Our University – The Mathematics of Jack Graham


Organizations are frequently in debt to quiet people.  Servants who lead.  Jack Graham was such a person and his death last week reminds of our responsibility to remember. There was an era at SIU in which a forceful, visionary, charismatic, thoughtful, intelligent academic leader, a faculty member who knew universities and rose through the ranks to guide one to near greatness.  Delyte Morris.  Rare in any age and deeply appreciated by the quiet men and women who worked at his side to get the job done.


Men like Jack.



Not too many years ago Barbara Bush was asked what she thought the greatest challenge for America was.  What is our biggest problem?  In word one she decisively articulated it.






Greedy people can’t get much done.  They are too concerned with how they are perceived, too focused on how they will be regarded, too determined to make themselves right, rather than build the organizations they serve.



Inappropriate focus, regard and determination are the arithmetic of greed.



A man like President Morris knew that his concern for the university, indeed the region, had to be such that the needs of the people served, in this case the students, faculty and staff of the university, had to be elevated above his own.  He also knew that in order to do this, he must associate with people that were likewise willing and able to see the seeking of the “good of the order” as a high calling.  Even at times with a big ego to bridle… a nearly inescapable form of human frailty… men like Morris get things done, but never without servant leaders like Jack Graham at their side.



The cause of their effectiveness is perfectly expressed in a single word.






On many occasions I had the opportunity to ask Professor Graham about our university, its’ role fifty years ago, and its’ current role.  He always offered the same answer, one that revealed his deep generosity and his love for the place and its purpose.  He responded that we must challenge and serve students, to make them think, to present them with excellent thought, and clarity of concept, in short, to provide the possibility for them to secure an education from Southern.


I found this out most vividly when meeting with a group of retirees with whom I would visit on the first Monday of each month, drinking coffee, and talking about the transition of the university from what it was to what it could be.  As the old admonition suggests “You can never step in the same stream twice”.



These were excellent men and women who realized what had been created here and what needed to happen to make the future brighter than the past.



Jack was a person who could transition from one generation to the next.  It was his generosity that did this, driven by an abiding faith that I saw evidenced on numerous occasions, a faith that creates a servants heart, and a faith that transformed a right hand man into a servant leader.



Our university always needs people of this caliber, people loved by family, friends, and associates alike for the simple principles they exercise in their daily work.  Jack lived it through his great testimony to a most humble concept.



Appropriate focus, regard and determination are the arithmetic of generosity.



Jack was a master mathematician.

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