Darryus Griffith's voice quivered Tuesday as he talked about his father and hero, a Brooklyn college administrator killed in last week's Amtrak crash in Philadelphia.
"My dad was everything to me," he said about Derrick E. Griffith, 43, of Brooklyn. "My dad was a great person. He was everything I'm not."
He added: "I never told him this but he's . . . everything I wanted to be."StoryNTSB: Fifth Amtrak derailment victim ID'dEditorialEditorial: Derailment did not have to happenStoryLI rep on wreck: 'Last night we failed them'
The elder Griffith was the dean of student affairs and enrollment management at Medgar Evers College. He was one of eight passengers killed May 12 when Amtrak train 188, en route to Manhattan from Washington, D.C., derailed in Philadelphia.
In a faint voice, Griffith, 24, told reporters at the Jericho offices of the family's attorney about his father, who raised him as a single parent and worked for a decade to earn his doctorate.
The elder Griffith had brought his son along to his dissertation defense. Last month, Griffith earned a doctorate of philosophy in urban education from the Graduate Center at CUNY in Manhattan.
"That's all he ever wanted to accomplish," said his son, a Bronx resident.
The two Griffith men last spoke on Mother's Day. "He asked me 'Did I call my mom?' " said Darryus Griffith, a bank teller.
The family's attorney, Steven J. Schwartzapfel, said Derrick Griffith was "more than just an educator."
"Dr. Griffith devoted his life to encouraging, empowering and educating thousands of people, but none mattered to him more than his son Darryus," Schwartzapfel said.
Griffith was a role model and motivator to his son, who said he had never thought he was "smart or strong enough."
"He made me who I am today," the younger Griffith said.
Derrick Griffith was a former principal who founded the Bronx-based CUNY Prep High School in 2003.
In 2011, he served as executive director of Groundwork Inc., an organization that supports young people living in low-income urban communities, before joining Medgar Evers.
More than 200 people were injured in the crash, which is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board.
Four passengers and a conductor have filed lawsuits. Schwartzapfel said the Griffith family is considering their legal options.
Darryus Griffith said his father was so proud of his PhD that he would remind people: "It's Dr. Griffith now."