When he arrived at the podium at Temple University’s Mitten Hall, William A. “Bill” Graham stuck out his right hand.
To shake the hand of Fox School of Business Dean M. Moshe Porat? Well, not quite. Graham, after greeting Porat, had his heart set on clutching on a stuffed toy pig resting on the lectern.
The Fox School honored Graham as the recipient of the Musser Award for Excellence in Leadership, the highest honor conferred by the School, during a Nov. 5 dinner and reception. Graham is the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of The Graham Company, a privately held and leading U.S. insurance and surety brokerage and consulting firm considered one of the largest in the nation based on revenue size.
The evening paid homage to Graham and one of his lifelong loves – pigs. Graham, whose office is decorated with pig paraphernalia, is said to hold the animal in high regard for its intelligence. Graham received a plush pig toy, along with Musser Award winner’s more-customary crystal owl statuette, from Porat and Warren V. “Pete” Musser upon reaching the podium to deliver his acceptance remarks.
“It’s a great honor to receive the Musser Award and be recognized by the Fox School and Temple University as one of the best business minds, not only in Philadelphia but in America,” Graham said.
CNBC anchor Tyler Mathisen, the event’s master of ceremonies, playfully addressed attendees in Pig Latin to kick off the evening. On stage, a safety inspector appeared and gave Mathisen an ultimatum about ensuring the safety of a nearby handrail – a play on Graham’s line of work. “Yes, Mr. Inspector. We’ll get right on that – when pigs fly,” Mathisen said, as a toy pig soared across Mitten Hall’s Great Court. A live potbelly pig, named Valentino, also made his way onto the stage to the crowd’s delight.
The Musser Awards dinner and reception gathers Philadelphia’s leading business executives under one roof. Past top honorees in attendance included Musser and Temple trustees Dennis Alter, Chairman Patrick J. O’Conner, and Daniel H. Polett.
Temple University President Neil D. Theobald reflected on the growing national and international profile of the Fox School, as well as Temple. He rattled off a few of Fox’s top rankings, before delivering one of Graham’s specific liking.
“Mr. Graham,” Dr. Theobald said, speaking directly to the evening’s honoree, “you should know that as Temple’s president, I have one main responsibility, and that is ensuring that our students have a truly excellence college experience. … Mr. Graham, you’d also be happy to know that our Risk Management and Insurance undergraduate program is rated No. 5 in the country.”
Beaming throughout the awards program was Graham, “an entrepreneur at heart, whose personal and professional methods always relate to attracting the best people, and delivering the best products and the best service,” Porat said.
Surrounded by close friends, family, and colleagues, Graham and his appreciation for only the best were popular subjects.
“One thing Bill did that was quite brilliant was he created a technical development department within his company,” said Lucille Carey, Vice President of Human Resources and Operations at The Graham Company. “That department has enabled us to hire people who lacked insurance experience and train them to be the very best.”
Added Kenneth Ewell, the President and Chief Operations Officer of The Graham Company: “Bill is the kind of man everyone wants to work for because he leads by example. I don’t think the Fox School of Business could have chosen a better-suited recipient for the Musser Award.”
Maybe when pigs fly.