A Salisbury powerhouse couple, William "Bill" and Shari Marshall Graham, were honored by their alma mater on Sunday, April 27, as recipients of Catawba College's prestigious Adrian L. Shuford, Jr. Award for Distinguished Service.
College President Brien Lewis made the presentation during a special President's Circle Event held to recognize the institution's major donors in Peeler Crystal Lounge of the Robertson College-Community Center.
The Adrian L. Shuford, Jr. Award is presented annually to individuals whose actions and generosity to both the college and their communities emulate those of the late Adrian L. Shuford, Jr. of Conover, a businessman and a long-serving member of the College Board of Trustees. The President's Award for Distinguished Service was first presented in 1983, but in 1984, the award was named to honor Mr. Shuford and in recognition of all he had done for the college.
The Grahams, Catawba graduates from the Class of 1983, expressed gratitude for the award and acknowledged their mutual love and respect for each other and the college that brought them together.
Shari said the best thing that had ever happened in her life was her marriage to Bill almost 28 years ago and the birth of their two children, Perry and Caroline. Bill, too, noted that Shari was a partner in all of his life's endeavors and that she truly shared half of the award given to them.
"We are honored to be included in this group of recipients," Bill said. "We are honored to be mentioned in the same company."
"We love our school and are honored and thrilled to be here today," Shari added.
The Grahams' faculty mentors were on hand for the occasion -- Dr. Sanford Silverburg, professor emeritus of Political Science, was Bill's guest, and Dr. Karl Hales, professor emeritus of Communication Arts, was Shari's guest.
"Thank you for all of the terrorism you inflicted on me," Bill joked to Dr. Silverburg, recalling his undergraduate years as one of Silverburg's students.
Shari too joked that even years after her graduation she still felt the pressure of having Dr. Hales present to hear her speak publically.
Lewis said the Grahams "have supported Catawba's many initiatives and programs through generous gifts of time, service and funds.
"Their positive effects on the life of our college reverberate from Graham Residence Hall in Abernethy Village, named for them, through numerous unrestricted gifts, to funding of improvements in the students' living room, the Cannon Student Center, funding for improvements in several of our older residence halls and Ketner Hall. Both have also championed the College and the Rowan-Salisbury community through their active and productive lives that embody the precepts set forth on Catawba's academic seal -- scholarship, character, culture and service."
A native of Pennsylvania, Shari came south to attend Catawba and majored in Speech with a minor in Political Science. Bill, who grew up in Dunn, N.C., majored in Political Science with a Pre-Law emphasis.
Following their graduations, Bill went to law school for two years at Antioch University School of Law in Washington, D.C., before completing his law degree at Wake Forest University School of Law. He worked several jobs at once to put himself through law school. Shari, meanwhile, worked at TV Guide magazine in Philadelphia for two years. While Bill was in his last year of law school, he proposed to Shari. The two were married August 16, 1986 in Omwake-Dearborn Chapel on Catawba's campus, between Bill's final semesters.
After their marriage, Shari worked for a time as a vice president with NationsBank. Bill first worked as an assistant district attorney with the 19-A Prosecutorial District before joining the law firm of Wallace and Whitley in 1993.
The birth of their son Perry, who today is a senior at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, caused the couple to shift their focus, with Shari opting to devote more time to her family and work in the community.
Shari serves or has served on the J.F. Hurley YMCA Board, the WaterWorks Visual Arts Center, Salisbury Academy, Salisbury High School PTSA, Piedmont Players, the Foundation for the Carolinas, History Salisbury Foundation, Salisbury-Rowan Heart Ball and the Novant Hospital Ball. Some of the boards for these organizations she has chaired.
Shari is also an active member of the Ladies Tennis Team at the Country Club of Salisbury. She has been involved in the Pink Ribbons Crusade, an organization of ladies who raise monies for breast cancer awareness by touring dresses worn by Princess Diana that Shari and Bill own. Shari has directed numerous plays for the youth at Salisbury Academy and recently held a lead role in the Lee Street Theatre production of "Ornamental."
Bill, who has served on the Catawba College Board of Trustees since 2000, currently serves as this board's vice chair and as chair of its operations subcommittee. Lewis noted Bill's role as head of the Presidential Search Committee that brought him to Catawba.
Bill has also played an active role in North Carolina politics over the past decade. He made media headlines in 2005 and 2006 when he spoke out against North Carolina's gasoline tax and funded a series commercials encouraging repeal of it.
He was a contender in the 2008 Republican primary to be that party's nominee for N.C. Governor, but lost to fellow Catawba alumnus Pat McCrory. In 2012, when Pat McCrory again vied for the governorship, Bill served on his political committee and saw McCrory elected. Bill currently serves as an at-large member on the State's Economic Development Board, appointed by the governor.
Bill was honored by Catawba in 2002 with its Distinguished Alumnus Award.
Bill's dad, John Graham, graduated from Catawba in 1962. And, Bill and Shari's daughter, Caroline, is a rising sophomore at Catawba and a member of the tennis team. Caroline was recently elected by her classmates as treasurer of the sophomore class.
Other Adrian L. Shuford, Jr. Award Recipients
Other recipients and the year in which they received the award include Dr. Theodore P. Leonard, 1983; Enoch A. Goodman, 1984; Clifford A. Peeler, 1985; James F. Hurley, 1986; Ralph W. Ketner, 1987; Elizabeth C. Stanback, 1988; Roy E. Leinbach, Jr., 1989; Frances H. Johnson, 1990; Patricia P. Rendleman, 1991; Mariam Cannon Hayes, 1992; Tom E. Smith, 1993; Claude S. Abernethy, Jr., 1994; Millard F. Wilson, 1995; Fred J. Stanback, Jr., 1996; Paul E. Fisher, 1997; Daniel E. Kirk, 1998; Mary O. Dearborn, 1999; Wilson L. Smith, 2000; Marion M. Richard, 2001; J. Fred and Bonnie Corriher, 2002; William C. Stanback, 2003; Jacqueline C. Leonard, 2004; Charles Taylor, Jr., 2005; Newton O. Fowler and C.A. "Junie" Michael III, 2006; Claude B. Hampton, Jr. and James L. Williamson, 2007; Charles G. Potts, Wade Hampton Shuford, Jr., Dr. Robert E. and Brenda S. Knott, 2008; Robert and Sara Cook, 2009; Raymond and Shirley Ritchie and David E. "Gene" Fuller, 2010; Gordon P. Hurley and Martha Kirkland West, 2011; Joseph B. Oxendine, 2012; and Larry Cloninger and Barry Leonard, 2013.