Graham sees hope for church in Pope

The Rev. Michael Graham ’75, S.J.

The Rev. Michael Graham ’75, S.J., has been president of Xavier University since Jan. 1, 2001. In 1999 he was appointed executive assistant to the president of Xavier to work on a number of special projects that allowed him to become familiar with a broad range of university activities. He had served as vice president for university relations since 1994. Graham joined Xavier as an assistant professor of history for the 1984-85 academic year and returned to stay in 1989. Graham earned a Ph.D. in American Studies and master’s degrees in psychology and American Studies from the University of Michigan. He also has a degree in divinity. Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Graham entered the Society of Jesus in 1978 and was ordained a priest in 1988.

Q: What are your hopes for the leadership of Pope Francis within and beyond the Catholic church?

A: Financial issues and the clerical abuse scandal have paralyzed the Catholic Church and caused it to turn inward. I hope Francis is able to resolve these issues and restore some of the church’s credibility by turning it outward in service, especially to the poor.

Q: What’s the most important thing you learned at Cornell?

A: That the liberal arts really do all hang together and that a liberal arts education constitutes the best kind of education a person can receive to equip them to succeed in whatever they choose to do, against whatever the world chooses to throw at them.

Q: If you could go back and tell your 20-year-old self one thing, what would it be?

A: Relax, loosen up, trust yourself. And get ready to be amazed.

Q: What person on campus had the biggest impact on you?

A: I majored in psychology and probably took just about every course Lindy Schutz taught and spent countless hours shooting the breeze with him in his office or at his house. He always pushed me, not always in ways that were entirely comfortable. He left Cornell long ago and by one of those odd twists of fates ended up in Cincinnati where I live. One evening, he came up to me and reintroduced himself at an Italian restaurant we’re both partial to, and now we see each other for dinner a couple times a year. Like this coming Wednesday night!

Q: Who are your favorite authors?

A: Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses and John Banville’s The Sea are both miraculous.

Q: What qualities do you most admire in others?

A: Getting things done without calling attention to yourself. Compassion. An alignment between what a person believes and what they do so deep you can see their spirit leaving contrails in everything they do.

Q: What makes you happiest?

A: Discovering that something I didn’t even know I said or did made a difference to someone.