Stephen Graham ’67

2 January 2007

Class: 1967

Major: Asian Studies

Deceased: December 20, 2006

(Deceased 12/20/2006)


Colorado lost a visionary community leader when Steve Graham died unexpectedly at his home on December 20, 2006,at the age of 61. Steve Graham was known for his deep and abiding commitment to social justice. He was a man of integrity, who spoke his truth and lived according to his beliefs. For the past decade, Steve served as executive director of the Community Resource Center in Denver, which provides training and assistance to many nonprofit organizations throughout Colorado to help achieve a more just society. Steve was passionate about his work and was dedicated to CRC and its mission of providing services to help nonprofits expand their reach and accelerate their social impact. Steve was born April 24, 1945, and grew up in Glencoe, Illinois, the oldest son of Seymour and Virginia Graham’s three children. Steve graduated from New Trier High School, earned a BA in Asian Studies from Carleton College, and completed an MA in Chinese History from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. During and following his university studies, Steve was involved in both the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement during the Vietnam War. Following his work with other social service agencies in St. Louis, including American Friends Service Committee, and his settling in Denver in the 1980’s, Steve became a program manager and then executive director of the Community Resource Center (CRC).He became known for his collaborative leadership style and his tireless energy, which helped to expand CRC’s positive impact on communities throughout Colorado. His most outstanding achievements included the development of Rural Philanthropy Days, and the continued publication and expansion of the Colorado Grants Guide. Steve enjoyed his private life to the fullest with a keen interest in music, the arts, and travel. Steve was an avid sports fan and a lifelong (and long-suffering) fan of the Chicago Cubs. He hiked, skied, and snow shoed throughout Colorado, and he traveled widely in Europe with the love of his life, Cindy DaRugna, his wife of 22 years. Steve was a great cook, had a terrific sense of humor, and was devoted to his family and his many friends. Steve will be deeply missed. He is survived by his wife, Cindy DaRugna; his sister Susan (David) Emmons; his brother Harry (Carol) Graham; parents-in-law Junus and Carolena DaRugna; brother-in-law Junus DaRugna, sisters-in-law Karen (Larry) Graham and Carol (Keith) Morris; nieces MacKenzie Graham and Olivia DaRugna; and nephews Gavin and lain Emmons, and Skylar DaRugna. Steve will also be missed by many friends, colleagues, co-workers, and by the public in Colorado, whom he served with such care and compassion. A public Memorial Service is scheduled for Saturday, January 20, 2007, with a reception to follow. Please check CRC website for details. The family has established a memorial fund at the Community Resource Center to help fulfill Steve’s dream of sustaining CRC’s services to Colorado nonprofits and communities. Contributions may be sent to the Steve Graham Memorial Fund, Community Resource Center,655 Broadway, Ste 300,Denver,CO 80203, or given online at remembrance by Charles HighI met Steve in 1963 when we were freshmen at Carleton College. His death stuns me and saddens me immensely. For two years we roomed together and shared the “Carleton experience.”  He was very different from me. I knew nothing about the world and he seemed to know everything. Steve had distinguished himself in High School by being awarded a history prize at graduation from New Trier. He had a problem with that because it was sponsored by the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution). The story goes that he went to the podium, denounced the DAR, and declined to accept the award. Pure Steve.We liked each other but were an odd pair because I was a prep school version of Shallow Hal and my list of accomplishments in 1963 included being 14th in a class of 28 prep school boys, liking to read, and knowing how to mix drinks. Steve had begun to live a principled life. I soaked up what he knew and began to understand his anger about Vietnam and many other issues. I learned he had heroes in his family who fought for social justice. I mixed a few drinks for him now and then. We drank cheap wine on double dates.We spent hours together in the dorm, at one point reading Catch 22 to each other out loud and falling out of our beds laughing. After our sophomore year we hopped in his car and went to Aspen to look for summer jobs. We camped in Maroon Bells and walked the dusty red clay streets of Aspen and of course did not find work. We drove back and it was a great road trip in every way but why we had gone.Steve’s life was a model of purposefulness and good works. He knew who he was when he was 18. His life is properly humbling to us — as the testimonials here attest. He found no just cause to be unworthy of his attention, and he was never full of himself. (Maybe once, for a week or two when he dated a striking 6 foot tall senior woman as a freshman — a beautiful thing to behold when they walked the campus together!)My ideal of a beautiful life would be to live by high ethical standards and to work against the social and political forces that degrade and dehumanize people. Further, there has to be in a great person a sense of being attached to the earth and to its communities. Steve had all of these qualities, and it is remarkable that in a life of such serious intent that he lived so joyfully and so unselfishly. He was a funny, generous, and kind man.A month or two ago I sent him an email asking him to come to the Carleton Class of 1967 reunion. I had not corresponded with Steve for a few years but I began to think more about our closeness 40 years ago, so I asked him if he was planning to attend in June of 07. He said he had not planned it, but he would go if I was going, and he hoped our wives could meet. His wife is a psychotherapist as I am and he thought it would all be fun and interesting. Now I will have to go without him and it will be difficult. I am so sorry to lose Steve who has lived such a good, honorable and loving life.Charles HighMilwaukeeJanuary, 2007

A remembrance by Eric WrightSteve’s death was so sudden and such a surprise. He seemed healthy, full of life and interesting experiences. I had a hard time remembering he’d been through treatments for non-Hodgkins lymphoma years ago. (I shaved my head in solidarity when he temporarily lost his hair, but I was already so bald that Steve was about the only one who noticed.) Even the heart arrhythmia that Steve learned he had this year seemed like a mild inconvenience, not a real threat or reason to do less or change any plans.I knew Steve first, and thought of him always, as a political activist. He moved to Colorado to take a job working with me in the Denver office of the American Friends Service Committee. Our job was to end war, abolish capital punishment, end the apartheid system in South Africa, resist the military draft registration, and stop U.S. intervention in Central America. We failed miserably, but it was a great job to have. Ending apartheid was our one big success, and that was the area Steve worked the most on. He graciously shared the credit with Nelson Mandela.Steve was good at being a peace and justice organizer. There were lots of things about war and injustice that made him burn, but he was not an angry person. He was creative and fun-loving, and good at getting people involved and working together. During the 1980s when the Reagan administration was busy trying to stomp out every freedom movement in Central America, we had a Denver chapter of a group called the Pledge of Resistance. We were frustrated at the limited and biased coverage the wars of Central America were getting in the media. After considerable effort at letters to the editor and monitoring the failures of the press, we organized a guerilla force in Denver that went out in the wee hours one morning armed with quarters. We used those quarters to open hundreds of newspaper boxes, and wrapped the Rocky Mountain News with a new front page offering what we thought was a humorous and educational set of headlines and stories about people’s struggles in El Salvador and Guatemala. Then we all met for breakfast, admiring our handiwork in the window of each blue Rocky box passed. The News was not amused. They threatened criminal prosecutions, but of course we hadn’t broken into any boxes and hadn’t stolen any papers.I always admired the effortless and natural way Steve shifted from anti-war activist to his work with non-profit organizations and the Community Resource Center. It wasn’t really that different, still working for social change. He used a lot of the same skills, training groups in how to work together effectively, thinking strategically, listening to people and helping them make a plan to get something done. But the group of people he was talking to gradually changed. At some point it dawned on me how big an impact he was having, on non-profit organizations but also on the whole state. It seemed like wherever you went or whatever you were talking about he knew someone, had been involved in some meetings, had worked with a group or given a training. It wasn’t so much that he knew important people, or wealthy people, or powerful leaders. It was more about how he connected with people, and especially with people who wanted to make a difference, wanted to make the world a better and fairer place, a kinder place.Steve had a lot of interests, and knew about a lot of things. Good music. Art. Baseball, and especially the Cubbies. How to set up a 501(c)(3). He was a good listener. He was someone people listened to. He was a devoted husband. He was very good friend.Eric WrightDecember 2006

A Message from the Board and Staff of the Colorado Community Resource CenterWith great sorrow, we share news of the loss of Steve Graham, our executive director for the past 10 years. Steve collapsed and died suddenly at his home on Wednesday, December 20.Steve’s leadership and values have been a tremendous inspiration to all of us at CRC, and to many people across Colorado who work to make our state and our communities better places to live. Steve’s leadership was characterized by integrity, a commitment to social justice, and his collaborative style. He led in a way that spoke to the best in us all and brought people from all walks of life together to work for the common good. His passing is a tremendous loss that will be felt by all here and throughout the nonprofit sector of the State of Colorado.

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