July 5, 1964 - November 27, 2021
Dr. John Leon Graham was born on July 5, 1964, in Baltimore, MD the son Nancy Jackson Hill and John Leon Graham. Having lost his parents at the age of 6, he and his siblings relocated to Harlem, NY where he was raised by his aunt and uncle Martha and Johnny Goble. John Leon attended the A. Phillip Randolph Campus High School in Harlem, NY where he was awarded a basketball scholarship to attend Eastern New Mexico University. He later transferred to the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, where he earned his BA degree in Business Administration in 1989 and a master’s degree in Agricultural and Extension Education in 1991. Dr. Graham received his doctorate degree in 1996 from Michigan State University in Agricultural and Extensive Education. He has post-graduate certificates in leadership from the American Association for State Colleges and Universities’ Executive Leadership Academy, State University of New York Executive Leadership Academy, Millennium Leadership Initiative, Institute for Educational Management and Executive Education at Harvard University. In 1984 he met the love of his life Arlene Bentley who he later married on July 12, 1997. It was through this blessed union he became the very proud father of the couple’s only child Palesa Clair Graham. John Leon is survived by his wife Arlene Bentley Graham, daughter Palesa Graham; brothers: James Hill (Barbara), Torrence Hill (Teresa), Nathaniel Hill (Felicia), Milton Hill and Curtis Wilson; sisters: Bobbie Jean Hill, Delores Graham, Veronica Hill, his beloved nieces, nephews, cousins, maternal aunts, his mother-in-law Clair Bentley, father-in-law Ray Bentley and brother-in-law Richard Bentley, his childhood friend Gerald Jordon and college roommate and friend Darek Robinson, a host of other friends, colleagues, professional and spiritual mentors. He was preceded in death by his sister Patricia Green, his mother Nancy Jackson Hill, father John Graham, beloved aunt and uncle Martha and Johnny Goble. On September 1, 2021, Dr. John Leon Graham was appointed as Officer-In-Charge (Campus Leader) to State University New York at Postdam University located in Potsdam, NY. Prior to that he was the Advisor to the SUNY Chancellor and Student Advocate, Dr. Graham provided systemwide leadership in furthering SUNY System Administration's academic priorities and campus efforts to improve access, retention, and success of all SUNY students. He served as a member of the Chancellor’s Executive Leadership Team and was the principal spokesperson for SUNY initiatives and efforts related to student life including policy development, review and consultation with SUNY Administration partners, campus leaders, and Chief Student Affairs Officers. This collaboration includes the Student Voices Action Committee representing every sector; University Centers, Comprehensive Colleges, Technical and Community Colleges to advise on critical issues and advance student centric priorities. He also worked closely with Student Assembly and served as the liaison on the Student Life Committee for the Board of Trustees. Dr. Graham provided oversight for all systemwide Educational Opportunity Programs including the Educational Opportunity Centers for Academic and Workforce Development. Dr. Graham facilitated the coordination and sustainability of the Systemwide Student Mental Health and Wellness Task Force and the Food Insecurity Task Force to ensure a safe living and learning community for all students. He served on the Steering Committee of the SUNY COVID-19 Re-Opening Task Force and Chaired the Student Wellness Working Group and the SUNY Systemwide Athletics Working Group. His administrative team provides coordination and support for students with Disabilities, Diversity and Adult Learners, Mental Health, Veteran and Military Affairs, Child Care Services, and Substance Abuse Services. Previously, Dr. Graham served as the Vice Provost and Associate Provost for Student Affairs and University Life. He also served as a Provost Fellow for Academic and Strategic Development at System Administration. As Provost Fellow, he supported the implementation of SUNY’s priority Completion Agenda and worked with campus leaders to advance the SUNY Excels Performance Improvement Plan goals and the refinement of the student effectiveness and the strategic Enrollment Planning Process. Over the past twenty-five years, Dr. Graham has held faculty appointments and senior administrative positions at public universities in both urban and suburban environments. A consistent thread in his work has been a strong commitment to and focus on development of all students. He served as the transitional Vice President for University Advancement and External Relations at Cheyney University of Pennsylvania from 2015 -2016 and developed a comprehensive five-year fundraising plan to stabilize the institution for new leadership. He also served as the Chief Executive Officer from 2012- 2014 at the State University of New York – Manhattan Educational Opportunity Center he prepared adult learners for college-readiness. He was Interim Dean in the School of Business at Medgar Evers College – City University of New York from 2009-2012. He worked at Delaware State University from 1999 – 2008 as Assistant Vice President for International Affairs and Director of Study Abroad Programs and serving as Associate Dean in the College of Agriculture and Related Sciences. Earlier in his career, Dr. Graham worked as a Foreign Service Officer with the United States Department of State and served as a member of the Negotiation Team - Commission on Sustainable Development at the United Nations. Dr. Graham lived and worked in Uganda for Africare, as the county representative. He completed his masters research in Zimbabwe and his doctoral research in Lesotho. His professional travel extends to more than sixty countries on six continents. Reflecting on Dr. Graham’s professional attributes and global explorations, he loved fellowshipping with family, friends, colleagues, and checking in with his boys from the heart of Harlem where it all began and remained until he answered the call into eternity. Other than family, friends, education, and youths his other love was basketball. From the playgrounds of Harlem to basketball tournaments in Michigan, pick-up games in Zimbabwe and Uganda to the Dover Air Force Base and the YMCA in Albany, NY, he enjoyed playing basketball immensely. It was his connection with people that made him enjoyed playing the game. He could and has named every player that he has ever played with. Over the years he has built close friendship with these players, and they have become a part of his family. A lifelong New York Knicks fan, “lose or lose”, he has never missed cheering them on and was a walking billboard for the Knicks. In the words of a great Gospel song, “When I look back over my life, and I think things over, I can truly say that I am Blessed, I have a testimony.” John Leon accomplished in 57 years what many spend a lifetime aiming for and was far from completion. One of his main points expressed was, “we have come a long way.” Dr. Graham was extremely gracious of how much he achieved, and he enjoyed assisting others with fulfilling their dreams. Leaving so many beloved memories to cherish, John Leon loved much and gave much. It is great joy to embrace what he was to so many people. John Leon Graham was adored by family, friends, and coworkers and will be immensely missed by all. You will remain forever in all our hearts. May you sleep in eternal peace until we meet on the other side of glory.
Dr. John Leon Graham was born on July 5, 1964, in Baltimore, MD the son Nancy Jackson Hill and John Leon Graham. Having lost his parents at the age of 6, he and his siblings relocated to Harlem, NY where he was raised by his aunt and uncle Martha... View Obituary & Service Information
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