May 19, 1935 – March 24, 2020
Carol Greiner met her husband-to-be when they were children in Meriden, Conn. But her adventurous spirit took her to Dallas and then around the country as an American Airlines flight attendant for two years before they married.
"My mother was fiercely independent, competitive and felt strongly about public service," said the couple's oldest son, Kevin Greiner. "What most people don’t know is that she was also way ahead of her time. In the late 1950s, when women her age were expected to marry and start raising children, she moved across the country to start a career on her own. By the time she was 24, she saw more of the country than most people see in a lifetime."
Mrs. Greiner died March 24 in her Amherst home surrounded by her family after a period of declining health. She was 84.
The Greiners arrived in Buffalo in 1967 after Dr. Greiner accepted a position at the University at Buffalo Law School. While Dr. Greiner rose through the ranks at UB to become its 13th president, serving from 1991 to 2003, Mrs. Greiner, in addition to raising four children, aided local organizations supporting young people and the arts, community events and youth sports.
She was born on May 19, 1935, in Meriden, the daughter of Robert and Lydia Morrissey, a mailman and factory worker. From age 5 she danced with childhood friend Tomie dePaolo, who went on to become an award-winning children’s book author and illustrator. They danced throughout Connecticut and won several competitions in New York City.
She and William Greiner were high school sweethearts. After graduating in 1954 from Meriden High School, where she was a star athlete, Mrs. Greiner attended the University of Connecticut. After graduation, she entered the American Airlines training program in Chicago. She then moved to Dallas, and for two years worked as a flight attendant on domestic routes.
"On West Coast runs she frequently met celebrities," her family said, "including her idol Gene Kelly, who helped her serve breakfast to the plane’s passengers." In 1956, she helped organize and worked on flights that transported refugees from the Hungarian uprising to the United States.
"Her early life was marked by adventure, and her entire life was defined by her storybook romance with Bill," her family said. Although she loved her work, when he proposed marriage she was forced to quit because company policy at the time prohibited married stewardesses. Her parting gift from the company was a 90-day pass, with which the newlyweds traveled the country.
Dr. Greiner accepted a position at the University of Washington, and the couple started their family in Seattle, where Mrs. Griener organized a campaign to raise funds to open the city's first kidney dialysis center.
She was a longtime member of the Kiwi Club, a national alliance of American Airlines stewardesses. She was president of her local PTA, a Cub and Girl Scout leader, and helped establish the first Teen Center in Amherst. At UB, she worked to ensure access to higher education for students of limited means, her family said.
In 1998, Mrs. Greiner was named chairwoman of the Council of Presidents' and Chancellors' Spouses of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges. She had participated in the spouses' council of the national association since 1991 and served as secretary in 1996. She was a member of the executive committee of the Partners Program of the Association of American Universities.
Locally, she served on the boards of the Amherst Youth Foundation and the Bethel Head Start Program's Language Development Program and was a member of the Women's Committee of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Women of Studio Arena and Women for Downtown. She was an honorary board member of Upstage NY and honorary chairwoman of the UB Women's Club and Friends of the UB Center for the Arts.
In 2001, she was honored by the Western New York Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation as an outstanding individual supporter.
She was a participant in the long-running "DIVA by DIVA: A Celebration of Women" performances by O'Connell & Co., starting in the 1990s.
Dr. Greiner died on Dec. 19, 2009, after heart surgery.
Besides her son Kevin, Mrs. Greiner is survived by two other sons, Terrence and Daniel; a daughter, Susan Keenan; 13 grandchildren and a niece. Funeral services were private. A public memorial service will be held later this year.