Graham finds bidding SVSU farewell difficult
After retiring Graham will still consult, research
April 4, 2005 —
It's not every day that one gets to see a dream emerge from a vegetable field. Yet that is exactly the experience that retiring Professor Eldon Graham has enjoyed with SVSU.
"It has been the thrill of a lifetime to see a university grow from a cabbage patch and corn fields," he says.
Not only was Graham able to watch the University grow from practically nothing, he also played multiple influential roles in creating SVSU as it is today. As he prepares for retirement at the end of this academic year, it is with mixed feeling that Graham bids farewell to SVSU.
Graham graduated from college at 19, and started his career at Dow Chemical at 20 while continuing his education as a part-time student at both Michigan State University and the University of Michigan.
He worked as a chemical engineer and was eventually appointed to a committee to help develop a four-year institution of higher learning for the Tri-Cities area. The committee's work helped bring about the development of the two-year Delta College. The challenge to switch the college over to a four-year institution, however, was deemed too difficult. As a result, plans for developing Saginaw Valley College began to form.
Graham was involved again, this time with the Science Advisory Committee from 1964-70. He became so dedicated to the task that he joined SVC fulltime in 1970. The engineering and technology program at SVC was started in 1972, with Graham as the department chairman. The department grew and developed and eventually attained national accreditation in 1989.
Looking back on the rich history of SVSU's engineering department, Graham is very pleased with how the department has grown.
"It is a dream come true," he says. "I couldn't be more happy."
Graham is especially pleased with the senior capstone project, which gives senior engineering students an opportunity to display knowledge and skills in the form of a cumulative semester project.
He also says he will miss the association he has with his students on a daily basis.
And to the engineering students of tomorrow, he hopes they will benefit from an engineering program at SVSU that he describes as "a golden opportunity for students ... to prepare for a satisfying career."
Though he has accomplished much in his career, Graham is quick to downplay his successes as merely a singular achievement.
In the form of a true engineer, Graham points out the importance of the team.
When asked about his greatest accomplishment at SVSU, Graham names "being a member of the team."
With so many years, hours, and memories invested at SVSU, Graham is not sure how to feel.
"It is with real mixed feelings that I'm retiring," he says. "This school is my whole life."
He won't leave permanently, however, planning on staying around for consultation and research.
"It's better than my golfing," he admits.
It will also be hard to leave the people, he says.
"I've enjoyed the faculty and students so much," he says. "Such an association is not easy to give up."
But as he approaches his 60th year in the workforce, Graham has earned a break. He plans to stay in this community with his wife, and doesn't want to slow down too much.