Graham Stewart decided long ago not to pursue a career as a singer, but now as UB’s new associate vice president for alumni relations, he has a chance to orchestrate a campus-wide choir of alumni champions.
Stewart stepped into his role this past October, his inclusive philosophy of alumni relations already well-formed. “It takes a whole campus community to raise a student who becomes an alumnus,” he asserts. To foster that attitude at UB, Stewart is reaching out to the campus community in an effort to help everyone understand the role each plays in alumni relations, and in turn “how we can help them.”
Stewart prides himself on his knowledge of the field’s best practices and looks to implement, where appropriate, programs that have met with success elsewhere. He wants to engage alumni in “promoting UB and helping us educate others about what’s possible here.” Stewart also believes alumni play a crucial role in providing their perspective to university decision makers: “Alumni know the university better than anyone,” he says. “They’re the keepers of the history.”
Early in his career, Stewart gained experience in marketing and public relations with Time Warner and Cornell University, then as director of music admission with his alma mater, Ithaca College’s School of Music. Later, as Ithaca College’s alumni relations director, Stewart solidified his career path.
Since coming to Buffalo, Stewart also has continued to satisfy his musical muse, playing trombone and singing with various local groups. His talent is wide-ranging: He has sung and toured professionally with the Grammy Award–winning Gregg Smith Singers, played and sung with big bands and jazz ensembles, and even took third place in his first outing at, of all things, the International Whistling Competition in 2004.
Stewart’s vision for alumni relations at UB is still developing. He feels the current effort “is in really good shape,” with strong programming and communications strategies. Nonetheless, he says that under his watch the Office of Alumni Relations will “constantly evaluate programs to make sure everything we do improves alumni relations and helps UB meet its goals.”
Stewart is “impressed with UB’s potential. I see that people are enthusiastic and supportive. The alumni I’ve met have been warm and wanting only the best things for UB.”
Story by Grace A. Lazzara