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December 15, 2002

AIDB names new president

From: Daily Home Online, AL - 15 Dec 2002

By David Atchison

The Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind has a new president.

The AIDB Board of Trustees unanimously approved the appointment of Dr. Terry Graham, who has been with AIDB for the past 25 years, as president of the institution Saturday afternoon.

"I'm excited and thrilled to have this opportunity," Graham said. "I love AIDB and what it represents. It's a tremendous honor to have a shot at leading this organization into the future. I understand we had some outstanding candidates (who applied for the job), and I prevailed, which makes it an even a greater honor."

Graham said he wants to make a great institution even greater.

"I am ready to go to work," he said. "I will be preparing to hit the ground running."

Graham started his professional career in 1971 as a teacher at a school for deaf-blind students in Ellisville, Miss. He advanced to head teacher-evaluator there, and later to coordinator of deaf-blind services for the state of Mississippi.

Graham came to AIDB in 1977, where he consolidated programs for multi-disabled children to one campus and initiated the process to receive authority to name the consolidated campus the Helen Keller School of Alabama. He remained as principal of HKS until 1983, when he became director of the AIDB Office of Field Services, securing funding and establishing infant and toddler programs throughout the state.

Graham returned to Mississippi in 1986, but came back to AIDB in 1987 where he resumed the position of director of the Office of Field Services. In that position, he conceived AIDB's system of regional centers throughout the state and administered the work of those centers, including securing and administering a $1 million grant from the Kellogg Foundation to establish services for deaf or blind adults. He remained in that position until 1992, when he moved to his current position as AIDB executive director of the Office of Health, Evaluation and Outreach program.

Graham was the last candidate to be interviewed Saturday.

On Friday, the board interviewed Dr. Catherine Diederich, president of the Center for Sight and Hearing in Rockford, Ill.; Dr. Steve Franks, director of the Arkansas Department of Workforce Education; and Dr. William Roden, chancellor of the Louisiana Technical College.

Dr. James Britt, vice president of the University Advancement at Georgia Southern University, was scheduled to be interviewed at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, but he did to show up.

The board waited an hour for Britt's arrival before moving forward with their vote. Even though Britt did not show up for the interview, he was considered by the trustees in their vote for president.

Graham's two-hour interview impressed the board members Saturday morning.

"I've known him for many years," said board member Johnny Granger. "I've always been impressed with him, but the Terry Graham I saw this morning was a new Terry Graham."

Granger said Graham's sincerity and love for AIDB showed during his interview.

"He wants to serve the people," Granger said. "The staff I've talked to are behind him and will work with him."

The President's Council and the local Alabama Education Association also formally supported Graham's appointment.

"Dr. Graham is very capable of leading us forward," said Erminel Trescott, principal of Helen Keller School and a member of the president's staff, before the board began its open discussion about the five finalists.

Trescott said Graham's performance and leadership skills have been demonstrated at AIDB, and he should be given the chance to serve as AIDB's next president.

Sylvester James, president of the AIDB Education Association and a coach at Helen Keller School, agreed.

"Our support is for Dr. Graham," James told the Board of Trustees.

Trustees Melissa Williamson and Bunny Gamble both said it is apparent Graham is passionate about his work and AIDB.

"Dr. Graham said it well," added Ken Thompson, interim president of AIDB. "It's about the kids and adults we serve."

Williamson said she was impressed with Graham's interview.

She said his knowledge and experience will allow him to set the bar for the future of AIDB, where other candidates lacked the knowledge in the area Graham has worked in for the past 25 years.

Board member Clarence Haynes agreed, adding that Graham not only brings with him the knowledge of the institution, but the attitude and enthusiasm to lead AIDB into the future.

"I love his passion," said Gamble, adding that Graham handled himself well and will make an excellent spokesman for AIDB.

The board initially voted individually on their two top choices for president in an effort to narrow the choices from five to two.

In the initial vote, Roden received 10 votes, Graham followed with nine and Franks picked up five.

In the final tally, board chairman Annas Aytch and board members Morris Savage and Tammy Smith voted for Roden. Graham won the majority of the votes, however, 9-3.

After the count, Williamson made the motion to offer the job to Graham.

The motion was seconded and in a vote of confidence, the board voted unanimously to offer the job to Graham.

"We were looking for a person with vision, creativity and leadership, and we are investing our confidence in Dr. Graham that he will be able to provide what we need at this time," Aytch said. "We had many good candidates, and Dr. Graham rose to the top."

Graham will officially take the helm of AIDB on Jan. 15. He will be working under a two-year contract with an annual salary of $130,000.

"I can assure you, as I did the board, I will not let them down," Graham said.

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