John McGrane ’73
I was born in 1951 and raised in Waverly, Iowa, at the time a town of around 5,000 in northeast Iowa. I was tied for fifth of seven children (I have a twin sister). For those of you who have read “The Thunderbolt Kid,” a very humorous story by Bill Bryson roughly recounting his childhood in the 1950s in West Des Moines, Iowa, just imagine the same things happening in a much smaller town.
My father and mother both had high school educations, as did their brothers and sisters, and reached adulthood in the midst of the Great Depression. My father worked in a factory in Waverly that made excavating equipment and he typically had a second job as well. My mother took care of all of us (the equivalent of multiple jobs). My older sister was the first in our family to go to college, which was unheard of in our extended family at the time, and it made an impression on me. Of the seven children in my family, six went to college for some period of time, and five ultimately got their undergraduate degrees, including my brother Michael McGrane ’72. None of us could have attended college without significant financial aid.
I attended Cornell from 1969-73 and majored in philosophy and political science. After Cornell, I went to Georgetown University Law Center and received my law degree in 1976. I clerked for a U.S. District Court judge in Washington, D.C., for two years and then joined a small law firm, followed by two other larger firms. I am currently a senior partner in Morgan Lewis, a global law firm with approximately 2,000 lawyers and 28 offices around the world. I joined the Cornell College Board of Trustees in 2001 and have been the Board Chair since 2011.
I attribute much of what success I have had to my experience at Cornell. Although having six brothers and sisters itself provides unique experiences (and self-defense training), at Cornell I met and made friends with people from around the country and the world, with many different experiences to share. I had the opportunity to spend a semester abroad and to live in and learn about other cultures. I learned how to think critically and to communicate clearly in writing and verbally, under the tutelage of Cornell’s first-rate faculty. And, of course, I met Marty Benson McGrane ’73, my wife of over 38 years.