The Good Will Ambassador

Finance professor John Graham promotes the Team Fuqua ethos at home and abroad.

Community service is more than a social or moral obligation, says John Graham Ph.D. ’94, D. Richard Mead Jr. Family Professor of finance at Fuqua. It can be good business, too.

Three years ago, Graham brought that lesson to Duke with the Stop Hunger Now project, in which volunteers package meals for hungry children in poor nations. “From what I’ve seen and heard here for almost twenty years now, being a leader who really cares about your peers and community very often also helps your career,” Graham says.

The bonds he has formed on campus have had a reciprocal quality, too. “Anyone who has taken one of my classes has heard me say, ‘I heard from an alum recently, and he told me about this finance problem he had at work,’” Graham says. Posing real-world problems to the class keeps his instruction on point, and it underscores the idea that the Fuqua community is wellconnected and supportive.

“One of the reasons I wanted to be a professor is to interact with people. You can’t just hide in your office all the time,” says Graham, who worked in corporate finance before pursuing a Ph.D. at Duke. “As a professor, it’s more all-encompassing; the combination of teaching and research is always fascinating.”

His current research is a tour through 100 years of U.S. financial history. By analyzing data on government debt and company assets, Graham and his colleagues will determine whether companies today really are accumulating too much cash or issuing too much debt. Plans for a book on the topic will have to compete, with yet another project: As director of the Duke/CFO Magazine Global Business Outlook survey, he polls senior financial executives and Duke alumni working all over the world.

“The global economy is so integrated, you can’t just study one piece of it,” he says. “With the CFO survey, we want to be a bridge between academics and the real world. And it’s turned out to be a great ambassador tool, too.”

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