John J. Graham Jr.: Penn State Board of Trustees candidate

April 11, 2014 

Biographical information


Age: 37

Education: B.A. political science, 1999; J.D., Temple University, 2003

Work: general counsel, Great Valley Publishing Co. Inc., Spring City

Experience and activities: board of directors, Building Industry Association of Philadelphia; Future Leaders Committee of the Mechanical Contractors Association of Eastern Pennsylvania; Board of Governors of the Racquet Club of Philadelphia; Board of Advisors of the Rutgers University Financial and Legal Research Institute; Phi Beta Kappa; Lion Ambassadors, director of internal relations; president, Sigma Phi Epsilon; student representative to the University Conduct Board; University Student Government, town senator

Please describe your motivations for running for the Board of Trustees.

Transparency and accountability are two fundamental principles of effective governance.

There has been much discussion about these principles over the past 21/2 years, yet some alumni and trustees still feel excluded. The university needs meaningful mechanisms in place to ensure that the board’s decision making function is open to the alumni and that the board is responsible to answer for its decisions.

It is the board’s responsibility to demonstrate that the viewpoints of the alumni are being heard and that the board is actively considering alumni viewpoints in its decision-making processes.

My single motivation for running for the board is to increase transparency and accountability. I have developed a strategy for engaging alumni to share their opinions regarding issues facing the University, as well as suggestions for how the board should address those issues. This strategy is efficient and can be conducted in a manner that will allow me to communicate data about alumni sentiment in real time. Each Penn Stater will know that his or her feedback is meaningful and is being taken into consideration. I am prepared to enact this strategy, at my own cost, beginning on my first day of service — thereby creating a concrete measure of transparency and accountability.

I will tirelessly work to maximize the transfer of information between alumni and board, as well as for the advancement of the university.

Please describe your motivations for running for the Board of Trustees.

There are many challenges facing the university, but the following three are of most pressing importance:

• Increasing commonwealth funding: Nothwithstanding the fact that the university has grown considerably, the current commonwealth appropriation to Penn State is approximately equal to the 1995 appropriation. Because the university relies upon commonwealth funding for approximately 14 percent of its operating budget, the university must partner with the commonwealth and demonstrate that an investment in the appropriation is one that has far reaching benefits.

• Managing financial aid reform: Tuition accounts for approximately 80 percent of Penn State’s operating budget. It is likely that the federal government will legislatively limit tuition increases. In anticipation of such legislation, the university must plan to ramp up its already impressive fundraising campaigns to ensure that a Penn State education continues to be accessible and affordable.

• Recovering from the Jerry Sandusky scandal: The costs and reputational damages associated with the Sandusky scandal are myriad. Reports indicate that the total cost of the scandal is more than $170 million, but a true measure of cost is difficult to quantify. The University should address scandal costs by exhausting every legal remedy in an effort to reduce each line item of direct cost. In order to repair the reputational damages, the university should empower students, faculty and alumni to champion their own accomplishments through social media, public relations and marketing opportunities. As Penn Staters, we know that the Sandusky scandal is not representative of who we are and will not define us or our university.

If elected, what position would you support on the topic of Penn State board of trustees reform?

If elected, my position on board of trustees reform would be to:

• support the organizational reform measures set forth in the reform bill currently pending in the Pennsylvania legislature;

• support a student trustee as a standing member of the board;

• increase student, faculty and alumni access to the board by way of my communication strategy; and

• lobby for increased alumni trustee participation on the board’s executive committee.

If elected, what position would you support on the topic of Penn State board of trustees reform?

Joe Paterno dedicated his life to Penn State. If elected, my position with regard to Joe Paterno would be to make every effort to ensure that his legacy highlights his contributions to Penn State’s community and academics, as well as his unparalleled achievements in coaching.

Is there anything else you want voters to know about you and your candidacy?

I am not an insider and am running for the board of trustees only for the purpose of being an agent of communication between the board and its constituents. I did not seek the endorsement of any group or organization, and am accountable only to Penn State students, faculty and alumni. My communication plan will engage every student, faculty member and alumnus who wants to be heard. Simply email me and tell me that you want to be involved. I will include you in all of my communications and seek your input throughout the course of my term.

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