By Doug Ruschman 

Rev. Michael J. Graham, S.J., Provided by Xavier University

The Rev. Michael J. Graham, S.J., 34th president of Xavier University since 2001, has announced his retirement after 20 years leading Cincinnati’s nearly 200-year-old Jesuit university through the first two decades of the 20th century. Graham ends his tenure as the longest-serving president in the history of Xavier on June 30, 2021. 

Graham made his announcement during the annual Spring Convocation on Monday, March 2, in the Cintas Center on campus. 

 “Why now, 2021? Here’s why,” Graham said. “I will step down in 2021 because it is in the best interest of Xavier University for me to do so. And, because the university has never been stronger than it is now, it has therefore never been better prepared to attract a visionary and capable leader.” 

A search team has been convened to begin the process of selecting the 35th president of Xavier. The team expects to have a new president in place by July 2021. 

Leading the search committee is former board Chair and current Trustee Barbara Howard, Esq., Class of ’76, along with current board members Damon Jones, of Procter & Gamble, Class of ’97, and Walter Deye, S.J., rector of the Cincinnati Jesuit Community. 

“We offer our most sincere thanks and deepest appreciation to Fr. Graham for his remarkable leadership and distinguished career. While the time ahead will certainly be used to say thank you to Fr. Graham, it is time to seek our next university leader. To be sure, we will hire a president who will carry on our Jesuit mission,” says Howard. 

Graham, who first taught history at Xavier, began his presidency in 2001 by declaring two goals: A focus on academic excellence and development of the whole person. Ever since, these goals have guided his direction and decisions for improving the student experience, as well as for the entire campus community. 

Among major initiatives Graham spearheaded was his University as Citizen to invigorate Xavier’s Jesuit tradition of serving society by educating students to become men and women for and with others, and by integrating the university into the larger community. To that end, he established the Brueggeman Center for Dialogue, the Community Building Collaborative at Xavier and the Eigel Center for Community-Engaged Learning. 

He increased academic experiences for students by adding to the diversity course requirement, emphasizing immersive learning experiences out of the classroom, and expanding honors-level programs. During his tenure, Xavier added three new doctoral programs, created a School of Education and a College of Nursing, and developed a Center for Population Health. 

Graham also presided over a wave of physical improvements to campus that include the Conaton Learning Commons, the new Smith Hall for the Williams College of Business, Fenwick Place Residence Hall, University Station for upper class student residences, a renovated Alter Hall classroom building and the newest facility, the Health United Building, where health-related academics, wellness and fitness are housed in one location. 

“For the next year plus, I intend to work hard to continue moving forward the broad agenda of the university and most especially to help wrap up the Together For Others capital campaign successfully,” he said. “And then there is the Higher Learning Commission process. The university will be extraordinarily well positioned, when that process is completed and a new leader is on board, to take a deep breath and go forward into its next chapter.”

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