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June 17, 2008

Precious Jewel Freeman Graham

Precious Jewel Freeman Graham

Fisk University, B.A. '46
School of Applied Social Sciences, '53
Birthplace: Springfield, Ohio
Current home: Yellow Springs, Ohio

Precious Jewel Freeman Graham received a scholarship to study sociology and psychology at Fisk and graduated magna cum laude in 1946. As an undergraduate, she participated in campus government and theater and became a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.

She recalls living at the Boyd House in her senior year, where she developed lasting friendships with her housemates. "I won't forget the challenges we faced living life and growing up without regard to race. During World War II, Fisk was essentially a women's college. We took on more responsibilities and had more visibility. My time at Fisk enabled me to grow socially and intellectually."

However, it was the reputation of a faculty member, Grace Coyle of the School of Applied Social Sciences in Cleveland, that led Mrs. Freeman Graham to pursue graduate studies in group social work at Western Reserve University. She completed her graduate degree in 1953. The school is now called the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences.

She enjoyed fieldwork placements at Rainbow Babies' and Children's Hospital as well as the Alexander Hamilton Community Center in Cleveland. She had a six-year stint as a youth program coordinator with the YWCA in Detroit and Grand Rapids, before deciding to use her skills to teach. In between, she married Paul Graham, and spent several years as a homemaker while raising their two sons, Robert and Nathan.

She returned to the workforce in the early 1960s, specifically to Antioch College to serve as an administrative faculty member in a new program, the Antioch Program for Interracial Education. The experiential learning program brought nontraditional and multiethnic students to campus to give them an opportunity to experience college life and academia.

Within five years, Mrs. Freeman Graham became a full faculty member and, in 1969, she received a grant from the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to fund the college's first social work undergraduate major. Several years later, she decided to earn a law degree to help students understand the legal system they had to incorporate into social work. In 1979, at age 50, she earned her juris doctorate from the University of Dayton School of Law. After she passed the Ohio bar, she and a colleague established a curriculum at Antioch that combined social work and the law.

Mrs. Freeman Graham also continued to work with the YWCA, serving for five years as president of the world YWCA and only the second African American woman to do so. She used her status to advocate for equity for women and social justice.

She taught and counseled at Antioch College, retiring in 1986 after 30 years as professor emerita of social welfare and legal studies. For her many contributions to Antioch, in June 2006, she received the college's J.D. Dawson Award for exemplary service.

Her professional affiliations included being a charter member of the National Association of Social Workers and a member of the American and Ohio bar associations. She was inducted into the Ohio Women's Hall of Fame in 1988.

Recently, Mrs. Freeman Graham completed the manuscript of her autobiography, "The Life of My Times, 1925-2000," which is part of the Smith College Women in History Archives as well as at Antioch College.

"The Fisk/Western Reserve experience worked wonderfully for me," she says. "My education played a large part in enabling me to develop and to continue learning in areas that interested me and that aided in my career."

Posted by: Heidi Cool June 17, 2008 03:29 PM
Category: Alumni , Legacy , Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences