At the DP’s annual staff banquet in January, the organization paused to surprise David Graham with a ceremony to honor his 20th anniversary working at the DP. Graham is the paper's first and only Advertising Director (originally titled Advertising Adviser), and passed the milestone date last July.
DP General Manager Eric Jacobs took the podium “to recognize a special event in DP history which occurred during this past year.” After a moment of misdirection to keep Graham from guessing what was about to happen, Jacobs introduced Graham’s four children and turned the spotlight on the surprised longtime DP adviser while the 170 DP staff members gave him a standing ovation.
Jacobs shared a number of humorous recollections about Graham, going back to his interview for the job. “Dave was the first person I interviewed for the job, and at the end of the interview when I mentioned he was the first interview, he without thinking blurted out, ‘Well, you never hire the first person you interview!’ And I’ve been happy for 20 years that I proved him wrong!” Although, Jacobs added, he had a tinge of doubt on Graham’s first day on the job, when one of Graham’s first acts was spilling a large coffee on the carpet of Jacobs’ office.
“‘Funny Dave stories’ seem appropriate,” Jacobs said, “because Dave is always ready with a joke, a funny quip, or some self-deprecating humor that makes him the butt of the joke.”
But he turned serious to laud Graham’s accomplishments for the DP over many years. “I keep coming back to this core truth: that he has truly helped us accomplish our mission, which is providing students on staff a meaningful learning experience and having them leave Penn with practical skills that will follow them through their working lives.”
Jacobs read excerpts from notes submitted by a number of student managers Graham advised during his tenure. Among them:
Jeff Lieberman ’96, a former DP business manager and now Managing Partner of an New York venture capital firm, wrote: “I had the privilege of working with Dave during his first several years at the DP. We were both rookies, but he was a great mentor, coach and friend. He clearly loves to help build skills, confidence — and most importantly, shape the character of emerging business leaders at Penn. For this, I am personally grateful, and I know many of my DP alumni-colleagues feel the same way.”
Joanna Newman McFarland ’98, a former DP sales manager and now the Vice President and General Manager of one of the largest online performance marketing networks in the world, says: “Working with Dave was amazing. He had the perfect balance of mentoring/coaching/teaching and treating you like a professional. I learned so much from Dave that I have carried with me in my career. He taught me that the customer is always right, that the people you work with are more important to your overall happiness than the job or the company — and that a Philly/South Jersey accent makes otherwise not-funny jokes slightly more funny!”
Brett Rose ’02, a former DP Business Manager and now the principal of a Chicago real estate firm says: “The thing about Dave is that he always seemed to provide just the right amount of guidance, just the right push in a certain direction. While he managed to provide the structure and ‘adult’ supervision to keep us from failing in truly spectacular fashion, Dave never forgot that the DP is a student-led endeavor. He never said “no”, but rather “what about this?” It takes a special kind of person to spend 20 years working alongside college students, and to not just survive, but thrive, in that environment.”
Jeremy Friedmar ’08, a former DP Marketing Manager now a marketing manager for a global electronics manufacturer, says: "My experience working in the marketing department was enriched by Dave's leadership, enthusiasm, knowledge, and of course, humor. In fact, Dave deserves some credit for my decision to pursue a career in sales and marketing.”
Dana Tom ’13, a former DP Executive Editor and now a business development manager at Forbes, says: “I consider Dave my first mentor at the DP. I started in the Ad Design department, and I didn’t know the first thing about design. Dave took the time to teach me and get me excited about being a part of this incredible organization, and after that, I was hooked.”
Jacobs told the staff that last July, on the date Graham’s actual 20th anniversary, the professional staff took Dave out for drinks, where they presented him with a gold watch. “Actually,” Jacobs conceded, “it was a gold-colored watch… from the incense shop at 40th & Market… which cost us nine dollars and ninety-nine cents. (For a valued colleague, you spare no expense!)” He added that Graham proudly wore the gold watch every day — until it broke about two months later.
“But tonight, in front of all of you assembled here, I am proud and pleased to present Dave with a gold watch,” Jacobs said. “Actually, it’s the same damn gold watch… with a new battery! But now you can wear it again with pride. At least until Spring Break." Graham stood to accept the watch, along with a plaque commemorating his 20 years at the DP, and then bounded on stage to give a short thank-you speech.
“I love my job,” Graham said. “I love my boss,” he said to Jacobs. “And I am always impressed with the students I get to work with. I continue to learn from them every day.”