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Guest Column: Tribute to Steve Grafton

In March, Alumni Association President and CEO Steve Grafton announced his retirement after leading the organization for 28 years. Here, U-M President Mary Sue Coleman pays tribute to Grafton.
By Mary Sue Coleman

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In March, Alumni Association President and CEO Steve Grafton announced his retirement after leading the organization for 28 years. Here, U-M President Mary Sue Coleman pays tribute to Grafton.

Several years ago, my husband, Ken, and I enjoyed the sights, sounds, and flavors of Salamanca, Spain. It was an invigorating vacation, with excellent educational talks and interesting fellow travelers from all corners of the United States.

What united us as we explored Spain was the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan.

Mary Sue Coleman

Engagement, education, and pride in U-M are hallmarks of the Alumni Association, and we have Steve Grafton and his longtime leadership of the organization to thank. Steve’s retirement after 28 years is bittersweet because it means saying goodbye to a devoted University citizen who is well-deserving of a new adventure.

I am particularly proud of the Alumni Association’s deep commitment to equity and inclusion and Steve’s dedication to welcoming all. When the use of affirmative action was banned in Michigan in 2008, Steve was very concerned about the future diversity of our student body. He came forward with the idea of establishing a scholarship program for deserving students who represented leadership, excellence, achievement, and diversity. The LEAD Scholarships would give us flexibility in recruiting underrepresented students with attractive scholarship packages.

Ken and I were so impressed with Steve’s leadership position that we instantly signed on to help support LEAD personally. Today, nearly 15 years later, LEAD scholarships have helped provide a Michigan education to hundreds of Black, Latinx, and Native American students at all three of our campuses. This program is a powerful testament to Steve’s vision, the generosity of donors, and the appeal of a Michigan education.

Steve came to Ann Arbor from MSU—Mississippi State University— where he earned two degrees and led the alumni association. I know he is a proud Bulldog. But he will be a Michigan Wolverine always. He has been a superb leader of the Alumni Association, and we owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude.

I say to Steve what I have always told our graduating classes: For today, goodbye. For tomorrow, good luck. And forever, Go Blue!

Mary Sue Coleman is the president of the University of Michigan.

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