Sunday, September 09, 2001

XU opens Graham chapter


Inaugural ceremonies welcome him to the academic family

By Ben L. Kaufman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] The Rev. Michael Graham jokingly tests the medal placed around his neck Saturday. At left is XU junior Kristen Feeney. Others, from far right: Michael Conaton, the Rev. Robert Thesing, and XU junior Dan Wren.
(Brandi Stafford photos)
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        The Rev. Michael J. Graham, SJ, was inaugurated as the 34th president of Xavier University Saturday amid the warmth and expectations that only a loved son, valued colleague, popular teacher and proven fund-raiser can evoke.

        When board chairman Michael J. Conaton draped the university seal around Father Graham's neck to thundering applause during the installation Mass at St. Xavier Church, it was a richly symbolic moment.

        The setting was the downtown Cincinnati church where the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, began their local ministries and in 1840 took over the school that became XU.

        Moreover, it was a family affair, embracing Xavier as a community rather than an institution.

        Father Graham's parents, Don and Mary Ann Graham were in attendance, as were siblings, cousins and their children.

        The rest of the 550 seats were allotted to friends, faculty, staff, students, alumni, board members, fellow Jesuits and others central to the life of the school.

[photo] Every seat is filled at St. Francis Xavier Church downtown for the inaugural ceremony and Mass.
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        The formal installation came near the end of the Mass and there was a brief delay after Father Graham slipped out of sight. He returned, having substituted his academic robe for the liturgical garment he'd worn throughout the service.

        The priest and board president embraced as the congregation applauded.

        Then the Rev. Richard J. Baumann, SJ, regional superior for Midwestern Jesuits, entrusted Xavier, its faculty, staff, students and mission to Father Graham.

        With a characteristic grin and comment, he noted that it was not totally inappropriate to continue the Mass in his academic robe, since it was nothing but “stylized monastic wear.”

        In remarks at the gala dinner on campus at the Cintas Center Father Graham teased the crowd with the possibility of a new fund drive to raise the endowment from $87 million to $200 million and challenged listeners to help maintain and expand the Xavier mission: “To form students intellectually, morally and spiritually, with rigor and compassion, toward lives of solidarity and service — men and women for others by any other words.”

GRAHAM FILE
   The Rev. Michael James Graham
   
Born: March 9, 1953, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
   • Education: Bachelor's degree in philosophy and psychology (summa cum laude), Cornell College, Mount Vernon, Iowa, 1975; master's degree in American Studies, University of Michigan, 1977; master's degree in psychology, University of Michigan, 1978; Ph.D. in American Studies, University of Michigan, 1983; master's of divinity, Weston School of Theology, Cambridge, Mass., 1988.
   • Vocation: Entered the Society of Jesus, 1978. Ordained a priest, 1988.
   • Xavier University: Adjunct professor, history, 1984-85; assistant professor, 1989-94; associate professor, 1994-95; vice president for university relations, 1994-99; executive assistant to the president, 1999-2000; president since Jan. 1, 2001.
   • Family: Parents, Donald C. and Mary Ann Graham, Cedar Rapids. Four brothers and two sisters.
        In his homily, Father Baumann said it would be months before even Father Graham knows what style his presidency takes, but the campus already has some clues.

        Among them are the “listening sessions” that Father Graham promised when he was named last year. Hundreds of faculty and staff have been telling him what they expect.

        In sum, faculty and staff told him why they were proud of XU, what the school does well, where its weaknesses lie, what must be done for students and neighbors.

        They told him they need more tenured faculty and fewer classes taught by adjuncts.

        There are “two overarching goals” Father Graham said. First, “a Jesuit university must have a profound reverence for and a dedication to the life of the mind ... Intellectual excellence must enjoy a particular pride of place.”

        Second, because a Jesuit university must be “committed to a justice that springs from a perspective of faith,” people “come prepared for the long-haul struggle that is inevitable in shaping a world that is both more humane and more divine.”

       



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