Southern’s Unsung Hero: Eric Triffin


Taylor Richards – Copy Editor 

Public Health professor Eric Triffin from Bethany tells everyone that for being a vegan, he’s quite a ham. Triffin was born in Paris and has travelled the world, but always returned to his roots in New Haven. He got his graduate degree at Yale and has been a professor at Southern since 1986.

“I always tell people to think globally and act locally,” said Triffin.

When Triffin was growing up, he travelled often with his father, a Global Economics professor at Yale. Triffin said his father helped create the Euro, which taught him a valuable lesson about unity which greatly influenced him in his future endeavors.

triffin 1“I didn’t understand what my father did; I thought it was so dry,” said Triffin. “But after he died, his recognition taught me a lot about unity. He used currency to create a trust between entire nations.”

Unity and connectivity are concepts that Triffin said he holds with great importance in his everyday life. He exhibits these notions through his teachings here at Southern, his relationships with other people, and his overall outlook on life.

“Einstein said that the fifth element was energy,” said Triffin. “Music, sunshine, existence; this all connects us on the quilt of life. I don’t think of us as a melting pot, I think of our world as a quilt with everyone providing their own square that contributes to a greater purpose.”

Triffin thinks that websites like Facebook are great resources for connectivity as well. He said he has over 2,500 friends and meets people from all over the world.

“A girl from Turkey told me that I was the reason she became a vegan. That is just amazing to me that Facebook can provide a connection like that,” he said.

Another concept that Triffin likes to promote, especially to his students, is the importance of freedom. For each of his classes, Triffin has his students make a contract for what they want to understand and learn from his class but also from within him/herself. By the end of the semester, he has them evaluate how they’ve grown and hand it in for 20 percent of their grade.

triffin 2“The best teacher is when the student walks away and says: ‘I learned this myself,’” he said. Triffin thinks of himself as a door to knowledge and freedom. “If I had a superpower, it would be to turn around and show people what their own superpower is.”

Sophomore Christie Beaulieu said she loves her Health and Wellness class she takes with him.

“I think he’s a fun-spirited guy who promotes peace through the simple tasks of eating right, dancing and staying healthy.”

Other than teaching at Southern, Triffin was the Director of Public Health for the city of West Haven from 1990 to 2010. He worked to inform the town about making health-conscious decisions, like the danger of going to the beach after it rains.

“You don’t want to swim in mother nature’s mop water.”

Triffin said he was named one of the 25 most influential people in tobacco control from the New England Cancer Society a few years ago from his hard work for the city of West Haven. At the event, when it was Triffin’s turn to speak, he performed a dance and song about lung health and eating right.

Dancing, along with his colorful wardrobe and big, white beard, is something that Triffin is known for. He goes to Toad’s Place every month to dance at Shakedown, a cover band for the Grateful Dead. He also goes to the Gathering of the Vibes festival in Bridgeport every year to connect with other dancers and music-lovers.

“Music, love and peace is honestly all that matters,” said Triffin.

Photo Credit: Taylor Richards – Copy Editor 

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