September 10, 2009

Remembering a Community Career Volunteer

By Marti Clyde
Director, Quad Cities Graduate Study Center

Jim Graham served on the Governing Board of the Quad Cities Graduate Study Center (GradCenter) for nearly 10 years, the last five as Chair. He was our boss, our cheerleader, our mentor, and our friend, and we miss him terribly.

Remembering Jim Graham

Remembering Jim Graham

When I think of Jim, I remember his terrific sense of humor that would come out, particularly when the topic at hand was tedious. When our Governing Board was revising our bylaws, an important but not necessarily exciting task, I could count on Jim to add levity to the discussion. When the group got stuck on the wording of a key section, Jim, quoting Roseanne Rosannadanna, told us, “You know, guys, it just goes to show ya, it’s always something.” He didn’t have Rosanna’s hair, but he had her cadence down pat. The room erupted in laughter, and the revision of the bylaws was completed.

We have a small staff at the GradCenter and, like many other places, the work increases, but the number of staff members remains constant. Last year I was meeting with Jim to review the agenda for an upcoming Board meeting. Jim wanted to know if I had had sufficient time to prepare the Board materials. I said that I had, but I had been rushed because of a number of other projects I was working on. Jim said, “Marti, I have a tip for you so you can manage your workload. Take all the papers, forms, and reports that are stacked in your in-box, stick them in a manila envelope, put postage on it, address it to yourself and mail it. When your work comes back to you, you’ll be all caught up.” I think this just might be the best time management trick I ever heard.

Jim (in green shirt) was dedicated to community involvement.

Jim (in green shirt) was dedicated to community involvement.

We accomplished much with Jim as Chair of the GradCenter Governing Board. The number of graduate programs offered by our member universities increased substantially as did enrollments, and we re-focused and renewed our energies on marketing and outreach. Jim’s knowledge of and love for the Quad Cities community was instrumental in ensuring our success. He was an outstanding Governing Board Chair, but, more importantly, he was an outstanding person. We are honored to have known him and to have worked with him, and I know there are countless others in this community who feel the same. Jim Graham was one of a kind.

By Joe VanCamp III, CPCU, CIC
Senior Sales Executive, Molyneaux Insurance

I would like to share a story regarding one of the first times I met Jim. Dan Molyneaux Jr and I were working on the signature list to start the Hilltop Business Association SSMID. The City of Davenport required we have support of 50% of the members, as well as 50% of the property valuation for the Hilltop district. We were close to the 50% for members, but were short on the 50% valuation.

Dan and I stopped into KWQC to meet with Jim, and I believe it was right after he had arrived at the station. He was very gracious to meet with us. We explained the Hilltop organization and how it would affect the property taxes at KWQC. Large property owners would pay more if the Hilltop SSMID were enacted, but Jim looked past the increase in property taxes. He was more interested in the vision of trying to improve the Hilltop area. Dan and I went to the City Council meeting after we obtained Jim’s signature. The City Council had asked specifically about KWQC, and we were able to advise them KWQC was on board with the SSMID.

After we were granted the SSMID organization, we needed to look for board members. Dan and I met with Jim again to see if he was interested in serving on the board. Again, Jim stepped forward to help us. Jim gave us guidance as our group was getting organized. When Dan Molyneaux Jr decided to step down as president of the group, Jim stepped up to lead us. I truly feel when Jim became involved in an organization, he would do whatever it took to make them succeed. I am glad Jim was able to lead us through the State of Iowa Urban Main Street designation.

By Jeff Weindruch
Real Estate Broker, Weindruch Meade, Inc.

It is said that once we leave this world that one of the most important things we can leave behind are our good deeds….Jim has left many…in my years serving on the Hilltop Board it was easy to just take it for granted that Jim would lead us… with his ability to see all sides of issues and recognize problems… leading us to resolve those before they could cause our board further difficulties….Many have worked to bring the “Main Street Program” to Davenport ….most were sold on the idea by Jim….and it is largely due to Jim’s vision and persistence that we are today an emerging “Main Street” community…..serving with Jim was not always serious work …Jim always found away to keep a bit of fun and humor in every meeting….his recovery from his stroke was truly inspiring….he would even joke about it himself….We can honor Jim by pledging to help complete the work Jim started here in the Hilltop….I think each of us that have had the privilege to serve with Jim will always have him to inspire us.

By Kim Findlay
President/CEO of Putnam Museum and IMAX Theatre

Jim performing as "Jimmy G"

Jim performing as "Jimmy G"

Jim was always the kind of community champion that got onto the playing field – he wasn’t the kind of person who sent the plays in from the sidelines. So one year when the Campaign looked like it might not reach its Goal, Jim Graham and Cathie Whiteside called me with an idea. They had brought The Mark on board to hold a community concert – the talent was to be the very popular recording artist Kenny G. If you picture Kenny G in your mind – you’ll see a thin young man with shoulder-length curly hair . . . it doesn’t exactly describe Jim Graham. But, as always, Jim immersed himself in our work to promote the upcoming concert. He appeared all over town as “Jimmy G” – musical instrument, long flowing wig of curly hair and moves only a quasi-musician could have dreamt up for the occasion. We laughed until tears flowed and our sides ached. And, oh yes, we sold thousands of tickets and added to the funds raised during the Campaign which supported more than a hundred local human service programs. Jim was one-of-a-kind.

By Jim Victor
Senior Vice President-Wealth Management and Financial Adviser
Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC

We make a living by what we earn. We make a life by what we give. What a life Jim Graham enjoyed. And what a life he gave us to enjoy.

I’ve never known anyone who involved himself in giving to the community through twenty-two separate board involvements. By those standards, Jim was a giant. But the fact that he participated in each, was found to be a wise advisor in each, and was in so many cases reputed for his enthusiastic, humorous, and selfless role is truly amazing.

I enjoyed the pleasure of working with Jim on both the United Way and Quad City Arts boards. Arguably the hardest United Way volunteer role is chairing the $9 million annual campaign, with responsibility for funding over one hundred programs. He didn’t just chair it in 2000, he worked it. He motivated others. He succeeded. And he delighted crowds of volunteers and Quad Cities employees with his antics as the Wizard of Oz in pep rally reports.

Jim (front row, fifth from the right) chaired the 2000 United Way campaign.

Jim (front row, fifth from the right) chaired the 2000 United Way campaign.

At Quad City Arts, I remember similar surprise antics when Jim teamed with Putnam Museum Director Kim Findley to fire up board members to “BOBO”, (Be one, bring one!) to the Visiting Artist performances. Jim played a traveling salesman selling us all on the positive effects of his special elixir, BOBO.

I think it takes uncommon humility to laugh at yourself and let others do it, as well. In his countless hours and years of uncommon humility, and uncommon giving, Jim gave us not just a life, but an amazing lesson for each of ours. Thank you, my friend.

Read more about Jim Graham:
In Memory of Jim, my husband
Remembering Jim Graham
A Former Boss, A Forever Friend