The Jewish National Fund honors Xavier President Michael J. Graham, S.J., with its highest award

Graham's outreach work is lauded as a | July 8, 2009

The Jewish National Fund is proud to announce Xavier President Michael J. Graham S.J., as its 2009 Tree of Life award recipient. A dinner to present the award will be held on Oct. 28 at 6:00 p.m. at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza.
 
“Fr. Graham’s life work is an example of what the Tree of Life Award is all about," said Jewish National Fund president and Cincinnati lawyer Stanley M. Chesley. "As president of Xavier University, he demonstrates his skill as an amazing leader of the student population. He is also a great interdisciplinary leader caring about each and every member of the human community at large and expanding borders at every opportunity. He is a warm and gracious testament to American-Israeli friendship.”
 
The award's name, Tree of Life, symbolizes the fund’s efforts to develop the land of Israel from barren and uninhabitable into a land of lush green forests and fields, productive farmlands and varied tourism and recreation facilities.
 
Proceeds from the dinner will fund a much-needed hydrotherapy pool at Aleh Negev, one of the fund’s partners and a state-of-the-art facility in Israel’s Negev Desert for people with severe mental and physical disabilities.
 
Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Graham entered the Society of Jesus in 1978 and was ordained a priest in 1988. He also has degrees in American studies, divinity, philosophy and psychology. He first joined Xavier as an assistant professor in 1984 and, after serving in varying capacities, became president on Jan. 1, 2001.
 
As president of Xavier, Graham has invigorated the university's 178-year-old tradition of serving society by its mission of “educating students intellectually, morally and spiritually, with rigor and compassion, toward lives of solidarity, service and success.” As part of Graham's strategic plan, Xavier has established an academic vision, increased the number of full-time faculty, enhanced interdisciplinary study, and expanded academic service learning and study abroad.

Fulfilling his vision of the “University as Citizen,” Graham has also initiated the Community Building Collaborative as well as established the Eigel Center for Community Engagement, which both coordinate activities that connect the university to the surrounding neighborhoods and larger community. A significant goal for the university is to partner with both local and regional organizations and for Xavier faculty, students and staff to become more active citizens and participants in the community.
 
Graham is also a parish priest, active at both Good Shepherd Catholic Church in suburban Cincinnati and with Xavier student groups.
 
“I’ve been doing increasingly extensive work with the Jewish community here,” Graham said, “and I see this honor as a thank-you for that growing relationship. I admire JNF’s work tremendously, and this particular project was appealing to me as I have a 24-year-old niece with severe mental retardation, and when she aged out of the available facilities at 21, her parents were panicked about what to do. They were lucky; they were able to set up a group home for her, but so many people aren’t that fortunate. Aleh Negev is the answer for many people in Israel, and the pool itself seemed like a good focus to wrap our arms around.”
 
For information or questions about the dinner, e-mail Melissa Fabian at mfabian@jnf.org or call 513-794-1300.