A Legacy of Leadership: The Chancellors and Presidents of Syracuse University

William Pratt Graham

Term of Office: May 1937 – September 1942
No formal inauguration

The University’s sixth Chancellor, William Pratt Graham, was the first alumnus to hold the office. Graham received his undergraduate degree from Syracuse University in 1893 and returned as a professor in 1898. He was later dean of the Colleges of Applied Science and Liberal Arts and served as Acting Chancellor following the retirement of Chancellor Day until the inauguration of Chancellor Flint. In 1922 Flint appointed Graham his Vice Chancellor. Upon Flint’s resignation, Graham agreed to serve as Acting Chancellor for one year. He accepted the office of Chancellor in 1937, a position he held until September 1942. In total, Graham spent over 50 years at Syracuse University. During his tenure the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and the School of Education expanded to include graduate offerings, the first campus radio workshop was established, military science courses were instituted, and the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) increased in size. Graham was widely admired by members of the University community. Despite his affability, he frequently espoused racist beliefs that informed policy decisions at the University, notably the decision to limit enrollment of Black students during the 1920s. Following his retirement from the University, he was elected to the Common Council of the City of Syracuse. Additional information and materials related to Graham and his tenure as chancellor are available in the Archives’ William P. Graham Papers and Chancellor William P. Graham Records.

Portrait of Chancellor William Pratt Graham, circa 1930s. Syracuse University Portrait Collection, University Archives. Photograph by Lindsley-Barnard.

Photograph of Acting Chancellor Graham and President Franklin D. Roosevelt laying the cornerstone for the new College of Medicine building, 1936. Syracuse University Photograph Collection, University Archives.

Construction of the new College of Medicine building was funded by the Public Works Administration (PWA). The building was eventually transferred to New York State with the College of Medicine in 1950. It is now Weiskotten Hall at SUNY Upstate Medical University.