Father Graham reaches Sweet 16

Photo courtesy of Xavier University | Father Micheal Graham celebrates his 16th year as president of Xavier. He discusses the many changes to the campus’ appearance and the student body.

Much like teenagers can look back on their childhoods and note — sometimes to their parents’ dismay — just how much they have changed during their short lifespans, Father Michael Graham, president, can look back on his 16 years at Xavier and note just how much campus has changed. Unlike the aforementioned parents, however, he views these changes with pride and excitement.

“It’s usual for alumnus who graduated in the ‘50s or ‘60s to come back here and go, ‘Whoa, this place doesn’t even look like it used to,’” Graham said. “Now what happens is that students who graduated from the mid-90s or early 2000s still come back here and go ‘Whoa,’ because the place looks so different.”

Throughout Graham’s time at Xavier, he has witnessed and been involved in the reconstruction of Alter Hall, the construction of the Fenwick dorms, the construction of Smith Hall and the Williams College of Business, the construction of the Conaton Learning Commons and the development and construction of University Station.

“I think in about 2000, we had about 120 acres, and we have over 200 now,” Graham said. “That’s a big, big difference.”

He has also been involved with some of the more recent changes that range from the new walking area in front of Bellarmine Chapel to changes in the Yard to the steps alongside the Gallagher Student Center.

Most recently, he has worked on the development of new buildings and projects such as the HUB, which is set to break ground soon.

“The physical campus is a completely different campus in some ways,” Graham said. “It has the old campus at its center, if you will, and it is so built-out around it. It’s become a very user-friendly place where people can hang out.”

Of all these developments, however, he cites perhaps one of the simplest as his favorite — the white chairs sprinkled across the Yard that students frequently utilize.

“One of my favorite things are the white chairs,” Graham said. “Everybody loves the white chairs. It was such a cool idea.”

In addition to the large number of physical changes on campus, Graham has seen numerous changes to the student body, especially in terms of enrollment. He expressed pride that this increase in student population has not, in his view, deterred the university from living out its Jesuit heritage and values.

“One thing I am really pleased about is that this increase in students has not compromised our ability to exercise the care of a person that is at the heart of a Jesuit community,” Graham said.

Enrollment itself aside, another important development Graham takes pride in is the increasing number of out-of-state students.  “The students are also different,” Graham said. “It used to be that the undergraduate population used to be heavily from Ohio and regional — so within a 100-mile radius. Now 60 percent of our students come from outside the state of Ohio and beyond the region.”

In addition to more out-of-state students attending Xavier, there has also been an increase in the number of first-generation students who attend the university, along with students of color. Graham is happy to see this increase in the diversity of the student body, as he noted that it has brought new perspectives and ideas to the campus as a whole.

“They bring a new geographical perspective that is richer and more diverse, and I think a more diverse student body is a better student body period,” Graham said. “We have a better student body than we had before, and we are more true to mission than we were before.”

As he continues to move through this “teenage” phase of his tenure as president, Graham eagerly anticipates new changes to come and looks forward to watching the campus grow, both in terms of its physical features and in terms of its student body.

By: Erica Lampert ~Staff Writer~