Jewish National Fund to Honor Xavier President Michael Graham with Highest Honor

June 30, 2009

June 30, 2009 -- Cincinnati, OH  -- Jewish National Fund (JNF) is proud to announce Father Michael Graham S.J., president of Xavier University, as its 2009 Tree of Life™ award recipient. The dinner will be held on October 28, 2009, at 6 p.m., at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza.


“Father Graham’s life work is an example of what the Tree of Life Award is all about," said JNF President 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 expanding borders at every opportunity.  He is a warm and gracious testament to American-Israeli friendship.”


The award's name, Tree of Life, symbolizes JNF’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, a JNF partner 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 January 1, 2001.


As president of Xavier, Graham has invigorated the university's 178-year-old tradition of serving society by 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 Community Engagement Center, 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,” said Graham, “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, email Melissa Fabian at or call 513-794-1300.


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Jewish National Fund (JNF) began in 1901 collecting coins in blue boxes to purchase land and return the Jewish people to their homeland. In over 107 years, JNF has evolved into a global environmental leader and become the central address for partnering with the land and people of Israel. JNF has planted 240 million trees; built over 1,000 parks and recreational areas; constructed security roads; educated students around the world about Israel; created new communities so that Jews from around the world would have a place to call home; discovered new means of growing plants under arid conditions, bringing green to the desert; and built over 200 reservoirs and water recycling centers, increasing Israel’s water supply by 10%. Today, JNF is supporting Israel’s newest generation of pioneers by bringing life to the Negev Desert, Israel’s last frontier. 


A United Nations NGO, JNF sponsors international conferences on desertification, shares afforestation techniques, and funds research on arid land management. JNF is a registered 501(c)(3) organization and continuously earns top ratings from charity overseers. For more information on JNF, call 888-JNF-0099 or visit