 this fall, allowing him to give more campus tours through the Florida Cicerones and unwind with his friends—two of his favorite activities.

The free time has also given Plattner the opportunity to reflect on a memorable 4 ½ years which were demanding, exhilarating, heartbreaking and inspiring. Plattner will receive bachelor degrees in Management and Chemical Engineering during today’s commencement ceremonies at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

Plattner, 22, personifies the Warrington experience—excelling in his studies, active in student organizations and passionate about his community service. Prospering in just one of those pursuits can exhaust the average college student.

Plattner, of course, is not your average college student.

He had the opportunity to pursue a business degree at the University of Pennsylvania, but shunned the Ivy League for UF, which has a rich history in his family. Plattner’s father, Dean (BA ’77, JD ’80), brother Alex (BA ’13, BS ’13), uncles David Plattner (BA ’84) and James Crane (BAART ’81), aunt Jena Lewis (BA ’82), and cousins Sam Lewis (BA ’11) and Betty Lewis (BA ’14) are all UF graduates.

But adding on to the family legacy wasn’t the only reason he chose UF. Plattner said he wouldn’t have been able to pursue a second degree had he gone to Penn. At UF, however, he was given the flexibility to diversify his studies. A conversation with Jaime Little, Academic Advisor & Career Coach at the Heavener School of Business, sealed the deal.

“I wanted to talk to a business school advisor to see if I was making the right decision,” said Plattner, a native of Fort Myers. “Jaime made me feel so comfortable about the program and its resources. She’s a big reason I came to UF, and I’ve never looked back.”

But during his first semester at UF, Plattner suffered a devastating loss when his father passed away. Suddenly, chemistry labs and business courses didn’t feel as important.

“Fortunately, I have a strong family structure, and that really helped me work through it,” Plattner said. “And I received a lot of support here at UF.”

In addition to averaging 18 credits per semester, including 22 one semester, Plattner immersed himself in community service. He gave his 100th tour as a Florida Cicerone last week, and participated in Salvation Army dinners, a canned food drive and a back-to-school drive benefiting homeless elementary school students as a member of Circle K International, an international collegiate service organization that promotes community service.

But Plattner said his most rewarding activity was participating in the Footprints Buddy and Support Program at UF Health Shands Hospital, where he spent time with children in the hospital’s pediatric oncology unit. He was familiar with the program because his brother, Alex, was a volunteer. Plattner found himself spending more and more time at Shands, especially after he lost his father.

“To take part in a program like that is really humbling,” Plattner said. “You’re talking about kids in the hospital away from home for weeks or months at a time, away from their family and friends. I just tried to be a friend to them, try to have some fun and take their minds off their situations.”

Plattner believes the impact of his father’s passing didn’t increase his community service involvement—he thinks he would have been just as involved. But it did require him to assess all his pursuits both academic and personal.

“When something like that happens, you think about everything you’re doing,” Plattner said. “You ask yourself, ‘Am I doing this just to do it or is there a purpose?’ I lost a little of that vision when my father died. I had to find it again.”

Plattner’s participation in the Footprints program may have provided him a new purpose: A possible career in medicine. So in addition to pursuing his majors in Management and Chemical Engineering, he added a Pre-Med track to his academic plan. Plattner has been applying to various medical schools across the country, and was recently accepted into UF’s College of Medicine. He hopes to find a career where he can blend his business, engineering and medical training with a focus on working directly with patients.

Plattner was originally going to skip Warrington’s ceremony at 10am today and only attend the engineering commencement in the afternoon. He felt a bit awkward about “walking” twice, and his brother, enrolled at the University of North Carolina’s School of Medicine, wouldn’t be in town until later in the day. Fortunately, he’s had a change of heart.

“The more I thought about it, I want to be there,” Plattner said.


  • Griffin will graduate summa cum laude in both degrees, which require a minimum 3.9 GPA in all UF courses.
  • In Summer 2014, Griffin interned at Washington University in St. Louis where he worked with a team of researchers focused on cardiology and oncology.
  • Griffin said his business classes made him a better engineering student: “Business teaches you so many translational skills like thinking critically and working with teams. When we finally started doing teamwork in my engineering classes, it was easier for me because I had already been exposed to that.”